A Thought for August

It is August. Maybe like me you are still recovering from the great heat at the end of July. I understand there are people that love excessive warmth, but I am not one of them! So I am glad it is August when everything slows down and happy people, especially children, are enjoying holidays. Wherever you are I hope you are having a well-deserved rest and some good quality time with family and friends.

So when everyone is relaxing what am I thinking about?

Bad decisions!

We all make bad decisions. Some are big like marrying the wrong person and some are tiny like turning left instead of right and being five minutes late.

I think barely a day goes by when each of us does not do something right – the first time. Sometimes lots of things were the wrong choices all at the same time and it becomes a bad day, or week or worst of all a bad year.

Just recently I have made a couple of decisions I wish I had not. I have also had a couple of clients telling me that decisions they made have put them in a bad place. There have been tears, regrets and ideas that the future will be dictated by them.

When I was a management trainee I remember being taught how to make decisions. We all thought it was a very odd session because we were freshly graduated, 21 and had been making choices for lots of years. Of course we were very naïve and did not have a clue! It was fascinating to consider the thinking process we used – probably for the first time.

It went something like this:

  1. What do I want to achieve?
  2. What resources do I have or can I call on? Literal and mental.
  3. What constraints do I have? Real and imagined.
  4. What are my options? Think laterally as well as literally.
  5. What are the consequences of these various options?

The good ones; the bad ones; and when will they happen?

  1. Which are the preferred ways forward and why?
  2. Weight the options.
  3. Decide which way to go.

It all sounds logical and sensible. It is applied common sense so why do we still make bad decisions?

  • I did not stop to think at all but rushed into something.
  • I did not follow the process. I fell in love with the pair of shoes and forgot everything else like the fit, the colour and the price.
  • I ignored the true resources required. I knew there would be stamp duty to pay but chose not to add it into the budget because I wanted the house.
  • I ignored the constraints. I was convinced that the planners would give me change of use immediately to turn the building into offices.
  • I generated lots of options and their pros & cons but did not consider how major some of the cons might be and did not put enough into the contingency budget. Blithely saying I can knock that wall down is fine but if it is load bearing it might cost big money to hold the building up and could put two weeks on to the project.
  • There might be a few ways to do this thing including don’t but because I want to do it I am no longer logical and ignore that one!
  • I decide, but not because this route will take me the shortest, quickest way home but because it takes me 25 miles out of my way to look at Stonehenge and will cost me an extra night away from home!

So having done it wrongly what then happens? Sometimes we ignore the fact that it was a mistake and persevere making it worse. We blame other people or outside influences…it wasn’t my fault – it was him or her, it was the materials or the tools, it was the weather, it was the economy, it was the government, it was the universe…

I am always pleased when I get to the stage of recognising it was me and owning my mistake. It was me what done it! Now this is the dangerous bit. This is the moment when each of us starts to beat ourselves up. This can go on for years in some cases. It blocks trying other things. It makes us too cautious. It makes us very suspicious. It causes us to miss opportunities. And mostly it makes us very unhappy.

Now do not get me wrong. Sometimes these are good reactions because we had gone too far the other way; but they are not good if they are merely self-punishment. This just causes misery and paralysis.
The healthy reaction is to recognise it was a poor decision and learn from it. Sometimes we have to live with the consequences for a while but if we do not reconcile ourselves to these then they just drag us down.

This is when we put right the damage as best we can and then move on. However, be careful not to rush into another bad decision. Losing consistently at roulette is not a good reason for continuing to play to recoup those loses.

Why was I musing about all this? Because just recently I have been saying “draw a line in the sand… that was yesterday, and it is gone…give yourself permission to move on”. This is a mentor’s job. We help clients find the reason why something went awry and then take the next steps. Sometimes we can explain how we did something and why it did not work which saves them time and money in having to deal with something ineffective. Sometimes we help to evaluate the options to ensure that they are properly considered, and nothing has been missed. All the time we prevent people wallowing in the failure and help them find the confidence to move on.

So please make important decisions logically; if they go wrong learn the lessons; do not beat yourself up; do not become paralysed by remorse or fear; MOVE ON!

Working with a mentor is having someone on your side who recognises your skills and can observe and feedback. One thing is certain if you work like this you will not make too many bad decisions.

If this Thought has been interesting, please share it.

Life is good; let’s live it to the full, enjoy it and be the best we can be.

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