Do you ever wonder why you make terrible decisions or feel awful about your choices? If so, I hope these lessons from my life help you.

I’ve mentioned lately I’ve felt mentally bankrupt. That was true, but I’m back on track now. I discovered why I became exhausted. It was much more difficult to identify the culprit than I anticipated.

This past Saturday, I took some time to think and plan. Maybe re-plan is the more appropriate word.

I surveyed my list of goals and projects. I took a deeper look at my calendar of events and wondered how these lists, activities, and appointments magically appeared.

Obviously, I decided, they were important to me at some point. Many still are. When I examined them collectively, however, I realized this grouping of activities and appointments wouldn’t make me happy.

My life and calendar needed a triage. Sometimes you just need to strip the building down to the studs and start over. That’s what I did and I wanted to make sure this situation doesn’t occur again.

So, I considered how my life—the sum of all those itty-bitty decisions—got this way. When I made some notes during this process, I discovered four reasons why you and I sometimes make terrible decisions.

No, it’s not someone else’s fault…

First, let’s make sure we understand who’s not at fault—someone else! You make your own decisions or should make your own decisions.

No one gave you bad advice. No one forced you to do something. In all cases, you chose. But, for those decisions you consider bad in hindsight, why did you choose poorly?

Uh, was that in the fine print?

You didn’t gather enough information. In The Hiring Prophecies: Psychology behind Recruiting Successful Employees, I spent more than a few thousand words explaining job candidates’ decision-making processes. One serious mechanical error they (and employers) make results from the spotlight effect. There are many factors to this phenomenon, but this particular error transpires when someone decides based solely on the limited information available (the spot lit information). Everything outside the light is ignored as irrelevant. How many times have you thought to yourself I wouldn’t have done that if I knew ‘that’ then? Make sure to keep expanding your intake of information.

You didn’t consider the trade-offs. Every time you say yes or no in any decision, you’re actually saying yes and no to many additional decisions. For example, I’m sitting here writing this post on a Saturday. I said yes to write this blog and simultaneously said no to spend time with my wife and fur babies. When I say yes to one client that means every other client gets a little less of me. You get the idea. Make sure you examine the full picture before you decide.

You didn’t consider the full impact. Every decision has consequences. Some of the fallout is fabulous and some might be disastrous. Did you look far enough into the future? Did you look far enough to your right and left? Play out the scenario. If I choose this, what will likely happen down the road? What could happen? What’s the best scenario? What’s the worst scenario? Who could this help or hurt?

You weren’t clear on your motives. Every decision you make, I’d like to think, is in some way for your benefit. I don’t mean this selfishly. In fact, I consider doing something nice for someone else also for your benefit. It’s good to give! But, how many decisions have you made because you thought you had to or didn’t want to upset the apple cart? Once you have clarity regarding why you want to do something, you’ll make sure to align your decisions to that reasoning.

As always, I’d love to hear from you: What are the reasons you think people make poor decisions?

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