February 15, 2022

Episode 26: Bad decisions

This decision that you keep on revisiting… Don’t you wish you had made a better one? On today’s episode, we investigate what makes a bad decision; and the secret trick to never taking a bad decision again.

What you will discover

  • The decision I most regretted in my life
  • The one mistake we all make when looking at decisions
  • What criteria to use to evaluate a good vs bad decision
  • 4 steps to taking decisions you’ll never regret


Mixed and produced by Adrien Grenier

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Episode Transcript

Hi, and welcome to the Excellent Rider podcast! I’m Mélanie, I’m a certified life coach, and I specialize in helping people like YOU get things done, find ease and motivation again and get unstuck when it feels like you’ve lost your mojo.

Let me start by saying that when you take two minutes to leave a short review on Apple Podcast or Spotify, it's super helpful because it makes the podcast visible to other people who need to hear exactly this today.

Honestly, I do the same as you, when I listen to somebody else's podcast, I think that there's probably enough other people who already commented. And besides it's not a convenient time for me right now, I'm usually listening to podcasts when I'm running or when I'm cooking or something like this. And it's not a good time to go and leave a review.

But now that I sit on the other side of the microphone, I can tell you that your review; yes, yours! Makes a huge difference. Just take a mental note that you're going to leave a review and when you're done running or when you're done cooking, just go and leave one. it's really really helpful. THanks a lot.

And so I would like to thank Anna in the Netherlands who very kindly wrote the following on Apple Podcast. She said: “Excellent! This podcast is a must. Genuine, straightforward, and just simply useful stuff presented in an unapologetic and honest way. I love it."

So thank you so much Anna for these kind words. I really appreciate that you took the time to rate the podcast. And I have you in mind when I'm recording today and it gives me a lot of energy. Thank you for that.

Today, we're talking about decisions and in particular bad decisions, the kind that you regret.

I want you to start by thinking of a past decision that you regret. Something that you chose a few weeks or a few months, or even a few years ago, and that you are constantly or regularly challenging in your mind right now. So it could be something very simple. It could be “why did I choose this lamp instead of this other lamp for my living room", something like this.

Or it can be something that has deeper impact on your life. So for example, "why did I choose to take that job two years ago? Why didn't I take the other job that was maybe more of a risky situation, but maybe I would have liked it better?" So take a decision that you regret.

I'm going to share one of my decisions that I regretted for the longest time in my life. And for me, the big regret I had for many years was that they had not studied medicine and I did not become a doctor. So I come from a family of doctors and I ended up studying business administration.

And for many years, I thought that my life would have been completely different and so much better if I had made that choice all those years back to be a doctor. I wanted to be a doctor when I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor when I was a teenager.

And for different reasons, I ended up choosing to study business administration. And every time it was difficult at work, I was always at some point coming back to that decision and thinking "If I had become a doctor, I wouldn't be in this kind of situation.

I wouldn't be demotivated. I wouldn't have to deal with this idiotic situation or this tough manager or this uncooperating colleague; I would not be in this kind of situation had I been a doctor." And so I was constantly, constantly bringing this back to that very, very old decision.

And what it was doing was a typical mistake that so many of us do frequently, which is to evaluate the quality of the decision that we took by the outcome of the decision. Rather than by the quality of the decision process itself. Let me explain by an example. I want you to imagine that a guy goes to a bar and gets really, really drunk.

And when he's super drunk, he takes his car to drive back home. And so he drives 30 kilometers to get back home and by some sort of miracle, he arrives back to his garage completely okay. The car doesn't have a scratch and he didn't cause any accident. So was this a good decision to take the car back home when the guy was so completely drunk that he couldn't even walk?

Of course not. Because the decision was taken in the wrong way. The quality of the decision has nothing to do with whether or not the guy managed to get home without a scratch. It was a bad decision to drive when he had been drinking, because when you're drinking, it impairs your judgment, it impairs the quality of your reactions.

And so it was very lucky for him to reach his garage without a scratch. So that's very clear for you now that the quality of the decision was not due to the outcome, but was due to the way the decision was taken, the criteria the decision was taken on. And yet I'm pretty sure that there's many of your decisions that you evaluate based on their outcome and not on the quality of your decision process at the time.

So, for example, when I regretted my decision not to study medicine, I didn't like the outcome of my decision. I didn't like to be in a completely different field. And I was noticing at the time that many of the things that fascinated me were topics I would probably have worked with if I had become a doctor.

But what I failed to remember was how I took the decision not to be a doctor and to study business administration. I fail to remember that when I was 16 and I had to make that choice, I was very lost when it regarded what to study. I had no clue what was possible. My mom was very adamant that business administration was a sensible direction.

And I was both relieved that she had a clear path for me and also I wanted to make her happy. So I wanted to take that decision. I was speaking to a lot of people and they all seem very admirative when I mentioned that I was considering studying business administration. So all of these reasons are why I chose to study business administration at the time.

And at the time, these kinds of input sounded like the very sensible input. So when I am questioning my decision afterwards, after the fact, looking at the results, I am completely forgetting the criteria that I took my decision on.

Those criteria might not be good. It's absolutely possible to change your mind later on, on what is a good criteria for decision; but then I should evaluate how I chose the criteria and improve my selection for criteria for decision, instead of blaming myself for having taken a decision according to those criteria.

So it might have been a bad decision, but it was not a bad decision because of the result. It could have been a bad decision because of the decision process. So let's look at what makes a good decision process so that you can make great decisions and know that you are making a great decision regardless of whatever outcome happens later on.

So the first step in making a great decision is to lay all the choices in front of you. So sometimes the choices that you are facing are very clear and very limited. So for example, it's this or that lamp that you get to choose between to put in your living room; or choosing between medicine and business administration; or between driving home drunk or taking a taxi; or it can be a go no-go decision on a project.

And sometimes the choices in front of you are unlimited or mostly unknown. So outline what you do know, outline what you can figure out of the choice in front of you. So that by seeing it written in front of you, it will help you understand whether you need to broaden your options. Whether there are things you are not considering, whether it's maybe worthwhile giving yourself a little bit more choice to choose between or to choose from.

And you can do that by using the episode on effective brainstorming that will give you a lot of ideas on how you can broaden the range of options that you're facing. So that's the first step is make clear what are the choices and write them down and materialize it. So for example, I could have written down the choice I am facing is should I study medicine or should I study business administration?

And if I had written it like this, it would probably have jumped to my face that there are many other choices I could take. But at the time I was not formulating in that way and I didn't write it down. And so it sounded all of a sudden, in my mind, it sounded as if those were the two only options.

Then the next step, you're going to describe very clearly why you're considering each of the options, each of the choices. So what are your reasons for each and do you like your reasons? Which one of your values, or your fundamental needs such as a safety, autonomy, freedom, connection, purpose, and many others does this choice fulfill?

So when I was choosing for a profession, what I really wanted to do is I wanted to help others. I wanted to matter. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be in contact with other people. I wanted something intellectually challenging, and I wanted something where I would have received recognition and external validation from my activity.

When I describe it like this, of course, it makes it obvious that there's so many other possibilities for me, that just medicine or business administration that would also fulfill those needs. So that's the step number three, is identify are there any other ways to fulfill the same values and needs in this situation?

And you can add those to the list. If you're thinking of the values or the needs you're trying to fulfill with your choice, suddenly you will realize that there are many other choices that open up that would also enable you to do what you're trying to do. So in the case of choosing a profession, there are so many different choices that I could also make a difference,

be recognized, and be challenged intellectually. Most professions would fulfill that when approached from the right mindset, actually. So I could be, I could decide to become a banker and work with microcredit to support people who don't have access to credit, like one of my best friends does. Or I could be an industrialist who uses her influence and wealth to empower women and other worksite minorities and transform her company in her industry, just like another of my friends does.

Or I could do like a third close friend of mine and create a startup that revolutionizes the kind of support and care couple with fertility problems get; and create dozens of jobs in that field. Or I could be a life coach and help people create the life of their dreams and go from feeling mediocre and disappointed in themselves and discouraged about the rest of their life to feeling in control, excited, successful in their goal.

So you see, all of these four options and many, many more would actually fulfill my values and my needs at the time had I had just taken the care or had I known at the time, I didn't know how to do that, but had I taken the care to identify what were the values and needs that were, that I was trying to fulfill by the choice that I was taking.

So there are many ways to fulfill the same goal, to fulfill the same values, to fulfill the same needs. And in my case, becoming a doctor or studying business administration were just strategies to fulfill that goal. So the values and needs, they were the goals all along. They were the goals when they were 16.

And they're still the goals for me when I am 47. But the strategies that I've used to fulfill that goal have been very different at different points of my life. And there were many different options on the table when I was 16 and when I chose. So that's step number three, is to identify new strategies or different strategies that would also fulfill the same goals.

And then step number four is describe to yourself what would the worst case scenario be? What would be the worst possible consequence of the choice I'm about to make? So for example, if I'm drunk and I'm considering to take my car; what would be the worst case scenario? And in that case, it would probably to have an accident with another car and to injure someone.

And so the worst case scenario of choosing a business administration over becoming a doctor, it would be that I ended up in a job where I have no sense of purpose, where I find it boring; it's not intellectually challenging; and I am not helping others. That would probably be the worst case scenario.

So then the next question is, what will you probably think of yourself if the worst case scenario happens? How will I think of myself if I have an accident and I injure somebody because I was drinking while under the influence of alcohol; or what will I think of myself if I end up in a job where I don't have a purpose, I'm not helping others and I am not intellectually challenged?

And then the next question is, what would I need to do right now so that I don't think those bad things of myself, if that worst case scenario happens? And I'll give you a very specific example from a year and a half ago, when I took my certification exam to become a life coach. So to become a life coach, I enrolled in a certification class, which was six months of quite intensive classes.

And I had a lot of practice. I coached a lot of people. I coached, I think 130 people as part of my practice. so it was a very intensive class, very intensive course. And I followed all the work and I did all the work religiously. Like I, I really did that. I really went all in. It was so much fun. It was so interesting.

I was so determined to become the best coach ever. I really put my life and soul and heart into doing all of this work. And a very funny thing happened. So we finished the last lesson and then we had, I think if I remember correctly, I think we had two weeks before we would take the final exam that would certify us or not if we failed.

And at that time I had a vacation and so I went to the south of France to visit my parents. And I completely forgot about the exam. I really felt as if I had completed the courses. I had done the six months of intensive study and I had learned all the concepts, I had reviewed them, et cetera.

And it felt as if I was home free. I had done everything that I needed to do. I completely forgot about the exam. And then, a day before the exam, one of my friends from the certification class, she texted me and she said, so are you ready for the big day tomorrow? And then I was like, what, what big day tomorrow?

And then I realized, oh no, there's the exam tomorrow. I had completely forgotten. So basically, I had spent the past week or 10 days or so, not studying at all and completely feeling free. And it was the first time in over six months that I had not done any work related to the coaching. So I had about 12 hours in front of me before the exam was due.

And I had to make a decision. How am I going to treat myself if I fail this exam? So I have not studied for the past 10 days; what if I take the exam and I don't succeed? And so I decided that first of all, I had studied a lot during the past six months. And so I was probably quite ready for the exam.

But I thought if I fail the exam, I will not accept this and I will not move on and I will not do what's needed, including the financial consequences of retaking the exam six months later, I will not do that with a clear conscience, if I have not re-read this and that document and studied this and that pages in the certification book.

And so I decided, okay, this is what I'm going to do: I'm going to reread the, this and that document. And I'm going to study this and that page in the book, because if I have done that and I fail. I will feel that I have done everything that I could do in order to get a good grade at the exam. And so I did just that.

And what happened is that, of course my stress levels went down because I felt I was doing what I could do. And I felt I was, uh, I was in control of whatever was possible for me to control at the time in the short time I had., and I took the exam. And very I scored very high marks on exam of course, because I had been studying very hard for the best six months, but at least my conscience was clear.

Even if I had failed, I would not have been horrible to myself because I had done what was under my control at the time. So that's a really important thing is, identify what is the worst case scenario. What will you likely think of yourself if that worst case scenario happens? And what do you need to do right now? I mean, within the range of what's possible, so that you think good things of yourself at the time of the negative outcome, if it should be a negative outcome.

And so once you've done those four steps. So the first one is to lay out the choices in front of you. The second one is describe clearly why you're considering each choice, what's the value or the fundamental need that lies behind each choice.

Third is, is there any other way to fulfill the same values and needs. So is there another strategy or other strategies . And then 4th, how will you treat yourself in the worst case scenario? And is there anything you need to do right now in order to treat yourself in a good way should the worst case scenario happen?

And once you have done those four things, then, and only then it's the time to choose. And when you choose this way, you know that you've always made a good decision, even if the outcome is a negative outcome. So for example, if you are considering to do a surgery and there's a 90% chance of success, the decision process will probably lead you to go for the surgery because a 90% odd sounds like a good odd.

Then you need to ask yourself, is there anything I need to do in order for me to treat myself correctly should I be part of the 10% that don't get a good outcome? And perhaps you will tell yourself, yeah well, if I hadn't checked on Google - I don't think you should Google medical stuff by the way. But anyway, it's for the sake of this argument, let's think that maybe you would like to Google if there's another procedure that would be possible, or maybe if there's a different, medical opinion out there or something like this. Maybe you would like to seek a second medical opinion.

So you do all that. So that even if the operation fails and you're part of the 10% who did not get a success rate with the operation, you know that you have done everything that was needed for you to do before you took the operation so that you can live with the consequences.

And that's what makes a great decision. Not the outcome, the decision process. I hope that you found this episode helpful. If you did, and you want to help me reach other people who need to hear just this, the best way is to share it. So you can tip a friend or you can leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify, or you can do both.

You can tip a friend and leave a review. And if you want the transcript of the episode, it's on my website: excellentrider.com/podcast. Thanks a lot for listening today and remember that even when you can't get yourself to do what you want, even when you're stuck in negative emotions and unpleasant thought loops.

And even when you don't believe it, especially when you don't believe it: you're not broken. You're not flawed. And you're definitely not jinxed. You're just learning how to be an excellent rider. There are no bad horse, only untrained riders.

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