What if you were on “Deal or No Deal” and you had two cases left? What if the two remaining money totals were $.01 and $1,000,000 and the banker was offering you $500,000? What would you do?
Can you imagine being under those hot lights, Howie Mandel’s shiny bald head glaring at you, hundreds of people in the audience shouting at you and only 15 seconds left to decide whether to take the offer or keep your case? What a brutal decision to have to make.
We are all faced with hard decisions in our lives. They may not be as intense as the one described above but I imagine we have all felt that kind of pressure to make a decision before. Granted a safe thing to do in the example above would be to take the $500,000 from the banker but then again, that means you may be leaving another $500,000 on the table if your case has the $1,000,000. You may wind up thinking about that decision and regretting it for the rest of your life.
This is what is so agonizing about making some decisions. You don’t really know what the outcome can be and either way there can be pros and cons to making that decision. In some ways, a hard decision can be paralyzing. I think that one area that can really cause a person to have trouble making a decision is trying to choose the exact “right” thing to do. The problem with this kind of thinking is that many decisions do not have a right or wrong answer. In the example above, say you choose to go for all of the money instead of taking the banker’s offer. You open the case and inside is $.01. Have you made the wrong decision? Perhaps, but had you taken the banker’s money and your case held the $1,000,000; you would regret that decision also because you’ve left $500,000 on the table. Thoughts with words such as “would’ve”, “could’ve”, and “should’ve” may invade your thoughts and make you feel the pain of regret; that visceral kind of pain, deep in the chest and in the stomach, that seems to have no relief, even if you had a few extra bucks in the bank.
You can see what a dilemma a hard decision can bring. Fortunately the vast majority of decisions are not life ending. Often when you make a decision and try one thing, if it doesn’t work, you can always try something else. Or, to refer once again to the example above, say you don’t actually win the $1,000,000. You walk away with what feels like “nothing” but you actually still have everything you had before. Really, you’ve lost nothing. You have gained a onceinalifetime experience as well. You could second guess the decision for the rest of your life, but what if the winnings somehow brought trouble? Obviously you would never actually know, but I would guess you’ve heard of lottery winners who did not find happiness in their winnings.
That is why I believe that a when faced with a tough decision, a person should step back and acknowledge how difficult the situation is. Maybe even take a deep breath and count to ten. Then, being aware of the feelings, think about the pros and cons of that decision.
Take as much time as possible in doing so. This practice, of course, will not always lead to the “right answer” (As I’ve said, most decisions to not have a right or wrong answer anyway), but it should give a person the satisfaction of knowing that at least he or she put good thought into a decision.
The outcome may not be what the person wanted. If that is the case, that person must conscientiously avoid getting stuck in the painful thought pattern of “would’ve, could’ve should’ve”. All those kind of thoughts will bring is even more misery. Instead, knowing the past cannot be changed, the person must approach the situation and think about what to do next, and maybe even, by acknowledging the bad feelings, learn something from the decision.
There is an old fable, about a starving horse that comes upon two fresh bales of hey. The farmer who owns them tells the horse that she must choose between the bales; she cannot have both. The horse is standing, looking at both bales, mouth watering, trying to decide which one may be larger and may be more delicious. She stands looking and unable to decide for so long that the poor mare dies of starvation before getting to sample either bale.
I always like to think of that poor horse when I am faced with a tough decision. With that in mind, I look up at the banker and know that I have him beat already…….