“I shouldn’t have spent so much money on this.”
“Why did I ever pick this? It’s not my color.”
“I shouldn’t have signed up for this class. It’s too time consuming.”
“I thought she would like it but she never plays with it.”
“This looked good in the store, but it is way too big in this space.”
“I’ve invested so much money in this hobby but I’m not having fun.”
I hear comments like these all the time. In most cases, they are expressed with a heavy dose of self-criticism. It seems most of us have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, content with nothing less than perfect choices, every single time. In fact, we tend to be much harder on ourselves than on others. In reality, decision-making is tricky. Some do it quickly while others belabor the process. Regardless of your decision-making tendency, you may find it helpful to keep these truths in mind:
No one makes completely perfect decisions
The very nature of a choice is the fact that more than one possible option exists. Most of us make the best determination we can in the moment, but no one gets it right 100% of the time. Perfection is an illusion. We may be able to improve the way we make decisions, but we will still periodically make a selection we regret.
We are often forced to make decisions under adverse conditions
More often than not, we are pressured to choose when we lack complete information. Key data on pricing, alternatives, potential consequences and other opinions maybe not be accessible at the critical moment. Sometimes, we have to make decisions under adverse conditions, such as in dim lighting, from a limited selection or while being distracted by others. Frequently, we lack sufficient time to ponder and process as much as we might like. Simply stated, we can’t control every detail, every time. As a result, we have to do the best we can, with what we know, in the timeframe we have.
It is important to learn from bad decisions so we don’t repeat them
As much as we might want to “bury the evidence” of a bad decision, it is in our best interest to dig down and figure out why we aren’t pleased with the choice we made. This is especially true when we find ourselves repeatedly making the same mistakes. Ask yourself:
- Why didn’t the plan didn’t work out (too time consuming, don’t like the people, feel incapable, etc.)?
- What don’t I like (size, color, fit, smell, etc.)?
- Was I unhappy from day one or has my perspective changed over time?
- Where did I go wrong (failed to measure, didn’t consider other options, acted on impulse, bowed to peer pressure, etc.)?
- What environment(s) cause me to make poor decisions (e.g. surfing online vendors, watching TV infomercials, visiting casinos/bars, rushing to make choices, etc.?
We don’t need to make a bad decision worse by holding onto the consequences
Guilt and shame are negative forces that make all bad situations worse. They keep us from taking positive action and redeeming the situation. When we realize we’ve made a bad decision, the best course of action is to seek forgiveness (from ourselves and possibly others), and then move forward. Positive steps forward may include:
- Letting go of unwanted objects we’ve acquired. Return them, donate them or if they have high value, sell them. Remember, the only reason to keep an item is because you love it or use it. It doesn’t have feelings, emotions or inherent power. Every object you own needs to be able to justify its space in your life.
- Extracting yourself from unwanted voluntary commitments (step off a committee, try a new hobby, cull the number of activities, etc.)
- Taking steps toward a new career or job (take a class, put together a resume, contact a headhunter, talk with a mentor)
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Do you remember making a bad decision? How did you recover and move on?