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How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them

How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them

He looked shocked.

I was having a conversation recently with a guy who was telling me about his nephew, a high school senior. “He should be an engineer,” the guy told me. “Engineers make great money. The job market for engineers is good. My nephew should definitely become an engineer. Don’t ya think?”

“No,” I said.

(That’s when he stared at me, stunned).

“What?” he replied.

“No,” I repeated. “I don’t know your nephew. What are his strengths?”

“His strengths?”

“Yes, his strengths. What are his strengths, his gifts, his passions? What is he interested in?”

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“Passion?” The guy scoffed. “Nobody chooses a job based on PASSION!”

I calmly replied, “It’s important for him to discover who he is…what his strengths, passions, and interests are…” and he looked at me like I was speaking gibberish.

I haven’t seen the guy again, and am not sure which career path his nephew will choose. But I know one thing for sure: if the nephew doesn’t understand himself, and if engineering doesn’t align with his strengths, passions, and interests, it might not be a great decision to become one.

We’re all guilty of making bad decisions. These decisions can greatly affect the course of our life. Whether we get involved in relationships that aren’t good for us, choose a career that doesn’t light us up, neglect our self-care repeatedly… we make bad decisions at times.

Why So Many People Make Bad Decisions

Making bad decisions can drastically change your life, leaving you unfulfilled and dissatisfied. When people make recurring poor decisions, they may not reach their potential.

People make bad decisions for many reasons. Their mindsets, lack of self-expertise, and following societal norms are three of the reasons they make poor decisions.

Your Mindset Determines the Quality of Your Decisions

Mindset, according to Merriam-Webster, is a mental attitude or inclination. It is important to recognize that your mental attitudes and inclinations are present and can greatly affect your ability to make decent decisions. Living your best life starts with your mindset. If you think small, make decisions based on limiting beliefs, and consistently avoid taking meaningful action due to fear, you will never reach your full potential.

Jim Taylor, PhD, explains cognitive biases as:[1]

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“the tendency to make decisions and take action based on imited acquisition and/or processing of information or on self-interest, overconfidence, or attachment to past experience.”

He describes many cognitive biases. One bias, the myopia bias, he explains, is when you

“see and interpret the world through the narrow lens of your own experiences, baggage, beliefs, and assumptions.”

The homecoming queen/king bias, Dr. Taylor writes, is when you “act in ways that will increase our acceptance, liking, and popularity.”

When you make decisions based on your cognitive biases, your choices aren’t always wise. It’s important to realize your mental inclinations are present.

Understand Yourself, but Don’t Let Your Feelings Lead You Astray

If we aren’t self-experts, it’s hard to make good decisions. Lions are amazing, strong, powerful, majestic animals. They know where they belong in the food chain, and they know where to live. They know how to hunt and how to act. However, what if a lion didn’t understand this, and attempted to live in the ocean? Surely it would NOT thrive in the ocean. The same goes for us. If we don’t understand who we are at the core, it’s hard to make the best choices that enable us to fully thrive.

When you understand yourself, you are better equipped to make good decisions. This does not, however, mean that you should always make decisions based on “how you feel.” In fact, making decisions based on your feelings can sometimes significantly restrict your growth.

For example, recently I was asked to speak to a group of business professionals. While I’m an extrovert and love being around people, and am very comfortable working with my coaching clients from around the world, standing in front of a crowd as a speaker is currently out of my comfort zone. My immediate response was discomfort, but I said “yes” to the invitation. Why? Because speaking is one of my goals, and I know as I move toward that goal I will be uncomfortable at first.

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Stepping out of your comfort zone is necessary in order to experience growth. As Brian Tracy says,

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”

Following Societal Norms Can Lead to Bad Decisions

Societal norms affect people’s choices every day. The people you spend time with and society in general often influences the jobs you choose, the hours you work, the level of success you reach, your habits, and everything from your worldview to your view of what a “good” relationship with your significant other is.

Blindly following the crowd can cause you to live an unfulfilled life. Just because everyone you know works 9-5 in an office doesn’t mean that’s the best fit for you. Just because everyone you know has their kids in a bunch of activities doesn’t mean that’s the best plan for your family.

How to Make Great Decisions That You Won’t Regret

Three keys to consistently making great decisions are being aware of our mindsets, understanding ourselves, and making decisions intentionally instead of passively following the crowd.

Be Aware of Your Mindset

It is important to understand that your mindsets can lead you to make poor decisions. Success starts between your ears, with your mindsets. People often avoid making positive changes in their lives and doing big things because they believe achieving their biggest dreams is not possible for them. They settle for less than their full potential. Many people have an internal dialogue that is less than friendly toward themselves.

Start paying attention to your thoughts. When you think about achieving a big goal you have, what thoughts do you have? Are you encouraging toward yourself? If you discover that your self-talk is discouraging, work on modifying your thoughts. For example, if you think, “I can’t start a business; I don’t know how,” modify that sentence to “I don’t know how to start a business right now, but I can learn.” If you think, “I can’t lose weight; I failed last time I tried,” modify it to “I didn’t achieve my goal last time, but this time I’ll do x,y, and z to get great results.”

One way to minimize the risk of making poor decisions due to your mindset is by collaborating with an expert on your decision, or learning from people who have already done what you aspire to do. For example, when making career decisions, you can hire career counselors or executive coaches. If you want to retire when young and travel the world, learn from people who have done exactly that. Learning from experts and mentors who have achieved what you aspire to do can help you stay inspired and encouraged.

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Become Self-Experts

Becoming self-experts is an important key to making good decisions. When you have a strong understanding of your strengths, your priorities, and the impact you want to make on the world, you can make purpose-driven decisions and live more fulfilling lives.

I highly recommend the book, Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. The book helps people discover 5 of their strengths. Having a strong understanding of your strengths can help you choose a career path that allows you to maximize those strengths, rather than choosing a career that isn’t a good fit for you.

Make Decisions Intentionally

Being intentional with your decisions rather than passively following society’s recommendations for your life can help you make choices that align with what matters most to you. Pause to reflect and think about why you’re making the choices you’re making. Are you living your life in a manner that enables you to become the best version of you, and make the impact on the world that you are here to make? Or, are you living the life that society wants for you?

One simple step to being more intentional in your life is to write out a tentative schedule for your day. When you tell your time where to go, it can help you minimize time spent on time-sucking activities that don’t align with who you most want to be.

Also, as Jim Rohn says,

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

Being intentional with who you spend time with can also steer you toward better decisions.

Although nobody’s perfect, and nobody has a perfect life, working on these strategies can help you make better decisions, leading to less regrets and a more fulfilling life.

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Cognitive Biases Are Bad for Business

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Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life Don’t like your job? Here are some solutions. How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

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Last Updated on July 22, 2019

7 Things To Remember When You Feel Broken Inside

7 Things To Remember When You Feel Broken Inside

I have been broken many times in my life. I have had life deliver blows that have knocked me to the ground. The pain and the feelings of hopelessness and despair have consumed my life for many months. I wondered if I would ever survive this, or if I would live a life where I felt happy and safe. Slowly, over time, my life got better and I got stronger.

Now when I look back, I realize that these events, though they were painful at the time, were the catalysts for me to change my life. Now I am living my life doing what I love – writing, speaking and coaching.

For us to live our lives to the fullest, the only way we can achieve this is by overcoming the challenges that life throws at us. We have to experience the pain, the betrayal, the adversity, the feelings of hopelessness and the despair in life, because how else do we learn about who we are?

There is no other way for us to learn how to be resilient, courageous, hopeful and optimistic about life and our future.

Though we do not like it, everyone feels broken at some point in their life journey. Often when we find ourselves at this place of despair, we do not know what to do and so we can end up living our life through our fear, regret, pain, disillusionment and sadness. This is not the way our lives are meant to be lived.

When you are feeling broken inside, remember these 7 things as they will help you discover your courage and build your resilience so that you can step out and embrace the joy of living a life you love.

1. Remember to Accept and Anticipate Change

“It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”  — Dr Leon C. Megginson

In today’s world of constant change, it is hard to hold on to who you are and manage the complexity and unpredictability of life. The one constant thing in our lives today is change.

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Instead of fighting the inevitability of change, learn how to accept it. Embrace change and know that by doing this your life can only get better.

Resisting change will fuel the negative energy that keeps you feeling broken and discouraged about life.

2. Remember to Embrace Your Power Of Choice

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” — Kevyn Aucion

Using your power of choice will enable you to change your approach to life from one where you languish in pain to one where you flourish with joy and hope.

Using your power of choice empowers and strengthens your ability to take action and to make decisions.

Your power of choice is a gift that you have within you that if you choose to use, will transform your life.

3. Remember to Ask For Help

“Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.”  Anne Wilson Schaef

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. When we are feeling so broken inside, we want to hide away from the world. Sometimes, it is because we feel embarrassed, or we believe that people won’t understand what we are going through.

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The support, advice and encouragement from others helps us to overcome adversity and solve problems in our life.

It is the energy and wisdom from friends, family and supporters that fuels our courage and our desire to take action to change our lives for the better.

4. Remember to Be Present

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” — Mother Teresa

Your thoughts fuel how you feel about your life. When you feel broken in your life, it will be your negative thoughts that dictate your feelings of sadness, disillusionment and unhappiness. When you feel joy and happiness, your positive thoughts of hope and self belief will support more of these feelings.

The key to managing your negative thoughts is to practice trying to distance yourself from these thoughts and observe them rather than react automatically to them.

Identify those thoughts that will draw you in and create confusion and inertia within you. Accept that these thoughts do not serve you well and work towards having more control over them.

Label the type of thought you are having rather than paying attention to its content. Observe your thoughts and if you notice a thought that is judging (how good or bad the situation is), label it “judging”.

If you are criticizing yourself for doing something wrong, then label that thought “criticizing”. Then, ask yourself how long you want to spend criticizing and blaming yourself. My suggestion is that you spend zero time doing this activity.

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5. Remember to Focus on What Brings You Joy

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain” — Joseph Campbell

When you are feeling despair, frustration and hopelessness, it is easy to forget the good things that are happening in your life. In fact, if you are consumed by negativity, you will start to believe that there is nothing good in your life.

Focusing on what in your life is good and what brings you joy is an important step to you changing your life. The more you focus on the good in your life, the more hopeful you become.

Positivity and hope are contagious and the more you celebrate this, the better you will feel about your life.

6. Remember to Be Hopeful about Your Future

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time” — Abraham Lincoln

It is understandable that when you feel broken in life, you can become consumed by the concern that this is what your life will be like forever. It is very hard to be hopeful about the future when you feel so much pain and heartache. However, your pain and heartache will not heal you and deep down inside, you want to be healed – you just don’t know how.

For me, when I felt  broken in my life, the one thing that helped me on my journey of healing was to try and keep hopeful about my future. It was important for me to keep perspective on the fact that what was happening in my life at the time was not a part of my future life. That tiny bit of hope I had about my future was enough for me to slowly start to heal — step by step.

7. Remember to Accept That Life Is a Mystery

“The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is a reality to be experienced” — Jacobus Johannes Leeuw

Life is a funny thing and the more we fight and resist it, the harder it is to live our life. Accepting and embracing the mystery of life allows us to heal and look at our pain as only one chapter of many chapters in our life.

Life throws us curve balls. It tests us and challenges us. We survive and thrive in life by embracing these challenges so that we can grow and live courageous and resilient lives.

When we feel broken inside, we need to remember that this is part of our journey and that there is no escaping the pain. We just have to work our way through the pain and despair.

Instead of fighting and questioning life and blaming yourself for how you feel, take a deep breath and remember that life is a mystery. Do not make the moments of despair and unhappiness in your life as foundations for how you will live your life forever.

Your role in life is to embrace it – the good the bad and the ugly and to live your life to its fullest – so go live it!

“Ester asked why people are sad. “That’s simple,” says the old man. “They are the prisoners of their personal history. Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people’s ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why they forget their dreams.”  – Paul Coelho, The Zahir.

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Featured photo credit: J’Waye Covington via unsplash.com

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