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Can we ever make the ‘right’ decisions?

In Insight and Experience by Michael LewinLeave a Comment

“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.” [Deepak Chopra]

 

I was sitting in a coffee shop recently with a friend, enjoying our conversation (catch-up time) and my delicious cappuccino. As the dialogue between us opened up more he told me that he had suspended making a decision on an important issue. I quickly responded by saying, to my surprise: “Frank, you have made a decision – you have decided not to decide!“ We laughed but later on I realised the basic truth in the response. Life dictates that we constantly make decisions (whether at the micro or macro level, whether consciously or unconsciously) and when we decide not to choose – life will choose for us.

In his wonderful book Callings, Gregg Levoy states that during a question and answers session, immediately after a lecture given by M Scott Peck, he stood up and asked how, in struggling with an important personal decision, would he know he was doing the right thing? Peck said that the question was the single most popular question he was asked on his lecture tours and then added: “There is no set formula.” Exactly.

The American psychiatrist Sheldon B Kopp, in his Eschatological Laundry List states: “All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data.” In other words, we do not know – and, on reflection, could it be any different? Our world is constantly besieged by the winds of change that spread across a landscape of the unknown; therefore all we can really ever do – our best shot – is to make a reflective, considered decision (if time permits), based on as much knowledge as we have available at that time, and leave it at that.

Accepting our limitations in this area serves us well. Provided we make decisions that take in the feelings of the heart as well as the mind, we cannot go far wrong. Whatever the outcomes, we have acted honourably – and that is all anyone can ask of us.

Although I agree with the idea that there are simply no fixed principles for making the right decision, no laws, no universally applied formulae that we can use – ‘operating in the dark’ syndrome as it were – I do feel that it leaves out of the equation an important aspect that occurred to me, and that’s all about commitment and energy. Surely, at times we could consider that ‘the right decision’ is what we commit to. We make a decision and then we work at it, we energise around it, we ensure it works for us, and then it becomes the right decision simply because we have been working to make it the right decision.

On the other hand, there may be times when we may not want to go along this route, we may wish to delay, suspend or even abort our earlier decision, for possibly good reasons, and this is understandable, and so we take what we think the appropriate action is, but we are still left with the question: how can we be really certain – how can we really know what the right course of action is for us, ever?

Perhaps we will never know, simply because, if we decide to take Route A, we won’t know how things would have worked out on Route B because we didn’t take the latter. Complex? I think it is! But then the world that surrounds us is deeply complex with infinite possibilities unfolding in every single moment, in every life on this planet.

So how do we proceed? For myself, when it comes to making important decisions I ask myself: will this choice enlarge me, will it bring contentment, harmony and inner peace? Will it result in my having minimal afterthoughts? Then I commit. Either the path is mine to take or it isn’t – but in the process I will learn, and this will, hopefully, in its own way, inform me for better choices in the future.

 

Michael retired early from work seven years ago and has never regretted his decision. Time is now quality time spent on the pursuit of writing, art and travel. His advice to readers of LivingNow is quite simple: Carpe diem. Seize the moment.

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