Recently during a religious study group a woman mentioned: It’s not necessarily making the “right” decision; it’s making that decision “right”. This woman’s mother had uttered these words of advice to her in conjunction with a parenting issue. I believe this is a very profound and powerful concept that enters our life constantly.
Constantly Confronted by Tough Decisions in Life
People at all stages of their lives are confronted with constant decisions:
- What college to attend?
- Should I get divorced?
- Which apartment to rent?
- What publishing topic to pursue?
- Which job offer?
- Where to take a vacation?
Many times people deliberate exhaustively in trying to make the “right ” decision. Once theymake this decision, they often beat themselves up second-guessing themselves. “Did I choose the right path?”
Do not misinterpret me, it is vital to take both ample and objective time in exploring and analyzing various options. Given sufficient time, it is advantageous to get opinions from trustworthy and experienced people to challenge your own thinking. Like many parents do, when I was growing up my father always advised me to list all the pros and cons as an approach towards making important decisions.
Looking Forwards and Not Backwards
What is so profound about this statement is that “making that decision right” forces one to look forward and not backwards. Once you have made a logical decision, then focus all your energy towards making this path lead to a very favorable outcome. After all, one can always change directions at a later time.
You never know whether the decisions you make in life are truly “right” as you have nothing with which to compare the actual outcome. You can conjecture as to what would have happened if you would have chosen another direction, but it is all hypothetical. And often when we speculate as to what would have happened by taking a different path, we tend to elevate the other possible outcome(s). It is human nature to be critical of the path you chose and feel disappointed that if only we would have taken a different path the outcome would have been more advantageous.
And what is the basis of “right?” How do we measure the success of our decisions: financial, happiness, challenging, purposeful, balancing career/personal life, charitable, etc.?
Examples of Applying This Philosophy
The Brilliant College Graduate
Recently, I was talking with a friend whose brilliant son was graduating from one of the top Ivy League schools. Due to his son’s keen intellectual abilities and a broad educational college focus, a wide spectrum of career directions were available. He was also considering an advanced degree in a couple of different disciplines (law school or language). However, it seemed apparent from my friend’s comments that his son was struggling with the “right” direction to take. I felt this statement could have a profound impact on his son’s situation and shared it with him.
Takeaways: Provide your son confidence that his future is bright. His broad-based abilities made it difficult by creating so many options. Make a good decision based on careful analysis of pros/cons, then don’t look back. Focus on applying yourself to excelling in this direction. Focus on making that decision right.
The Loyal and Loving Father who Embezzles Funds at Work to Benefit his Family
You often hear of people deciding whether to stay in a relationship or terminate it and move on. It could be a very complicated and/or painful marriage or friendship. In the case of a troubled marriage: “Do I get a divorce or stay in relationship with counseling and attempt to repair the damage?” It is sometimes very, very difficult to analyze this. I know of someone whose husband was dishonest in his work and embezzled funds. The proceeds of these funds were to elevate his family’s middle-income lifestyle with a nicer home, better opportunities for the children, etc. Eventually he was caught and his sentencing included serving time in prison. His wife immediately divorced him despite him being a loyal husband and very loving father. The lives of both parents and their children have been very strained and difficult. They never got back together.
Takeaways: I am not denying what he did was very wrong and ruined a previously good marriage and parent-child relationships. I am not arguing what direction was “right” for his wife to take. The purpose here is to illustrate that often there is no obvious “right” decision; often, in fact, the decision may be the lesser of multiple evils. Therefore, run with a decision that you feel most comfortable and don’t look back. Focus on making that decision right.
Career Impact of Choosing to Attend a School with a Good or Exceptional Reputation
Recently I was giving college curriculum and school advice to a rising junior at Georgia State University (“GSU”) who was an exceptional student of mine during her first semester freshmen year. Now after four semesters she has straight A’s. I mentioned that in addition to deciding on her major concentration and minor, she needed to consider transferring to a school that had a great program and top reputation. I acknowledged that financial considerations may impact this direction of transferring. At the same time I told her it was my opinion that there was a high likelihood of getting into some top-named business schools. I also acknowledged that top-named schools have their advantages, yet plenty of people have awesome careers by getting a lot out of lesser known schools as evidenced by GSU having most top executives within Georgia as reported by Standard & Poors [more than Harvard, Emory, Georgia Tech and UGA]. GSU is typically considered a quality program but does not have the ranking/reputation of an Emory, UVA, UNC, etc.
Next I told her our expression, “It’s not necessarily making the right decision; it’s making that decision right.” She explained that she had looked into possible transfers. However, there was complexity of scholarship time frames and family issues that made remaining at Georgia State a lot easier. This expression gave her great comfort in staying at GSU and making the best out of a good program.
Takeaways: The chance to attend a top-ranked school was both a financial and personal/family strain not necessarily warranted by a high-achieving student. In life there will almost always be “better” options to consider (schools, jobs, sports teams, living accommodations, etc.); however, if you focus on making that decision right, one can accomplish a great deal with this “good” option.
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