In the course of my career, I’ve run across many people who get stuck in the past. What I mean is that they cannot move forward in life and are struggling because they are too hyper-focused on the ‘what could have been different if only.’ If you have ever experienced regret after making a poor decision, you’re not alone. Most people struggle with this at some point in their life.
There are a few ways you can deal with regrets to help prevent too much mental anguish. For example, you could attempt to redirect your focus when you catch yourself dwelling on the past. With enough practice, you can make re-direction a new habit, thereby reducing the instances of regret that you experience. However, a better way would be to live life with fewer regrets, yes? How do you do that, you ask? You make better decisions. In this first half of this two part series on decision making, I will teach you two strategies that will improve your ability to make good decisions and reduce the frequency with which you experience regrets as a result of poor choices.
Logic vs. Emotion
Most people have a tendency to make decisions based on either logic or emotion. Let me give you an example. Say Person A wants to buy a car and goes to the car lot and sees a bright, shiny, beautiful, sports car that just screams buy me. It has hand stitched leather bucket seats, low profile wheels, a top of the line sound system, and all the bells and whistles he’s ever dreamed a car could have. Person A skips right over the other cars and chooses this car off the lot as his new purchase. He knows this car will attract the eye of everyone else around him and that he will look fantastic driving around in it. He knows every time he opens the door, he will be excited to get in and zip around town. It will be a car he is proud to show off to his friends and family. Person A appears to be someone who makes decisions mostly from an emotional standpoint.
Person B, on the other hand, goes to the same car lot with a different approach. Before he even goes to the lot, he has been researching cars via the internet for several days. He started with narrowing down his options to the type of vehicle that would best suit him and his family, along with reviewing all the safety features that each company had to offer in their models. He read reviews about the cars and compared warranties. He looked up average prices and compared the technical details such as the average miles per gallon. Once he gets to the car lot, he goes to the salesman and tells him the exact model he is looking for and takes the first one that meets his criteria. He doesn’t care what the car looks like, what color it is, what type of interior it has, or if it doesn’t have a fancy sunroof. He wants the most reasonably priced, reliable, safe, and functional car he can get. Person B is someone who tends to make decisions based on logic.
Lastly, you have person C. This person has done some online research and read some reviews about the safety features of a few different models. He decided he loved the look of a particular brand over the other major competitors and liked that if offered plenty of technical upgrades for a lower price than other brands. Person C goes to the lot, and looks around at the various models, looking for a car that “speaks to him” on a visual level, but is still top of the line in safety features and will get him great mileage. He wants a car he can be proud of but will also be reliable and affordable. Person C makes decisions with a blend of both logic and emotion.
Person C is the winner winner chicken dinner here. If someone makes most of their decisions with emotions, such as Person A, they completely ignore the other important aspects of a good car. So, they could potentially end up with a lemon that doesn’t run, or has horrible blind spots, or costs WAY more than they could afford, etc, simply because they wanted to look good. There’s a larger potential for regret later on down the line because functionality was ignored in favor of looks.
On the other hand, Person B runs the risk of having an ultra safe, reliable, practical vehicle…that could look like a hunk of junk on the outside and make him want to curl inwards and die when seen by his friends. He may regret not paying attention to looks because functionality can only take you so far.
Person C took all of those factors into consideration before purchasing his model, and found something that matched his expectations for safety, reliability, affordability, while also looking fantastic sporting his 3 carseats and 2 doggos. He regrets nothing.
It is always better to use a combination of logic and emotion when making decisions, rather than polarizing in one camp or the other.Click to Tweet
Pros and Cons
Another great decision making strategy includes two steps. The first step includes identifying ALL of the available choices, including the good ones, bad ones, ugly ones, and every other one in between. Even if you think you will not choose a certain route, always consider each and every option separately. This ensures you have not missed any possible choices.
Next, you want to take each choice, individually, and list out the positive and negative outcomes that would occur if you were to select this option. It is crucial you do this for every choice (even the ones you think you would never choose), because fully exploring the choices is the only way to illuminate facts you may not have considered. If you never bother to even look in the first place, then you’re missing out on vital information that could leave you better informed of the route you plan on taking.
It is often helpful to do this physically, as in, pen and paper style. While it’s possible to keep everything organized and laid out mentally for decisions with fewer options, when encountering larger, more important life decisions, there are often too many options that need to be considered for you to manage it all internally. In this situation, it’s best to list each of them out. I like to title the top of the page with the choice, and separate the page down the middle. One side will be positives, the other negatives. Obviously, not every positive or negative will be equal, as some consequences weigh more heavily on your decision. So, just keep that in mind when you’re comparing your choices to one another. Just because one decision may have more positive consequences in quantity, the quality of the consequences may be less beneficial in the end.
If you practice these strategies regularly, you will improve your decision making skills drastically and thus experience fewer regrets over time. In the second half of this series I will teach you additional strategies to help you make better, more informed decisions, while also helping you identify some of the poor strategies you may be over-utilizing.