Decision Remorse: Correct Decision-Making vs. Guaranteed Outcomes


Have you ever struggled to make a decision, made it and then subsequently questioned whether or not it was indeed the correct decision? How often have you put off making a decision for fear that it may not be the so-called right decision?  How many of us wish we could always make the proverbial “right decision”?  I think I can safely state that few people ever intentionally desire to make a “wrong”, “bad”, etc. decision.  In fact, we often go to great extremes to ensure we do not make a so-called wrong decision. 

I know of no way to guarantee a particular outcome in every instance.  This fact causes some people much remorse.   What I have learned, over a long period of time is that decision-making is a process and that consistent application of the correct process is what makes for good decisions, as solely opposed to outcomes.

To simplify our discussion, let’s look at three (3) important factors related to decisions; 1) How do some people define a good versus bad decision? 2) What are some of the most common factors influencing poor decision-making? 3) What is a proven effective process one can use to ensure good decision-making?

Unfortunately, many people often judge a correct decision by the desired outcome.  That is, if they get the desired outcome, they assume their decision must have been correct and vice versa.  

Further, when we don’t get what we consider to be the desired outcome we oftentimes second guess our decision making and many times we engage in what I refer to as the “If” drill.  “If I had done this instead of that, then I most certainly would have achieved the desired result”.  Truth be known, there is no guarantee that another decision would have produced the desired result.  For example, if I had taken a different route I would have gotten to my destination sooner.  That may or may not be accurate.  In reality a different route may have taken even longer! Substitute virtually any decision in place of route, and you find that another decision, more times than not, would not have guaranteed a desired outcome. 

Further proof that good decisions cannot be judged solely by outcome is the fact that it is not uncommon for one to get the desired outcome and still be ultimately disappointed or experience remorse.  How many of us have negotiated a deal or made large purchases and then subsequently wondered if we might have done better?  Is it even possible to make decisions without ever experiencing some degree of remorse?  On the other hand, many of us have experienced, at one time or another, a deep gratitude in the end, that our desires were left unfulfilled.

If we accept that good decisions cannot be judged exclusively by outcomes then let us further explore additional factors that affect our decision-making.  The following represent some of the more common factors that contribute significantly to poor decision-making:

Making premature decisions
Taking an inordinate amount of time to decide
Using flawed info/data
Making a decision based solely on emotion
Assuming short-term results are representative of long-term results
Attaching too much/too little importance to a decision
Inability/unwillingness to accept responsibility for decisions (a hidden big one!)
Delusional thinking
Ignoring the red flags
Ignoring patterns 
Trying to use logic exclusively while ignoring our intuition/gut feeling
Expecting a guaranteed desired outcome
Expecting a desired outcome to guarantee satisfaction
Making decisions without the use of a proven sound process

How often have most of us engaged in the above behavior or allowed one or more of these factors to impact our decision-making? How often were we dissatisfied with the ultimate outcome? I think I can safely say that most of us have, at one time or another, been affected by this sort of decision-making and were frequently dissatisfied with the outcome. 

How then can one improve the potential for satisfactory decision-making?

It begins by recognizing how we often make decisions based upon a flawed “outcome-only-process” and allowing negative factors to overly influence our decision-making.

Believe it or not, many renowned psychologists, philosophers, and others have presented highly reliable findings to support the fact most of us are born with a highly developed intuition and ability to make decisions that are oftentimes in our best interest but over time many people ignore the messages our body sends us and as a result this ability becomes stagnant and less effective.

Research and experience have convinced me that correct decision-making comes from a process that fully utilizes all of our senses.  For example, utilizing our mind to gather information and or to recognize patterns/habits that need changing, as well as using our intuition and physical body to help us navigate the who, what, when, where and why’s during our decision-making process. If we allow ourselves to use only one of our senses, then we most likely are not making a correct decision.  Unfortunately, what makes decision-making tricky, is oftentimes our mind is not in harmony with our intuition or gut feelings or physical responses the body uses to try to warn us of an impending poor decision.   When confronted with a decision, especially an important one, be mindful of the how you are making your decision, avoid the impediments to poor decision-making and take full advantage of all your senses. 

Be aware that fears and negative self-talk can keep you from making correct decisions or cause you too much time in limbo. If talking out loud to a trusted friend helps you identify your blind spots, then utilize that to empower yourself. 

Let’s take a general example within any relationship context: If I’ve experienced a habitual problem within a relationship (partner, spouse, friend, relative) in which I am unhappy/dissatisfied. And let’s say that I have tried everything to enhance my probability to make it better but cannot. I now need to make a decision to both remain and accept the relationship as is, or make the decision to leave. By the way, if our choice is to end our relationship with that person or group, it is inevitable that we will likely experience fear or insecurities around leaving. This is normal.  After all, we have invested time and energy in that relationship. It is natural to have fear or insecurities. However, just because our body fears this change, doesn’t mean making it is an incorrect decision. 

A “right decision”, as I define it, is one in which you have no regrets regardless of the outcome because it was based upon the correct process for you.

Learn to develop and hone your ability to observe what your mind and body communicate to you regarding potential decisions…sometimes it can be immediate and for others it may take a while for you to fully appreciate the messages your body is trying to send to you.  This process will leave you with few regrets and significantly improve your satisfaction with your decisions.

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