Do You Make Perfect Decisions?

Arrow pointing two ways

 

“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?

24 thoughts on “Do You Make Perfect Decisions?”

  1. This is probably why I truly have trouble making up my mind quite often as I am always afraid I will indeed make the wrong decision. That said, I will usually think things through more often than not to try not to indeed make the wrong decisions. But yes even still have made my fair share of wrong decision. However, I do try to learn from these mistakes if nothing else and try not to repeat the same wrong mistakes.

    1. Anxiety over making a poor decision can leave us stuck, which is a lousy place to be. Eventually we have to choose, and every now and then, we may make a suboptimal choice. Knowing this is normal, and having the confidence to realize that we will handle whatever emerges, can empower us to make the decision and move on!

  2. This is an example I like to share. I found my garage door openers and thought, we have built in ones in our cars we don’t need these extra one. Then we got a new car and needed the hand held garage door openers to program the new car’s built in device. I didn’t have them anymore. I simply looked up garage door companies explained the problem and they sold me a new one, even through my garage door was about 15 years old they still had a brand that would work.
    As it comes to making decisions about what stays and goes in 40 years of deciding, that is about the only mistake I made that had to be fixed and it was fixable.
    Most people make good decisions, overall, and we just need to have trust in ourselves. Thanks for the article.

    1. I wish there were some hard data to show how seldom we face regret when we shed an item. I just love this story. Sometimes I walk with clients through a scenario like the one you’ve outlined.. “What will happen if you do give it away, and then you do want it?” Or for any situation, “Let’s go there. Let’s say you make this decision and then there is a problem. How would you handle it?” Knowing there is a path forward even if the fear becomes reality can be very freeing. Your problem was fixable, and you had free space in your drawer for 15 years!

  3. I love your last point about not holding onto the consequences and asking for forgiveness from yourself. I find that I’m often having to give clients permission to let go and move on from items because they have a hard time doing it themselves.

    1. Yes, I have this too Sarah. People will even ask me in so many words, “Is it ok for me to get rid of this?” I think we have a need for affirmation when facing tough decisions. We need someone else to help us get over the hurdle of a tough decisions. Being able to supply this is one of the benefits we bring to the table. We aren’t entangled in the provenance of the item, so we are free from the emotion surrounding it.

  4. We were watching an old home movie at Christmas time and my husband asked me, why did we buy that? It is so ugly. I told him it was on sale. Don’t worry I donated it a while ago. Yes, I admit it. It was ugly.

    1. That’s so funny, Sabrina. I love this story. It can be funny to look back and see things you bought and decisions you made. My husband have had similar experiences. “Fashion” is a common excuse for crazy choices… all I need to do is look at my high school yearbook for evidence of that! Good for you to donate and move on.

  5. My son and his wife are faced with making a tough decision. They love their home. It’s in a great neighborhood and has a beautiful garden. The house will be too small for them if they have a second child. Do they renovate or do they move. They’re in the process of weighing the pros and cons. I don’t envy them this process. Great article with lots of very useful suggestions.

    1. I know so many families going through this. It is extremely common to have to make this choice. My husband and I did as well. In fact, there is a whole TV Show on HGTV about this.. “Love it or List It.” This is just a tough one, as fairly often the renovation choices are expensive and inconvenient, but the moving options may require a change of schools and a higher amount of money. The housing market where they live is another factor. I believe there will probably be positives and negatives to either choice, so gather the best information you can, review your options, and then just don’t look back. I wish them luck!!!

  6. For me the basis of good decisions is priorities. Getting clear makes every decision easier. If you know what’s most important it’s much easier for you to make a decision that aligns and there is less reget.

    1. I love that phrase, “Getting clear.” So powerful. Having those priorities gives you a place to come back to when things start to feel murky. Excellent point!

  7. I have such admiration and respect for my clients that are working on the editing and organizing process. In any given organizing visit, they might have to make hundreds of decisions. I pay close attention to how that process is going. If I notice that the quality of their decisions or a big shift in their decision-making begins to deteriorate over time (as in letting go of everything or letting go of nothing,) then it’s probably an indicator that they are experiencing decision-fatigue. That’s a good time to take a break…get some fresh air, a drink, snack, or just switch gears to another area.

    For me personally, I try to make the best (not perfect) decision I can based on the information that I’ve gathered at that point. Sometimes I’ve needed to put some boundaries or parameters around making the choice. Like after a certain amount of days or hours researching or discussing, it’s time to choose. There will always be additional information to gather, which could cause indecision. The other thing that helps me is knowing that most choices, even bad ones, can be resolved by making a new choice.

    1. I so agree that knowing that most choices can be resolved by making a new choice. I think that is important to remember. At some point, you need to stop gathering information and make the call… one way or another. I agree about decision-fatigue. I feel like I see it literally descend on clients. I think we all have a limited amount of time when we can stay focused and make decisions. Thank you for this thoughtful comment:)

  8. Seana, as always, you’ve got me thinking (and I love that about your posts!). I do my best to remind myself that most decisions do not involve life and death. There are very few decisions that have only one right answer. For all those situations where I made a “wrong” decision, I chalk it up to learning. I now know that wasn’t the best choice and I’ll add that information to my database for future decisions. I try to show myself the same grace that I show others when it comes to “not the best” decisions.

    1. You are so right, Susan. Few decisions are black and white, and the simple decisions are not the ones we wrestle with. Decision-making is not an exact science, and most people are doing the best they can. Expecting perfection to an unattainable fantasy is not helpful. Showing grace to ourselves is so important, and an indication that we are merciful people at heart!

    1. Yes, you can make a well-informed decision and it still won’t be perfect. No one is perfect. Conditions change. Unknown information comes to light. That doesn’t mean we made a mistake, or should live with a heavy burden of regret. Make the best choice you can in the moment, and then move on. If a new course must be charted in the future, that is possible and appropriate.

    1. I think we’ve all made a decision here and there that we regret. Sometimes it can just be buying a shirt we thought we liked and then realizing we don’t actually love it. Rather than bemoan the purchase, we need to just let it go and move on. We will have another chance to get it right, and this time we’ll be better prepared to make a wise choice.

  9. I have trouble with indecision. Ultimately it’s because my heart/gut is always telling me the right answer and I don’t always listen or admit I’m listening. I hate that! Then of course, I regret. It often has to do with plans. I’m not good at having something looming on my calendar for weeks and weeks. I’d rather rip off the band-aid.
    As for buying clothes, usually if I’m still thinking about something the next day, then I want it. 99% of the time that DOESN’T happen.

    1. I think we all struggle with indecision, but the choices that are hard may differ from one of us to another. I’m the same way with clothing… I try and wait. Usually the excitement of the moment passes and I no longer want it. I think the “wait 24 hours” rule serves us well:)

  10. I definitely have these thoughts sometimes and it can be hard not to self-criticize of get angry at one’s self for not making a great decision, especially if it was made without a lot of forethought. But there is really not much you can do as the decision was made and it is more important to move forward and make the situation better rather than dwell on it!
    Jessica recently posted…Iceland on a Budget: How to Save Money in IcelandMy Profile

    1. Yes, exactly, it is always more important to move forward. Learn what you can, but don’t wallow in regret. That can be destructive, and won’t do anything to help you make better decisions in the future!

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