Moving Past a Bad Decision

Most of us like to live under the illusion that we are making great decisions every day. We always choose the right thing, make the right choice, say the right words! Except, of course, that we don’t. It makes us feel foolish and full of regret to acknowledge that it doesn’t always go perfectly. Vulnerability is a scary thing, and also opens us up for criticism. In today’s social media fueled, open book world, your faults are more on display than ever. Despite this, people are as human as they’ve ever been and mistakes, missteps, miscommunications and flat out incorrect choices occur every day, just as they always have.

How often do you hear someone say “I did not make healthy choices today” or “I was not a great friend today when someone I loved needed it.” Never. This type of ownership is even more scarce in the business world. Do you ever hear “we made a choice that was wrong, and costly too” or “I thought this candidate would be great for our company, but that was incorrect” or especially rare “I didn’t work hard enough to get the results I wanted”?

The question becomes, how do we internally deal with a bad decision then? They are bound to happen and hiding them from the world will not solve them. In fact, it can lead to shame and guilt and hold you back from making great decisions going forward. Here are some tips to get through a “bad decision”:

  1. Identify It

What, EXACTLY, is wrong? It isn’t enough to say “things are bad” or “I don’t like the outcome.” It is important to identify which decision led to the result you are unhappy with. Do you feel like your team is losing morale? What things have you implemented recently, or on the flip side, where have you become complacent? Did you miss a goal? Where did the train fall off the tracks? Try to be as specific as possible when identifying what went wrong.

2. Accept It

You might not like the choice you made, but it’s yours so you may as well own it. Gather all your confidence and strength and acknowledge that you made a mistake. Note: that doesn’t mean you always make mistakes, you can’t make a right choice, or you are a bad person. Don’t let your mind take you down that path. Instead, focus on the fact that it was your decision and it didn’t work out and you will have the opportunity to make many more great decisions.

3. Mitigate It

If possible, try to salvage any positive outcomes that may have come from where you are at, and lessen the damage. Reacting quickly to things going badly can greatly lessen the effects and moving through steps one and two can get you out of the commiserating stage and onto action. It may take some extra work, but can you reverse some of the negative outcomes? Can you get creative and change your next steps to get to your new goal more quickly?

4. Plan for the Future

It is important to do an “after action review.” Once you’ve identified what happened next you need to flesh out all of its effects, no matter how far reaching. Most decisions have ripple effects and impact many things at one time. Look at the scope of what you are dealing with, the effort you have already made to change course going forward and make a plan for the future. How will you (try to) ensure that this doesn’t happen again? Should you put in a check process, have someone hold you accountable, look into new systems or products to aid you in reaching your goals? What will your future self do when presented with the same decision? Make a plan now to take out the last minute, reactionary choices.

I make mistakes every day, and whether you admit it to yourself or not, you do too. Moving through the steps above instead of hiding from these errors is the fastest way to get you on the track to success!

— Liz

Liz WhittenComment