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Secrets of the “Best Decisions” You Can Make

Don’t waste energy regretting the seemingly poor choices you have made.

Most of us have had to wrestle with some mighty big decisions in our lives from who to ask out to the dance to whether or not to accept a less-than-optimal job offer when it is the only one you’ve had. Should you stay in the so-so relationship and give it another shot or should you cut your losses and call it a day? Should you invest in the too-good-to-be-true financial pitch in the hopes of getting yourself out of debt or keep on counting your pennies and make slow, but sure, progress on your bills? Buy a house or rent? Go back to school or stay in the dead-end, but low risk, job? Have a baby this year or wait until the car is paid off? Go out to lunch with your buddies or finish up the task your boss assigned you earlier this morning? Go for the extra point or try a 2-point conversion?

Each of the decisions we make in life present the same dilemma – do we do what seems easiest, what seems surer, what seems safer, or do we do the thing that creates a frisson of fear or trepidation in our hearts? Robert Frost wrote about the “road less traveled,” which each of us probably first read somewhere in middle school. Even then we understood that decisions pose opportunities and risk that may be difficult to calculate from where we are currently standing.

When you are confronted with some difficult decisions, it is important to be clearheaded and objective in your decision-making process. When choosing whether to risk financial stability for a “guaranteed return” on your investment, it is usually best not to jump into any decision without making sure you are not going to lose your home or lunch money.

However, there are also times when your heart is pounding out an undeniable “YES, YES, YES!” even though your brain may be telling you to hang on tight and be more cautious before moving forward. In love, in friendship, in following your heart and your passion, it can be much more satisfying to jump in the direction of your subjective leanings.

Basic suggestions for making the best decisions include:

1) Clearly assessing exactly what your options are at the moment

2) Determining if there really is a choice

3) Listing the “pros and cons” of the options that you are most likely to take

4) Making the choice that makes the most sense at that moment

5) Accepting that you have made the best decision that you possibly could at this time.

Yes, after making a choice, embrace that choice and own that choice. If it the “right decision,” celebrate the path you have taken. If it is the wrong one, use this mistake as a guide and “life lesson” to inform your future choices. Regardless of the long-term outcome, recognize that you made the very best decision that you could at the time, given all that you knew and all that you are.

No one faces a tough decision and thinks to themselves, “Wow, I think I want to make a really bad decision.” No, we all hope that the choices we make in life are the right choices and the best choices. Unfortunately, some of our best decisions will not live up to the promise that they initially held as we contemplated our choice. That is unfortunate, indeed, but we have to accept our own imperfection in predicting an outcome – or the future! When you are beating yourself up for a past decision – or someone else is trying to make you feel bad for your choices – remind yourself and remind others that at any given crossroads, people make the very best decisions that they can at that moment. Let yourself off the hook and learn from your decisions – all of us are doing the best we can!

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