September 30, 2020

Stuck at a Crossroads?—How to Make Decisions we’ll Never Regret.


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Worried about making the wrong choice?

Let’s challenge the notion of right and wrong decisions.

Most people would say a right decision means taking an action that results in an improvement to one’s circumstance.

But what if the improvement is only temporary?

What if the choice results in a decline in one’s circumstance, but then improves their life 10 years later?

Who determined which circumstances are good and which are bad?

A higher paying job may come with more money, which is good, but if the stress is unbearable and begins to negatively impact one’s health—that would be bad.

Consider the Zen parable about a Chinese farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his horse ran away.

Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

“How wonderful!” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

On and on the story could go.

The moral of the parable is that, regardless of whether it’s a decision we’ve consciously made or simply happenstance, we can never fully anticipate all the circumstantial twists and turns a choice can bring—making the question of what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong, a moot point.

Rather than asking, “Is this decision right?” a better question to ask might be:

“What will I regret?”

Of all the self-help—ahem, personal growth—books I’ve read, my all-time favorite is M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled.

Prior to reading this book, I was an incredibly indecisive person. I agonized over making decisions, forever weighing the pros and cons, and almost always made decisions I would later regret.

I can honestly say, in the 20-plus years since I read that book, I have never made a decision I regretted.

Many of my decisions have had unexpected outcomes, like the time I quit my job for a fantastic new job but was laid off six months later when COVID-19 hit.

But every decision, large and small, led me to a better place in my life. No regrets means freedom.

What leads to no regrets is becoming aware of the motivation behind our decisions.

If we’re agonizing over whether or not to take a new job, we need to look at the reasons why we’re considering making a move.

Are we doing it for the money, prestige, or a corner office? Then we probably won’t end up with what we expected.

As we’ve seen—circumstances are prone to change.

If our motivation is based on higher ideals such as making life better for our family, learning new skills, accepting a challenge, or conquering our fears—we’ll probably never regret it.

The outcome is solely up to us, how we transform internally, and how we build our character.

We can test the theory with small decisions, like how to spend our lunch break. Slowly, we become aware of what motivates our bigger decisions.

If we’re making a decision based on fear, control, money, revenge, or anger—we’ll probably regret it.

If we’re making a decision based on love, goodwill, contribution, or growth—it will be the best decision ever made.

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