02 Aug Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
One of the many things that I see commonly in my therapy work is the issue of decision making and trying to determine what the best decision is at any given moment. In a previous blog I wrote about high school students trying to decide whether or not to go to college, where to go to college, and what to major in. Lots of them get bogged down trying to make the perfect decision even though there is no such thing as a perfect decision. It’s that “paralysis by analysis” thing that we often hear about.
Certainly, decision making is something that all of us do every day throughout our lives. You know as well as I do that many struggle with even the smallest decisions like where to eat or how to spend an afternoon. The big decisions, though, can be much weightier with more impactful outcomes. Which job to choose, whether or not to have children, whether or not to have more children, whether to stay in a relationship or not. These and other bigger decisions are worth the effort that it takes to decide and the deep attention that you give them.
This month’s blog, however, is not so much about the struggle to decide but the importance of what one does with the decision after it’s made. I was speaking with a patient just this morning about the fact that it’s not as important sometimes what you decide as much as it is what you do with it. In many, many cases people are not really choosing between an obviously good versus an obviously bad decision. Rather, it is most often between two or more possibilities, each having potential up and down sides. Many people struggle and struggle to finally make those big decisions and then once they do, immediately start to look for reasons why they made a mistake. They focus on the negative outcomes and the problems that are inherent with whatever the decision was.
I have a rule of thumb that I often preach even though I, like everyone else, sometimes struggle to live up to. My rule is that once a decision is made, my job is to make it into a good decision and to find evidence that supports it being a good decision. That means that as important as it is to decide well, it is equally important to live fully into the opportunities and to courageously take on the challenges that this decision will naturally bring. For example, if taking a new job means having to be more careful with your spending habits for a while, then be more careful with your spending habits. If you decide not to have children, then take full advantage of the opportunities that more free time and less financial burden will provide. If you remarry your ex, then work hard not to repeat the mistakes that brought you to the impasses before.
I am certainly not suggesting that every decision is a great decision. Unexpected things can happen, or we sometimes learn things later that help us realize that we made a poor choice. There may well be a perfectly good reason to change courses again and take the other or a new path. But I also believe that we have a responsibility to ourselves and the other people in our lives who are affected by our decisions to work hard at making the most out of whatever position we put ourselves into. I believe that if we do that, we will find more satisfaction in our lives and more self-confidence in our thinking. This attitude will also move us much closer to actualizing the full potential of where we are and what we are doing.