On Decision Making

Think about a tough or important decision that you’ve had to make in the last 24 hours. Maybe you decided to do something as mundane as leave the dishes out rather than wash them, or you retaliated against someone who said something rude to you, or you said something unnecessarily rude to a friend. In hindsight, was it a good decision? Was it the right thing? If you could go back in time, would you make the same choice?

Doing the right things for the right reasons requires us to actively check our actions against the backdrop of our purpose and values to make sure that we’re on the right track. The ability to reflect and iterate on our own behavior is the way to grow and improve upon yesterday. We will learn to do the right things for the right reasons by reflecting on what we do and why we do it.

Of the countless decisions that you have to make every day, there are going to be a couple that you simply get wrong. Some of these may result in pain, loss, or discouragement. Others may turn out well, even though we were wrong. In all cases, in order to continually improve on our decision making process and become more adept at navigating decisions and life itself, we have to reflect because it gives us the opportunity to use 20/20 hindsight to learn from our experiences. You can’t connect the dots looking forward, only when you look back.

Doing the right” thing is a somewhat difficult thing to discern among people from different cultures and with various belief systems. Emotions and common sense” usually guide us to what is right and wrong. For example, any healthy person would feel an overwhelming amount of guilt after performing a murder. Someone who takes pleasure in murder is probably not mentally healthy. It is a healthy person’s emotion that indicates right or wrong, and in this case it should be listened to. Yet sometimes when we rely on our emotions to determine whether a decision is good or not, it goes horribly wrong, such as in the case of a nasty breakup where one or both parties try to exact revenge on the other. In this case, their angry emotions overcome them and tell them to do what’s right”: to hurt the other person for a perceived wrong. This does not lead to a positive outcome, as right” as it may feel in the heat of the moment.

As we move forward, recognize that what is right must come from your own rational analysis, and what you call right may not be what I call right. The one thing I ask of you is to be humble and open to the fact that you not only might be wrong, you will be wrong, and so will I. Sometimes we will be completely in sync rationally, emotionally, and even spiritually with a decision that we are about to make, only later to still discover that we were wrong. That is not only okay, it is welcomed. It’s an experience for us to see the results of our own decision making and learn from it for the future.