I believe that no one makes a bad decision, let me explain why.
Decisions are simply actions or reactions to events that occur in response to our thoughts and emotions about something that is happening, or that has or might happen, selected from several possible alternatives.
When such actions are based on emotions alone, they are frequently unhelpful, knee-jerk, quick wins that often focus upon the immediate here and now. This is because in evolutionary terms emotions were designed to provide rapid evaluations and summaries of what actions will be in the best interest of our survival and if we should approach or avoid the object, experience or person evoking that emotion.
In contrast, decisions based solely upon intellect and logic, take longer to formulate and require more detailed and complex mental processing. Even though we are talking milliseconds that could still be the matter of life or death in our distant evolutionary past. Additionally, such thinking often misses the kinder, companionate and empathic aspects of life.
The most effective actions and decisions we take are those that are a balance of emotion, and intellect, these are our wise actions and have at the root of them our personal wisdom.
Similarly, to mindfulness and the Buddhist tradition, Athena the Greek goddess of wisdom emphasised the importance of balancing emotion and logic in order to have wisdom.
When we make a decision and decide how to act, what we think (intellect) and what we feel (emotions) should be balanced so that the decision is wise.
The difference between intellect and emotion can be seen when we become aware and insightful of thinking something is so or sensing that it is so. Over the years we may have learnt to trust one more than the other and allowed our heads to govern our hearts or vice versa.
Neither one is “better” than the other, and both are needed for insight and awareness and to develop wisdom. Each alone is only half of the picture. Having the balance creates a synthesis between the two and prevents either one from interfering with the other. This means the wisest most effective decision (based on what we know at the time) can be made.
I would argue that when we have a balance, we never make a bad decision. Additionally, it is important to remember that the decisions we make are done so based solely on what we know at the time.
As human beings, we might make decisions that do not turn out as we would hoped or would have liked, but we often only know that with hindsight after the event. The result of a decision does not make the initial decision bad as long as it was made when intellect and emotion were balanced.
And this is why I don’t believe anyone ever makes a bad decision. At the time of making that decision, we did not think to ourselves …
- “What is the worst possible thing I could do in this situation?”
- “What can I do that will add to my misery, pain and suffering?”
- “What can I do to make this situation worse and my life harder?”
… and once those options identified acted in that way!
No, at the time with the information we had, in light of what was going on around us, and the emotions we felt, we simply did what we thought was for the best. If we did this based solely on our logic or emotions, it is very probable that the long-term outcome was not so great and an unwise decision was made.
Many, many people, and I include myself when in an ‘emotional’ frame of mind have done some pretty unwise and silly things. Maybe all of us at one time or another have allowed our emotions to take charge so we “cut our nose off to spite our face”.
On the other hand, we may have acted based solely on our logic and reason. For example, taking the job because it paid well or was close to home. But our hearts were not in it, and we regret not following our passion and going for the less paid, further away, job that could have provided a greater sense of enjoyment, meaning and pleasure.
When we make an unwise decision, it is essential to be kind, forgiving and understanding to ourselves, we are human and we all do this. But we can reduce the likelihood of it occurring by not acting or making decisions when our emotions and intellect are not balanced.
To help achieve this we can remember that;
- At times, doing nothing, not making a decision until you get that balance, is the most effective thing you can do
- Sometimes doing nothing, not reacting despite the urge to act is doing something (and might just be the best decision you ever made)
- Deciding to do nothing unhelpful is deciding to do something helpful
- Doing nothing harmful is doing something
- At times deciding on inaction can be a powerful action
No matter what we face in life, we will always have the choice, freedom and power to decide how we will respond. This is harder if we believe we make bad decisions, but easier if we acknowledge that we may make unwise decisions; for in order to make a wise decision we just need to find a way that we can achieve the balance between intellect and emotion.