I don’t know about you, but when I make a decision that I later think was wrong, I sometimes get pissed off and think, ‘God damn I can be a dumbass sometimes.’
But most of the time, when you make a decision that later you wish had been different, it wasn’t actually a ‘wrong’ decision. It was a decision that was made based on all the information and data you had at that time. At the time it was the right decision.
So, in effect, what you’re actually saying to yourself is, ‘God damn it, how could I not have transported myself into the future, got all the information from then, analyse everything in my life in that future, then go back in time and make the right decision based on my time travel into the future. God I’m an idiot.’
That’s dumb. It may be possible one day, but we live in world where that isn’t even a little possible yet. So why beat yourself up over something that doesn’t make sense?
Let me use an example. I recently moved from Victoria to the Tropical North East of Australia, and when getting sorted for the move, I threw out a whole bunch of old stuff I owned from ages ago. All sorts of crap – old vcr tapes, posters, cd cases, old newspapers that were ‘collector’s editions’. I also had this Olympus digital voice recorder that, when I bought it in 2005, was state-of-the-art. And I bought it for $700. Anyway, when going through my stuff, I thought, ‘This is old technology. Why the hell would I need this? Fuck it. One less thing.’ In the bin.
Today though, months later, I thought, ‘Shit, I could really have used that.’
But instead of using (and wasting) a lot of energy of regretting a decision, it actually serves you much better to redirect that energy towards learning and solutions. Away from negative emotions towards positive solutions.
I’ve made a couple of those types of decisions lately, that at the time were right but after, I realised were wrong. But instead of getting all pissed off and worked up about something I cannot change, I decided to analyse and write down why I made that decision, what beliefs lead me to make that decision, and whether I could open my mind and do things differently next time in a similar situation.
David Heinemeier Hansson touched on this in his essay It’s always your fault.
Acknowledge that it’s noone else’s fault but yours. This has a remarkable power to free yourself of misdirected anger and frustration. And you can’t control or change what happened, but you can change the future and how you run with what you did – the ‘mistake’ you made. And something good always comes from a seemingly bad decision.
This also helps. This is Captain Hindsight. He’s a dumbass. Captain Hindsight always knows what the right thing to do is. After the thing has happened though – not before. He also has three trusted sidekicks, Coulda, Woulda and Shoulda, and they are just as useless and dumb as him.
If you’ve ever made a decision thinking, ‘I know, I’ll do the dumbest thing possible right now, because yep, I’m such a dumbass.’ Then, okay, yes, you can look back and say, ‘Man, I’m such a dumbass,’ because you deserve it.
But I’m guessing 99.99999% of the world’s population have never done that, So those thoughts of ‘Man, why did I do that? I’m such a dumbass’ are not useful at all, and are most importantly, wrong. It’s the judgement of your past decision that’s wrong, not your past decision.
If you want to go further, whenever you think to yourself, ‘God, I’m such an idiot’ after making a decision you think was wrong, look in the mirror and imagine this guy staring back at you:
Is that good for you? Probably not.
You can take control of your life, see your decision as a challenge and an opportunity to improvise. improve and move forwards, or you can look like that dumb asshole.
And if you want to take it to the extreme, imagine yourself on your death bed. Are you thinking about that decision? If not, then it doesn’t matter.
I chucked out that voice recorder at the time because I wanted to get rid of things I didn’t need. I wanted to get rid of a lot of the bullshit stuff I had – there was so much of it. And that made me feel good at the time – to be removing stuff and clutter from my life. Each thing I put in the bin made me feel more in control of my life and less materialistic.
If it was the right decision at the time, it was the right decision.