There’s a lot of popular wisdom about this already available on the internet. I will, therefore, keep it extremely specific to my personal experience from the previous week.
This is about making decisions.
And living with the consequences, good or bad, of these decisions.
Last week, I shared a very well-curated list of mental models by Farnam Street. For people who are new to the world of mental models, it would suffice to say that mental models help you with better decision-making.
No one can master these on day one. If you want to use them, you have to deliberately put these mental models to practice in your day-to-day life. The end goal is to master it such that it becomes a part of your subconscious and it becomes your second nature.
I have this personal mental model called 1%. We distance ourselves from making any assumptions about a situation if we feel that we are the minority in the given situation.
For instance, not today because it is much more popular wisdom now, but 6 years ago, I felt that owning cars is stupid in the age of Uber. I was obviously in the minority in this situation then. That’s because a majority of the people felt a car is more about your status in society than about what value it adds to your life.
From the pressure of using so many ‘tools’ to make decisions, and the added pressure of getting them right?
Don’t worry - even people who have mastered the art of using mental models get many decisions wrong.
And it’s totally fine to get the decisions wrong. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, you will survive the mistake to make better decisions when you face a similar situation in the future.
It sounds simple, but it’s actually not. It works only if you take the time out to reflect on your decision:
How did you arrive at the decision?
Where did you go wrong?
What piece of information did you miss?
Would you do it all over again, in light of the new information?
The point is - are you learning from your mistakes?
I hate it when a pearl of worldly wisdom starts with “Sometimes ….”. While you’re at that, why don’t you also tell me when a particular situation is one of those ‘sometimes’? A pearl of wisdom that starts with ‘sometimes’ may help people stop questioning things, but I have personally found that it doesn’t help much.
Sometimes we make decisions that are not logical or rational. And it’s totally fine to make those decisions if we believe so much in them (because our gut tells us to). For instance, go ahead and buy that expensive watch, even if you can’t afford it. You can be adamant about getting it because you just ‘want’ it and simply wouldn’t listen to reason. Your well-wishers, people who care about you, will try to reason with you if you leave an opening for being reasoned with. But if you acknowledge that you’re aware that it’s not a logical or a rational decision, even they will stop reasoning with you. You can go ahead and make that decision without any guilt.
However, the situation gets tricky when you try to make a decision that is not logical and not rational, and if you still want buy-in from people who you care about and who care about you in equal measure.
But it’s not easy to be a bearer of bad news.
Firstly, people who are not invested in your wellbeing will never be in this situation. They simply don’t care about you, or the decisions you make.
Secondly, it’s a different thing when you actively ask for feedback. In such cases, the stakes are low because it’s very simple: you asked for their inputs, and they didn’t mind giving you their opinion. You are free to take or ignore their opinion and share your reasoning behind your decision as part of this discussion.
However, it becomes a very uneasy situation to be a part of if you didn’t ask for their opinion, and if they can’t stop thinking about what a terrible mistake you’re about to make.
Because they care about you, they risk their relationship with you, they risk being in your bad books for the rest of your living lives, they risk having a confrontation with you that neither of you was prepared for.
It may seem like this is unsolicited advice, but like ‘sometimes’, this ‘thin line’ is hard to identify and navigate.
So, if a wellwisher in your life is putting everything on the line for your wellbeing, the least you could do is hear them out. Give them the missing piece of information that you’re sitting on, in the light of which, it would all start to make sense. If there is no other piece of information, it helps to acknowledge that you are aware that this is not the right decision, and it is one of those irrational and illogical decisions that you still want to go ahead with.
But it’s a crime to not admit that you are aware that it’s not the best decision.
Just don’t live under the impression that this is the best decision when you know deep down that it is not, or at least that there is a chance that this may not be the best of all available options.
Don’t worry, it is easy to spot such decisions. Many of your wellwishers will bring this up, risking everything, making for a very uncomfortable conversation.
If your conversations with wellwishers are getting uncomfortable, listen, reflect, acknowledge, and resolve to make better decisions in the future.
Also, try not to make your relationship with your wellwishers turn sour because they’re going out on a limb for you.
This guide, How to Make Hard Life Decisions, will help you think through your decisions. Recall the most significant decisions you made recently and see if there is a scope for improvement.
Would you have done things differently?