Dec 082014 1 Response

Bad Decisions: Timing vs. Choices

Most bad decisions are a failure in timing and not a failure in choice.

Rarely do we choose things which would always be a bad choice in every time, circumstance, and situation. In nearly every scenario when we make a bad decision, we choose an appropriate choice but at the wrong time.

Consider food. When is the absolute worst time to choose what to eat? The answer is when we are hungry. Dieticians have long noted humanity’s poor track record of making bad food choices when hungry. Who hasn’t experienced going to the grocery store while hungry and coming home with bags full of cookies, chips, and a variety of poor choices. We should only shop when full so we make our decisions based on our intellectual choices rather than what our stomach’s desire at the moment. (See: You Better Make Up Your Mind)

As it is with food so it is in a variety of other areas:

The last moment in which you should decide whether to marry someone is when you are engaged in a sexual relationship with them. The joy of the sex can color one’s eyes from the true issues of the relationship.

Never make a life-altering decision when deep in grief. How many times have you seen the grieving widow or widower waste the life insurance payout in a matter of months because they are making financial decisions in a time of overwhelming sorrow?

Many professionals jump from job to job, not because of career advancement, but because they regularly go through seasons of light depression. Without reflecting on the timing of the decisions, they fail to see the pattern that every few years they get tired, experience some sadness, and use a new job to break them out of the doldrums.

It’s not wrong to get married, spend money, or change jobs. All of us will do those things at some point in our lives. Yet there are times in our lives in which we should not make the decision to do any of these things. Because we are not in the right state of mind to make a rational, good decision, we should abstain from decision-making. (See: Stop Freaking Out–A Lesson in Decision Making)

One of the most important aspects of wise decision-making is being able to identify when one should not make a decision. There are times in which we are too tired, too biased, too involved, or too ______ to make a good choice. In those moments, we must either delay the decision or submit our decision-making process to someone we trust who is in a better spot to make a wise choice.

The difficulty with these moments is two-fold:

1. It takes a tremendous amount of self-awareness to know we are not in a place to make a wise choice. Like someone who is drunk that still believes they can drive, we often live our lives in a constant state of weariness, self-absorption, need, or other conditions which bias us from making good choices. It takes a good dose of humility and experience to reach awareness that we should not be making any decisions.

2. The choices we make are almost always appropriate choices for some people or in the right time. If the decisions were clearly wrong in every situation and circumstance, it might be easier. Yet most bad choices are only bad because the timing is wrong. This deceives us into thinking a bad decision is a good one.

Back to the food example. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a piece of cake. It should be eaten in the midst of moderation and within the context of a good diet, but one piece of cake is not a problem. However, when we are starving and we walk to the break room and see a piece of cake, we are not thinking about moderation and a balanced diet. We are thinking we are hungry and the cake looks good. So in the moment, we can rationalize it’s just one piece of cake and what is the harm? (See: What a Timeshare Presentation Taught Me About Making a Bad Decision)

There isn’t any harm in one piece of cake. But having a piece in the middle of a normal day for no other reason than we didn’t eat a proper breakfast is not a good reason to eat cake. And if we continually make choices like it, we will have consequences for our choices.

Most of the bad decisions we make are about timing more than choices. Nearly every bad decision would have been a good decision in a different time.

Before making an important decision—should I marry this person, what job should I take, should we move, etc—make sure you are in a proper position to make a wise choice. If you are angry over some situation, grieving a great loss, weary from illness or lack of sleep, or too involved to make a wise choice, do not make the decision.

Get to a good place emotionally, spiritually, and physically and then make the choice.


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