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Lessons Learned from Bad Decisions

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We can’t avoid making bad decisions in our life, because we all make mistakes. But we can work to minimize the number of bad decisions we make.

I’m sure most of us would like to pretend like we’ve never made any errors. It’s easy to talk about success or just about the day-to-day. But of course, things go wrong.

I made one decision this week that cost me around $3,000. It was a mistake. In retrospect, I could say it was stupid. And no, I’m not going to tell you all the details: but I sure wish I could have the money back.

Running on Empty

© Flickr user Winston Hearn

Not all bad decisions cost us money. We also pay through lost opportunities, lost time, or even lost friends. These bad decisions can weigh us down, affect our attitude, and make life more difficult. And of course mistakes can be demoralizing. We need self-confidence to face the challenges of the day, and errors erode away our feeling of purpose and drive.

But I have found that regardless of the decisions I have made, they are all in the past. Tomorrow arrives with new opportunities. I still wish I could minimize my errors. Here are five causes of most of my bad decisions, and some things I try to improve.

1. Lack of Knowledge. It is difficult to make a decision when you are not informed. Decisions become a coin toss. You win some. You lose some. I have made continuous study and education part of my normal day. And I try and ask questions if I don’t know, and even if I think I do!

2. Lack of Experience. Practice counts. It is that simple. My results, decisions, performance, all improve when I put in the work. Experts don’t become experts without real experience. Just because I feel like I know what I am doing doesn’t mean I’m ready to operate without a net.

3. Overconfidence. When I become over confident I make mistakes. Humility helps me seek to become better. When we don’t prepare because we are confident, we can get blindsided. My system is simple: always be open to learning and growing.

4. Lack of Discipline. I hope I am not the only person that struggles with this. There are times when I know I should be doing one thing, and I end up spending time doing something else. What works best for me is to change necessary tasks into habits. Do something every day for 21 days, and it will become easier to do. If it’s not something you do consistently, it’s not a habit. And if it’s not a habit, you’re more likely to make a mistake.

5. Not Knowing Myself. Sometimes decisions that go bad are because we don’t like the place the decision leads us. Your gut sends you messages—listen to it! I know that when I can weigh my options against my values it brings a sense of clarity. My values will help me discern between short term desires and long term benefits. I need to know myself well.

We shouldn’t be so afraid of making bad decisions that we refuse to do anything. Analysis paralysis is a real problem. But at the same time, there’s a difference between being decisive and rushing into things. We need to strike a balance between the two.

Hopefully you can learn some lessons from your own bad decisions. As the old expression goes: “A fool never learns from mistakes. The average person learns from their own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

May you make enough mistakes to learn, but not so many mistakes you cannot move forward. Good luck!

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Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown is an executive coach who is passionate about personal development. He works to make a difference in people's lives by empowering them with skills and knowledge that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. Mark has been coached, mentored, and certified by John Maxwell and his team. This coaching certification allows Mark to successfully coach and train individuals, groups, organizations, and companies.
Mark S. Brown


Executive and Business Coach at New Roads Leadership. A founding partner of the John Maxwell Team. We coach for your personal success!
Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown

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