Everyone makes bad decisions. Even top performers. It’s a brush we all use to paint our human existence on the canvas we call life. And it is also true that bad decisions must be confronted directly, sooner rather than later. Wrong choices tend to foster negative feelings, cloud our judgment and invoke defensive posturing.
Bad decisions have a way of dominating our professional and personal lives if we don’t address the actions that led to questionable choices and their short/long term impact. However, don’t conflate mistakes and bad decisions, as they are not the same thing.
- A mistake is answering a question wrong in a test. A bad decision is not to study.
- A mistake is spending more on a purchase then was necessary. A bad decision is purchasing items after learning products and/or services were questionable.
- A mistake is an action taken without intention. A decision is an intended choice that is made, regardless of the consequences. It becomes “bad” if the outcome produces more “harm” than it does “good,” or doesn’t align with your overall personal or business strategy.
Mistakes offer possible learning moments, which inspired the often-used quote, “We learn from our mistakes.” John Powell, an English film score composer, expands this idea by saying, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
There is a redemptive quality from mistakes when we learn from them. But not so with bad decisions. It takes effort to learn from bad decisions, and usually, associated lessons only appear when we recover from their outcome.
What makes wrong decisions bad?
- They make us less productive – There is an inclination to dwell over wrong choices, producing negativity in our personal and work life. Too much energy is spent reliving those moments when choices were made, as they can’t be undone. But this truth is not enough to prevent us from dwelling on those bad decisions.
- They make us tentative – It doesn’t take long before bad decisions become common knowledge. We become off-balanced, thinking others are talking about the choices that were made. New decisions are harder to make. Fear creeps in, preventing us from making any decision, setting us up, potentially, for more failures.
- They make us defensive – We try to justify choices that were made, even when wrong. Left unchecked, our only defense is to relabel bad decisions as “mistakes,” in an attempt to distance ourselves from the choices and their harmful outcome.
Bad decisions require recovery, as indicated in our blog title, or we are destined to wallow in despair. But before we can overcome bad decisions, we need to understand some of the influences that empowered wrong choices.
According to the Harvard Business Review, after reviewing data for 50,000 people, comparing known good and bad decision makers, nine habits were identified that contributed to wrong choices.
Here are just a few of them:
- Research and due diligence left undone – Uninformed people make bad decisions. With easy tools and technology available to us, no one should ever enter into an agreement or purchase without learning more about products, services, and companies. Research must be done before a purchase is made or an agreement signed.
- No anticipation for unexpected events – Most people tend to expect negative outcomes, but few ever prepare. At face value, a decision may be the right choice based on information known at that moment. But a lack of preparation for handling unintended consequences produces more harm, transforming the decision from good to bad.
- Decisions made too late – Sometimes, the pressure to be well informed keeps you from deciding, referred to as “paralysis by analysis.” Rather than considering the data presented and making a responsible decision, you choose to wait. It’s not uncommon, in situations as described above, for time-sensitive opportunities to be lost.
- Missing an overall strategy – Personal and business strategies provide context to everything we do. When one doesn’t exist, choices and decisions become subjective, often based on personal preferences or an emotional connection to people, products and/or services. Better choices and solutions rise to the top when they are measured and aligned with your overall strategy.
- Lack of experience or a technical depth – When decision makers lack experience or technical understanding, they can’t properly assimilate information to make an effective decision. This is a good reason why continuous learning is essential to you and your organization, as well as why you surround yourself with knowledgable people who can assist.
Top performers understand that decision making is a process and learn to repeat successful actions. Not sure what steps to take to make better decisions? Consider the UMass | Dartmouth seven steps model in decision making. It identifies the sequential process that will “help you make more deliberate, thoughtful decisions by organizing relevant information and defining alternatives.”
TIP: There are additional details for each step worth reading. Click the link to review.
It is advantageous to understand why bad decisions must be confronted, as well as the steps to improve our decision-making process. But how do you recover from bad decisions?
Call to Action – Survive Poor Decisions
After searching for solutions to confront and handle bad decisions, none were as succinct and clear as what was offered in the Ability Platform lesson called “Surviving Poor Decisions.” One of 1500+ micro-learning lessons, this video presents one of the best solutions to confronting bad decisions, in just 4.5 minutes.
Rather than share all the details in this lesson, you need to enroll in the free 7-day trial offered at the bottom of this blog and review this lesson for free. The solution presented in this video can be summarized with the phrase, “Think 1-2-3.”
- Take Responsibility – Be honest and “own” the decision. Don’t play the “blame game,” but rather focus on remedies – what can you do to correct harmful outcomes?
- Take Action – Act quickly and take action. Don’t wait to react. Making smaller decisions to address some of the harmful outcomes may neutralize the overall impact.
- Move forward – Reject regret. Don’t allow negative feelings to shape you. Work through the emotions and move beyond the decision. Over time, bad decisions will not have the same attention or impact as it does at this moment.
The length of time it takes to recover from bad decisions is commensurate with the negative outcome. The greater the harm, the longer the recovery. This is where discipline will help you survive.
Don’t allow bad decisions to compromise your memory. Unless you are prone to make wrong choices, focus on the good and productive decisions you made previously. Write them out if it helps.
The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn, and Ryan Nicodemus offer a simple equation for success: Happiness + Constant Improvement + Contribution = Success.
- Remember what makes you happy and continue to do it well.
- Don’t be satisfied with what you know now. Improve. Learn.
- Find ways to contribute. For example, document what led to making wrong choices and share the details with colleagues, as it may prevent them from repeating your misfortune. Be proactive. Don’t hide, rather engage.
“Surviving Poor Decisions” is just 1 of 13 lessons in the “Decision Making” learning path you need to review if you are ready to recover from bad decisions. There are 100+ Learning Paths found with Ability Platform. Each collection of related video-based lessons is organized for you by subject matter experts, so you can start immediately to improve your skills.
Remember, MaxIT’s mission is for you to become a top performer in your industry. Don’t have access to the 100+ Learning Paths? Then register for a Free 7-Day Trial and start with the “Decision Making” learning path, today. This collection of micro-learning lessons empowers you to meet those decision challenges you encounter every day.