How many times have you found yourself obsessing over some decision you made which didn’t work out as you had hoped? I’ll bet lots of times. We tend to revisit our bad decisions and drive ourselves nuts with our self-directed anger. Mentally we beat ourselves up with “I should have…” thoughts. This is not healthy because there is no way of unloading this type of self-directed hostility. Such emotions leave us feeling depressed.
What’s past is past. It doesn’t accomplish anything to obsess about something you did in the past because you cannot change the past. You have to deal with the situation you have today – right now. That way you change the future with what you do today.
Failure is only feedback. It tells you that the action you took or decision you made did not work out well. Therefore, try something else. We are only human. We can only do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the moment of the decision-making. To avoid this self-hate, you must build in an attitude that regards failure as just feedback. That way, any failure is only temporary. Obsessing over it makes something so horrendous that you cannot recover from it nor get past it.
There is an often told story about Thomas Edison whose friends chided him when his 200th attempt at making the incandescent light bulb failed.
Friends: My God. Tom, you’ve failed again. What is this, your 200th
experiment? Give it up, man.
Thomas: I haven’t failed 200 times. I’ve found 200 ways my idea won’t work.
Superior problem-solving is one of the measures of an effective human being. You must be able to gather and analyze facts and then reason things out systematically. Then you have to select a strategy that does not complicate things by creating more problems than it solves. If you do this, you can expect your decisions to produce good results.
Decision-making is the process of problem-solving through making a conscious choice or selection of one alternative from a group of two or more alternatives to achieve an objective. The key here is: your decision’s purpose is to achieve an objective.
Decision-making can cause a good deal of anxiety in circumstances where:
●the actual problem situation is ambiguous;
●circumstances are vague;
●available information is unclear;
●the ramifications of the decision are obscure;
●the problem situation is new and there is no strategy for dealing with it;
●there is no historical data on which you can base your thinking;
●you have to put your trust on the information and expertise of others;
●you may not see the outcome or results of your decision for a long time;
●the consequences resulting from your decision will be far-reaching.
What follows is information about a simple and very basic method for decision-making which will work well in most situations. If you employ this method, it will severely reduce any hostile revisiting of old decisions.
The Basic Model for Decision-Making
This model for anger-free decision-making has ten steps:
1. recognize that a problem exists;
2.set a solution objective;
3..analyze the situation;
4. identify uncertainties;
5. determine “workable” solutions;
6.gather data, information and seek expert help if necessary;
7. select the best alternative;
8. develop a plan for implementation and action
9. implement the plan
10. follow-up: examine how the decision worked out; evaluate its effectiveness in solving 1he problem.
A diagrammatic illustration of this process follows. The process is represented in a circle to stress two critical issues:
●All good decision-making begins with a clearly stated solution objective. This way, the direction of your efforts is explicitly stated. You know where you are going. You have an answer to the question, “What are you trying to accomplish anyway?”
●Decision making is a skill that can be learned, and like any skill, you need to have a logical, repeatable process into which you can incorporate what you have learned from previous situations. That way, the more decision-making you do, the better you will become at it. Moreover, the fewer opportunities you will have for beating yourself up over poorly made decisions.
Suppose your decision does not achieve its solution objective. The first thing you want to look at is your analysis of the situation; perhaps it was not complete and accurate. It if was not, maybe that is where you went off the track. The next item you want to look at is the alternatives you generated. Perhaps you did not generate enough choices. Thirdly you want to examine your selection of “workable solutions”; perhaps you missed something important there. Maybe you neglected to obtain necessary information that was easily available from sources other than yourself. In other words, you go around the circle, examining each of the ten steps to see where you went off track. The circle gives you an effective, logical method for evaluating your decision process. This allows you to set things up for going around the circle a second time – repeating the ten steps – and this time, achieving your solution objective.
To know how good your decision has been requires measuring it against your objective. If your decision did not achieve your objective, do not obsess about it. Just go around the circle again. Here is a true story of a friend who went off track by starting her decision cycle with a poor solution objective.
Nancy Waldorf was a good looking forty-something woman who feared getting old looking. She decided to have some cosmetic work done so she saved up her money and then went looking for a plastic surgeon. She wanted to locate a doctor who would charge her an amount of money that was within her saved and budgeted funds. Unfortunately she had not saved enough to hire a top plastic surgeon. She went with a newly minted inexperienced cosmetic specialist. The result was that although her turkey neck was gone, one ear was now two inches higher than the other. Every time she looked into the mirror, she was filled with anger at herself and loathing at her bargain doctor. Now Nancy had to locate a specialist in plastic surgery who could correct her bargain doctor’s work.
Illustrated below are Nancy’s two trips around the decision cycle.
|Decision Steps||First time around the circle||Second time around the circle|
|Objective||doctor who charged what she had budgeted||best available specialist experienced in correcting poorly done surgery|
|uncertainties||None considered||Even the best specialist might not be able to correct the problem|
|Alternatives||Wait until she had more saved||Live with the problem|
|Workable solutions||Keep looking for a doctor who would charge what she had saved||Arrange some monthly payment plan|
|Gather Information||Yellow pages, “plastic surgeons; calling each and asking “What do you charge for…..”||interviewed other plastic surgeons and their patients to locate the best person for the task|
|Best Alternative||Hire the cheapest doctor||Hire the doctor considered the best plastic surgeon by his peers|
|Plan of action||To make a surgery appointment as soon as possible||In depth conversation with her chosen doctor about expectations and risks|
|implement||Just do it and get it over with||Surgery was planned after several preparation visits|
|Evaluate||Poor outcome||Successful result|
Here is an example of someone who made such a morass over a so called poor decision that his entire life came to a standstill.
Bernie Wycoff was a computer wiz at college. In his senior year one of his classmates, Tony DeBaio, told Bernie that he was going out to Seattle, Washington to start his own software company. He asked Bernie to come with him as his VP of Development. Bernie was reluctant to leave his family and friend. Moreover, he believed that good-time Tony would never make a success of anything. Therefore, he turned Tony down.
It is now ten years later. Tony DeBaio’s company is one of the most successful software development companies in the world. Bernie has settled into a back office bank job that uses his computer skills. During the ten years since his graduation from college, Bernie
has watched his beloved parents sell the homestead and move to Florida. His three
best buddies took jobs in different parts of the country. Even Bernie’s two sisters have married and moved away. There is only one relative left in Bernie’s home town, an old uncle in a nursing home who no longer remembers who Bernie is.
Bernie has a girlfriend, Beverly Anders, to whom he complains every day about the poor decision he made ten years ago. “I should have gone to work for Tony DeBio. My life here has gone nowhere. I was so stupid. I literally threw away what might have been a brilliant future.” Bernie tells Beverly he is very depressed over his situation. Beverly is tired of hearing this old story.
Beverly: I’m tired of hearing how depressed you are. You make me depressed because you are living in the past. Meanwhile your present and future are quietly slipping away. Do something about it and stop complaining.
Bernie: I don’t know what to do.
Beverly: You could start by calling Tony up on the phone.
Bernie: What? And ask him for a job? He’d laugh at me.
Beverly: You could just make it a friendly how- are- you- doing sort of call and let him take the lead. He’ll ask what you’re doing work-wise and you can tell him you are thinking of making a change. See what happens. Doing nothing and complaining is making a mud-hole out of that ten year old decision. All you are doing is digging that mud hole deeper and deeper until it buries you alive.
DeAnne’s Anger Tips
Anger and depression are very closely related. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. Depression is anger turned inward against yourself. Anger is an emotion that explodes outward. Depression is like beating yourself with a rubber hose – it leaves no marks. You do it to yourself. Here’s the critical issue. It is by far healthier to be angry than it is to be depressed. When a person becomes seriously depressed, he or she is in danger of committing suicide. The next time you feel depressed ask yourself, “What am I
angry about?” Keep asking that question until you get an answer. Then, don’t stop there. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do about that? How will I move forward from this?”
Last Week’s Scenarios
Sally Miller is the VP of Human Resources. At a meeting she makes a suggestion; no one says anything. Then one of the men makes the same suggestion.
If this sort of thing happens to you at work, there is only one way to stop it. Put your idea in writing, with all the attending data and make sure your name is all over that document. Then you can hold up that document and say, “It is gratifying to know that all of you believe my idea has so much merit that you are all wishing my idea was actually Bill’s. But it is not Bill’s idea. It is my idea and here is the proof.”
Your spouse nags at you from the moment you get home from work until you leave the house the next morning.
At a time when the kids are not around, say something like this:
●I have asked you three times over the last three weeks not to nag me and complain about issues when the kids are around. Nevertheless, you continue to nag me and complain when the kids are around to hear it.
●This makes me feel concerned because the kids are developing negative personalities as a result.
●I want you to reserve your nagging and complaining for times when the kids are not around.
●How else can we ensure that out kids grow up with a healthy and positive attitude toward life?
Then, no matter how your spouse responds, you continue to repeat that third line. You want to emphasize that you are not asking that he or she stop nagging and complaining. Just that you want it not to occur when the kids are around. As a result, you will experience a huge reduction in the nagging and complaining.
Your child tells you she hates school and doesn’t want to go there anymore. Every day she comes home upset and crying.
This is very serious because she refuses to tell you exactly what is going on. Perhaps a visit to her teacher and then the principal might be a good starting point for your investigation. If you are acquainted with her friends and classmates, you might ask them what is going on.
If you try again to persuade your child to reveal the reason for her intense dislike of school, start the conversation from another place. For example, you might ask her to describe what a school that she likes might look like and sound like. What kind of kids would go there? Describe the type of teacher she would like to have. How would everyone be dressed? What would they be learning?
This Week’s Scenarios
About twice each week, your neighbor’s teen-aged son and a few of his friends go rummaging through your waste can of unwanted mail and other pieces of discarded paperwork. You are concerned that he is searching for personal data such as social security numbers and bank account information with which to do identity theft. You have no proof that this is his intension. But, you are very suspicious that he is up to no good. What do you think you should do?
Your husband’s best friend, Derek Grable, is married to a very beautiful woman named Antonia. Derek is absolutely nuts about Antonia. However, Antonia is unhappy in her marriage. Over coffee the other day Antonia confided in you that she plans to leave Derek within the month. “That will break Derek’s heart”, you said. Nancy replied, “I’m being stifled by all this housework and cooking. I want a career. I want to spend my time doing something significant. I’ve told Derek this but he just doesn’t understand. So I’m leaving him. Please don’t tell anyone what I’ve just told you. Please. I will tell Derek myself when I think the time is right.” What do you think you should do?
It is a dark, rainy night. You are driving home from a friend’s home where you had a nice dinner and some great conversation. You are replaying the evening’s events in your head and smiling to yourself. You are unaware that you crossed into another lane without signaling your intended lane change. You nearly hit another car. The driver in the other car becomes enraged and starts to tailgate you, honking his horn and putting on his bright lights. Suddenly, you feel a little fear creeping in because you do not know the reason for the other driver’s strange actions. He appears to be screaming at you from his open window. You see his fist pumping. You speed up. He speeds up. What do you think you should do?