How to Always Make the Right Decision
Throughout our lives, as Stephen Covey puts it, we are “doomed to make choices.” We are all regularly required to make potentially life-altering decisions with significant positive or negative consequences hanging in the balance, and even choosing not to choose doesn’t free us from this dilemma. Whether we are choosing a job, or spouse, or place to live, or university, or the right business to start, and so on, we usually cannot shake the nagging feeling that leaves us wondering if we are making the “right” decision or not. Even with some people being naturally more decisive than others, I believe it is fair to say that we are all concerned about making sure that we don’t make a decision that we later regret.
How do you handle tough decisions? Have you ever wrestled hopelessly with indecisiveness? Are you experiencing anxiety over an important decision you need to make? If so, there is a whole new paradigm that I’d like to share with you that will guarantee that you will make the right decision every single time. If that sounds too good to be true, then the only thing to do is try it out and see if it works for you.
This may be a shock, but this indecisiveness solution actually has nothing to do with getting better at analyzing your options. While some level of analysis is always prudent beforehand, it is usually counterproductive when applied after the fact. I believe the main reason we stress over making the “wrong” decision has less to do with actually failing to make the “right” one, and more to do with just how committed we are to making our chosen decision work for us. In other words, in most cases in life, the notion that there is a “right” or “wrong” choice is simply a myth.
This false dichotomy is what prevents us from fully committing to whatever choice we make because, obsessed with making the “right” decision, we interpret any challenge or obstacles we encounter as indications that we made the “wrong” one. We figure that if we hedge our bets by making all of our decisions noncommittal and tentative, we leave open the possibility of going back and changing our penciled-in answer if it turns out to be “wrong.” It is a well-known psychological phenomenon that the simple fact of having a Plan B means that Plan A is less likely to succeed than it would have otherwise, and it is no different when it comes to how we approach our decisions.
If you’re already having trouble with this idea, I’d ask you to bear with me. If you are thinking of some extreme examples like the decision to jump off a cliff or not, of course there is conventionally right decision and a wrong one. Note that I am not arguing that there are no differences between decisions, or that there are no better or worse decisions when it comes to achieving a desired outcome, but rather that there are no decisions that are absolutely, and in every case, right or wrong. The simple fact is, in most situations in life, whether you feel good or bad about the decision you make is determined by whether you are willing to let go of “would have, could have, and should have” and give yourself fully to the choice that you already made.
Let’s take a closer look at what prevents us from having the experience that every decision we make is the right one. The main thing that gets in the way is that even when we make a decision to take a job, get into a relationship, move to a new city, etc. we still wonder what it would be like if we had made a different choice. Every time there is the slightest amount of difficulty, we reflect back on the period of time just before the decision was made and wonder where we went wrong and how things would have turned out if we had made the other choice. In other words, every obstacle we encounter sends us wandering into a realm of infinite possibilities — most of which we imagine as better than the one we currently inhabit — which only serves to make us even less content with our current reality and convince us that the choice we made was indeed the wrong one. But it is no more possible to experience those worlds in which we made a different decision than it is to experience time travel; all of these possibilities of past and future and better or worse exist only in our minds. The truth is that there are no do-overs in life, and so what really bothers us is not that we made the “wrong” choice, but the illusion that we could have done otherwise.
So, what can you do to make sure you make the right decision every time? The first thing to do is your due diligence to the best of your ability and given the information you have available to you. Don’t stress over why you don’t have superpowers or a crystal ball, and just work with what you have. Set your criteria, establish your intended outcome, evaluate your options to the best of your ability so that you can say you did all that you could do…and then just do it! Do enough of this to convince yourself that you did the best you could with what you had, make the choice, and from that moment on, treat the choice you made as if it were the only option.
By acting as if the choice you made was the one you were always going to make, you relate to your choice as your only starting point, rather than one of an infinite set of possible ones. Once you have made your choice, resolve to give the choice that you made your full commitment to transform it into the right choice. Accepting the path that you have chosen as the only one there is, and giving yourself to it 100% puts you in the best possible position to achieve what you are out to achieve. Anything less than 100% commitment to making it work leaves room for doubt and ultimately erodes your chances of making the most out of the choices that you have already made.
I realize that this is much easier said than done, but I promised a guaranteed solution, not an easy one. Everything worthwhile in life requires some level of practice before you develop mastery in it, and this is no exception. The key is to shift your focus from “making the right decision” to “making every decision into the right one.” Then, catch yourself every time you begin to dwell on the (imaginary) possibilities of choices you could have made and every time you are tempted to use your setbacks as an excuse to give up.
“The key is to shift your focus from “making the right decision” to “making every decision into the right one.”
By the way, even if you do this consistently and try to make the most of every decision you ever make, you may at times end up in a situation where you realize that you are no longer committed to making that relationship or that job or other choice work. The fact that there are no absolutely “wrong” decisions doesn’t mean you will never have legitimate reasons for changing your mind. All there is to do is look at your situation, establish your intended outcomes, and using whatever information and resources you have available to you, powerfully make another choice without regretting your previous ones. If you remain fully committed to making powerful choices in this way, eventually you will be able to realize every decision as the right one. You will always make the path you are on work for you, or powerfully decide to take a different one.
So next time you find yourself fretting over a decision, take comfort in knowing that you alone hold the power to decide if whatever decision you make is the right one for you.
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