Good decisions are an act of love
What makes a bad decision?
I was talking to a one of my students a little while ago. She was talking about her journey as a single mum, and about how useless the father of her kids was.
She said, “Having my kids was the best thing I ever did. I don’t regret it all. But marrying that bloke was the worst thing I’ve ever done… ever!
“And the thing that keeps me up at night is that I can’t really remember what I was thinking – or if I was thinking at all. I knew it didn’t really make sense at the time. He was a no-hoper. A dreamer. Which would have been ok if he didn’t have such tickets on himself.
And he was a hopeless flirt. His ego needed female attention and he became a spoilt brat if he didn’t get it.”
“He sounds wonderful,” I said.
“Yeah, I don’t know what I saw in him. Maybe I just wanted to save him. I don’t know…”
But don’t feel too bad for her. She’s replaced her income now and is sitting pretty.
But it all got me thinking about the concept of ‘bad decisions’.
I think it’s really good to draw a distinction between ‘bad decision’ and ‘bad outcome’.
For example, maybe you’re working on something and you’re doing everything right. But something happens and it goes off the rails.
Like, I remember working on a four into one development deal that was going great guns. But then we had this long period of pretty much biblical rain, which then tied up all the builders in the area. Our costs ran way over what we were expecting, and we barely got it over the line. We still made money, but not as much as we were hoping.
But I look back at that, and I really think I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Our strategy was good. We made good decisions. We got a bad outcome, but I don’t feel like we ever made a bad decision.
You do the best you can.
Likewise, sometimes a bloke can look great on paper. You fall in love and make all the right plans. And then 10 years later he tells you he’s gay.
You didn’t get the fairy-tale outcome you were after, but you look back and you feel like you made a good decision.
Bad outcomes are not where regrets come from.
Regrets come from making bad decisions, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we know them when we’re making them.
We don’t need the benefit of hindsight. Our hearts will tell us.
So the interesting question then is, why do we make bad decisions? I mean, if we can feel it in the moment, why do we do it?
The answer to that is, we contain multitudes. At any point in time, we’re a spaghetti mess of different drive and aspirations.
You want to express yourself, but you also want to please your parents.
You want to be a good family man, but you also love going on benders with the boys.
You want to raise children in a solid family, but you always fall for moody outsiders.
A decision is often a choice between our competing drives, which themselves are often operating in conflicting time zones.
And so our friend went with the moody outsider, and the short-term rush of wild romance.
And then paid for it in the long run.
And so what’s the key to good decisions then?
I think ultimately a good decision is one where you are not compromising yourself. It’s one where you’re not selling yourself out.
e.g – a sneaky chocolate bar at 11pm is a short-term hit, but you’re selling out your longer-term health goals.
And so the key to making good decisions, I think, is to love yourself equally across your full lifeline.
It’s a decision that says, as an act of love to the person I will be in 20 years, I will invest in some self-education, and start saving up a war-chest now.
You can feel it. Do I feel loved by this decision? Will my future self-feel loved and cared for by it?
Make the decision that is an act of love to yourself now, as well as an act of love to your future self. The world is abundant. Both are always possible.
And my promise is this. If you make every decision in your life against this razor – looking for the option that allows you to love yourself fully now and always – then you will die without regrets.
And really that’s as much as anyone can hope for.