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5 Tips For Making Good Decisions To Avoid Regret Later On

5 Tips For Making Good Decisions To Avoid Regret Later On

Making good decisions was not something that came naturally to me. That’s why, by the age of 21, I was an alcoholic prostitute with barely a roof over my head. It wasn’t that I was stupid. I just had problems that I didn’t know how to fix, and the decisions I made to cope with a difficult life were, quite frankly, terrible.

It all started with an anxiety disorder that I didn’t know how to manage. I was agoraphobic, and I turned to drink just to be able to deal with the fear of leaving the house. Initially, my plan worked quite well, so it seemed like a good idea. But the decision to drown the fear in drink caused me far more problems, over time, than it solved.

I’ve recovered from all my issues now, after learning how to make good decisions that don’t lead to regrets. I was desperate to help others make good decisions in difficult circumstances, which led to me becoming a therapist. Here are some lessons about decision-making that I share with my clients. I hope they help you make good decisions too.

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1. Face the truth bravely.

People sometimes flee from the truth, because it’s scary or unpleasant. Instead of making good decisions based on the reality of a situation, people procrastinate, hide, or delay taking real action. That’s precisely what I did when I decided to hide in a bottle.

I now have a tattoo (yes, therapists can have tattoos) that reads: “Face Your Truth—Take Your Freedom.” It’s a formula for making good decisions. You can only truly be free by acknowledging the truth, however difficult, and dealing with it, rather than burying your head in the sand. You’ll thank yourself later on for being brave.

2. Look at the long-term.

It is easy to make quick decisions that seem to work in the short-term; but what really counts is the impact of a decision in the long-term. Don’t go for quick fixes—look at what really works over time. If I had done this, I might never have lost my pancreas, my sanity, and a decade of my life.

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Ask yourself whether this decision is a real solution with beneficial long-term consequences. Good decisions sometimes bring pain in the short-term, but that’s not the rest of your life. It’s always worth temporary pain and struggle to make good decisions you won’t regret.

3. Do a value-tally.

The decisions we most regret are usually those that don’t match up with what we value. As my later career as a therapist and writer shows, what matters to me is being able to help others, to express myself, and to make a difference. Drinking my way into oblivion was no way to live the life that I wanted.

It’s never a good idea to do something that clashes directly with your own values, because it will make you very unhappy. Good decisions match your values, and allow you to lead a life that fulfils you.

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4. Consider what’s at stake.

Good decisions are those which give us benefits without losing us anything important. When I chose to drink to get through life at university, I hadn’t factored in that if it didn’t work out, that was one thing I would really regret screwing up.

And of course, I did screw it up. I was in and out of university for years between ill health, suicide attempts and generally losing the plot. I try not to regret anything these days, because it’s a wasted emotion. But of all the things I look back on the most sadly, it’s the fact that I had to jettison university permanently in the end. I will most likely never again get a shot at something I loved so dearly. Good decisions are those which don’t burn bridges you can’t rebuild.

5. Do the death-bed test.

A great way of making good decisions is to ask yourself if, on your death bed, you would regret anything about your choice. This applies as much to not doing things as to doing them. If you decide never to have a shot at improving yourself, starting your own business, or writing a book, would you look back on your life and wish you’d just given it a go?

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The greatest regret usually comes not from failure, but from not having tried at all. I don’t regret much of my life now, because I eventually made good decisions and turned my life around before I reached my death bed—although it was a close call. No matter how hard or scary the work is, the decision to try for all you are worth is better than looking back with regret at things you never even attempted.

Featured photo credit: Impact Hub via flickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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