There are many times in our lives where we wish we would have done something else. When the present doesn’t seem to satisfy us, we tend to look back and recall the moment of deciding that has led to this current situation. Were we out of choice? What were the options then?
Making the “wrong” (seemingly wrong) decision would leave us questioning for no one knows how long. So, the next time you’re deciding, ask yourself these three “simple” questions.
What do I want from this?
We make decisions every second of every day, even if our activities seem like an autopilot. We choose to wake up, we choose to shower, we choose to get the car keys and head out. We choose all of those instead of staying in bed, have long breakfast, and watch the morning cartoons.
These autopilot decisions are alright for small decisions. But it will be a problem for hugely impactful decisions such as choosing between job offers, whether or not it’s the right time to propose (hey, good luck!) and whether or not to say yes.
So, the next time you’re making a big dilemmatic decision, ask yourself, “What do I want from this?”
What do you want from the job? What do you want from attending that school? What do you want from committing a lifetime with this person?
When you have the purpose of your decision, you will be able to measure the chances of achieving your purpose from the options there available. It won’t guarantee a no-regret future, but it will definitely increase your making-better-decisions skills.
What do I have to lose?
This one sort of comes in a package with the previous question. Besides measuring the good chances, also measure how much you can lose from each option. If it turns out to be a bad one, how bad can it get? Being optimistic is fine, but don’t forget to be cautious.
A fitting analogy for decision making is gambling. When you gamble, the more you put into the bet, the more chances you’re gonna get. But, you’re also increasing the chances of huge loss. In this case, you’ll look around for other factors: the other players’ skills, your cards, your skills, your financial status, etc.
See, by adding this “pessimistic” question, you can discover your blind spots.
This type of question can be interpreted into two perspectives: 1) looking back and reflecting or regretting past choices, 2) trying to find an alternative choice on how to act upon the current situation. In this context, we’ll focus on the latter perspective.
In life, we will encounter many, many, many times where we feel like we are out of options. We are trapped. Like it or not, we have to do that.
People who realised that they’ve made a bad decision would simply answer, “I didn’t have a choice, then.” But you did. You always did have a choice.
It’s just that you picked an option based on what you prioritise. For example, when a child gets kidnapped and the parents are blackmailed for ransom money, they would do all in their power to get the money and have their child back, even if that means they’d have to sell their assets.
“We didn’t have a choice.” Yes, you did. But you prioritise your child’s safety instead of your wealth. By realising that you made the choice based on what you deemed as the better thing to do at the time, you will be less likely to regret it (in this case, maybe the family falls into bankruptcy after getting their child back).
The next time you’re feeling stuck with one option, try to find alternatives first and consider the alternatives. “I can just say yes to this man, even though I find him intolerable a lot of the time, and saving his face in front of the hoping crowd. But what if I say no? Maybe I’ll meet someone more suitable? Will it take a long time?”
Remember, you have an option. You just sometimes… choose not to look at them, let alone consider.