There I was, standing in the fairway on the fifth hole at a local golf course. I was about 125 yards away from the green. In front of the green was a pond that stretched along the left side and around the back. I had two choices:
- I could lay it up, meaning intentionally hit it short of the pond to have an easier next shot and greater chance of landing on the green.
- I could go for it and aim for the middle of the green, and risk hitting it short and losing my ball in the water.
A little background about my golf game, I’m not that good. I have my moments, but for the most part, when I am standing up there ready to hit the ball, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I have an idea in my mind what I want to happen, but for some reason with golf it rarely happens.
When I was younger I would always lay it up because the overwhelming odds were that I would lose my ball in the pond. But I’ve since become more confident in my game and decided to go for it.
I hit the ball solidly and the flight path looked good. As it came down I realized I made the right choice. My ball successfully landed in the middle of the green.
While this choice didn’t measure high on the scale of big life decisions, it is a decision nonetheless. In fact, I bet you would be surprised if you took a step back and thought about how many choices you make in a day.
And I’m sure you’d be even more surprised if you tried to see how all those choices led you to where you are today.
Life Is Full Of Choices
Everything that happens to us in life is a result of our choices. We choose to go to the gym or not, to have a date night with our significant other or not, to hit the snooze button or get up.
So the next time you complain about gaining 10 pounds, know that you made that choice. You chose to eat the foods you did, and you chose not to go to the gym, or go for a walk after dinner.
The choices you make today will impact your life tomorrow. That job you hate? You chose to accept it. The big mortgage payment each month you hate paying? You chose to buy the house. It’s tough to admit that we made a mistake and bought too much house, but mistakes are part of life.
The great thing about life is we can always choose to change things.
You can look for a new job or start eating healthier or look into moving and selling your house. But many times, we choose not to change. We don’t feel like life is a choice. Why is this?
There are two main reasons.
First, we act in ways we believe will make us feel better. We would rather continue to eat unhealthy because, even though we hate how our bodies look and how our clothes fit, eating the foods we love brings us more comfort than putting in the effort of changing our diet and starting to exercise.
Or, though we might hate having debt and getting that credit card statement in the mail, buying things brings us more joy than the idea of starting to budget and digging our way out of debt.
Second, we put too much power into immediate pleasure. We want to feel good now, so we buy the bigger house thinking it will bring us happiness. But this shortsightedness overlooks the long term pain it could cause.
Now there’s a huge mortgage payment we have to make every month. And to afford the payments, we have to work many more hours at a job we don’t enjoy.
Wrong Decisions Are Clear In Hindsight
Before you go and beat yourself up over the wrong decisions you’ve made, know that it’s easy to see why those decisions were wrong in hindsight. In the moment, all you have are the tools at your side to help you make the best decision possible.
It’s clear after the fact that getting into that relationship was the wrong decision or buying the huge house was not smart. But in the moment, when you looked at everything, you came to a different conclusion. This is OK.
Life is full of choices and a learning experience. You grow by realizing your mistakes, figuring out where you went wrong, and making adjustments so you don’t make the same mistakes again.
Just know that even if you do this, there are no guarantees in life. Following a solid decision-making plan won’t guarantee you will never get into debt again, or never have your heart broken.
No matter how much you analyze a situation and try to account for every possible outcome, you can never guarantee success. But you can increase the chances of success the more you plan ahead.
6 Tips To Making The Best Decisions In Life
Below is a blueprint to help you make the best decisions in life. They will help guide you down the right path and let you think through life choices so you can make the best decision.
#1. What is important and valuable to you? Sit down and think about what you value most out of life and begin to frame decisions around this. For example, if you value working with animals, then odds are taking a high demand sales job might not be the best fit for you.
#2. Get as much information as possible. You should spend some time doing research and gathering information. Go online and check out related articles to get some things to think about. Reach out to friends and family members to see if they know anyone in a similar situation and see the decisions they made. You shouldn’t blindly follow their decisions, but take them in and think about how they apply to you.
#3. Don’t forget about your future. Remember that many mistakes are made when you act on short term pleasure at the expense of long term pain. Imagine your choices 5 or 10 years into the future. What does your life look like?
For example, if you want to buy a larger house, what impact will it have on your life? In the short term, you will have larger bills and have to spend more time with regards to cleaning and maintenance.
In the long term, the large bills will be even higher thanks to inflation. In terms of maintenance, you might have kids. Do you want to spend more time with them or doing housework instead?
The more you can envision your future life with the choices you make, the better idea you will have of whether they are good choices or not.
#4. Consider alternatives and other options. Just because you have a decision to make doesn’t make it an “either/or” situation. See if you can modify the choices to better fit your life.
For example, if you are in credit card debt, your choices aren’t to either do nothing or put every single penny you have towards your debt. You could choose to pay off debt while still enjoying and living life by only putting 50% of your leftover money towards your debt.
#5. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of your options. Now that you have a long list of potential options, look at each one independently and write down the advantages and disadvantages of each. From there, organize them so the biggest ones are at the top and the least important ones are at the bottom.
#6. Trust yourself. Finally, you need to make the choice and trust yourself. Again, you will never have all the information and you will never make the right decision all of the time. But you have to trust yourself and make the decision after looking at all the information you gathered.
Fixing Bad Decisions You’ve Made
Now that you know why you make bad decisions and how to make better choices in the first place, we need to talk about how to fix the bad choices you’ve already made and are living with now.
Despite what you think, you can change your current circumstances. After all, everything in life is a choice, so you can choose to change things. But you don’t because in order to get out of your current situation you have to pay a price. You might think this price is too much to pay and as a result you live your life unhappily in its current state.
Understand that when I say you need to pay a price to get out of your current situation, I am not only talking about money. In some cases the price might be money but many times it is not.
For example, let’s say your current situation sees you living a lie. You are keeping a big secret from others. In this case, to get out of your situation, the price you have to pay is telling the truth.
Because you feel this price is too much to handle, you decide to keep living the lie. But what you don’t realize is that it would be much harder to keep living the lie every day for the rest of your life than it would be to just come clean.
The same idea applies if you are in a marriage you hate. The price of a divorce is smaller compared to being miserable the rest of your life. You are robbing yourself of happiness you could experience if you just went ahead and got the divorce.
So how do you get out of your current situation? Here’s how.
#1. You need to identify what the issue is. What is causing you to be unhappy?
#2. Understand the advantages to your new life. Pretend your current situation is no more. What does your new life look like?
#3. What is the price to change your current situation? What are the things keeping you from making the change? What are you scared of confronting?
#4. Imagine paying the price. What does it involve? Get detailed about it and how it plays out. Then think of unexpected issues that might arise.
#5. Repeat step 4 a few times so you can get comfortable with paying the price.
Now that you have logically looked through the process, making a change shouldn’t seem so out of the question. You should see that you could be happy in your new life by making a change.
However, don’t make the assumption that if you make the change you will be happy instantly. Our emotions are powerful and you might feel hurt and loss by making a change.
So be sure to take this into account before making a change. Your emotions shouldn’t stop you, but you have to understand that life won’t be all sunshine and rainbows instantly.
Accepting Life Is About Choices
One final area that needs discussing is your attitude about the choices you make. There is a great quote by Lou Holtz that sums this up perfectly.
“Wherever we are today – good, bad, or indifferent – is due to the choices we make. Life is a matter of choices. The most important choice we can make is the attitude we’re going to have.”
What is your attitude when you face a tough choice? When you’re down you’ve got two choices, you can either stay down or pick yourself up. When something goes wrong you get to choose how you react, which sets a tone.
For example, let’s say you have an important presentation at work together with a co-worker. Right before the presentation is about to start you realize your co-worker isn’t there. You were each responsible for separate parts of the presentation, so now you are going to have to fumble through their part.
How do you react? You would probably be upset with your co-worker.
What if I told you that your co-worker didn’t show up because they were out all night drinking and never heard their alarm? You would still be upset with them.
What if I told you that your co-worker didn’t show up because they were in a horrible accident on the way to work? In this case, you wouldn’t be upset with them.
You would have 2 different reactions. In both cases, you chose how you reacted. I’m not saying that one reaction is right and the other is wrong. Nor am I justifying your co-worker getting drunk the night before a big presentation.
But I am showing you that you have complete control in how you react to any situation. You get to choose compassion or rage, love or hate.
The next time you are about to complain about something in your life, pause for a moment and reflect on how you got here and what choices you made along the way.
Start to make choices in a way that you can get where you want to be and become the best you possible.
At the end of the day, life is full of choices and you decide how your life plays out by how you make each one. Every day you make hundreds of choices, from hitting the snooze button, to staying late at work, or even calling a loved one and telling them you were thinking about them.
All of these decisions play out over the days, weeks, months, and years of our lives to put us in the situations we are in at this very moment.
So if you want to be in a different situation, you need to first accept that life is about choices. Then you need to understand that since everything is a choice, you can change your current situation. Next, you need to realize all of your choices have consequences. Finally, you need to play out these choices and their consequences in your head so you can ultimately make better decisions for yourself.
If you can do this, you will see positive improvements to all areas of your life. And as a result, you will life a happier, more fulfilled life that will allow you to become the best version of yourself.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net