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More right decisions than wrong ones for 2021

A Healthy and Happy New Year to you, Reader. My wish — no, my prayer — is that in the next 363 days of 2021, when we are faced with decisions, no matter how large or how small, we will make the right ones. So how do we know they’re the right ones? I’ll come to that later.

But for now, what kinds of decisions are we expected to face? Let me give you some examples:

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One is whether we should look backward in order to move forward, or whether we never look back. Both perspectives have their advocates. Steve Jobs, a proponent of the former, illustrated his point with: “You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

On the other hand, you have Arnold Schwarzenegger telling us: “Start wide, expand further, and never look back.”

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George Washington straddles both sides, with: “We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience.”

Another example is the choice between doing what is best for country or society, and doing what is best for ourselves individually. For a public servant, there should really be no choice—he or she should choose what is best for the collective good. Unfortunately, that is not the norm—just look at Donald Trump and his decisions. I choose not to look closer to home, for obvious reasons.

For us private individuals, it may also look like a no-contest thing. Of course we should do what is best for ourselves — isn’t that what rational decision-making is all about? But then, what may be best for us in the short run may be lethal for us in the long run. Example: Paying a bribe may be what is best for us in the short run, but it may result in a corrupt government and/or society where we end up with poor infrastructure that falls over our heads, or poor overall service, or having to pay bigger bribes for smaller services.

Remember the saying: Sometimes it is the smallest decisions that make the biggest impact on our lives.

For my last example, let’s talk about collective decisions that we have to make — say a vote in our barangay, or in our associations, or in our country. Do we just go with the flow (“my vote doesn’t count anyway,” or “ I’ll sell my vote to the highest bidder”), or do we think things through and stand up to be heard?

For this, I will quote from “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,” by Philip G. Zimbardo: “Majority decisions tend to be made without engaging the systematic thought and critical thinking skills of the individuals in the group. Given the force of the group’s normative power to shape the opinions of the followers who conform without thinking things through, they are often taken at face value. The persistent minority forces the others to process the relevant information more mindfully. Research shows that the decisions of a group as a whole are more thoughtful and creative when there is minority dissent than when it is absent.”

So, please always choose the second.

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Having given examples of the kinds of decisions we will be making this year, let us now deal with the question: How do we know that our decisions are right?

Here’s one answer: “You will know you have made the right decision when you pick the hardest and most painful choice, but your heart is at peace.”

Here are a couple of related hints: “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” And, “Decisions are the hardest moves to make, especially if it’s a choice between what you want and what is right.”

However, it is not my intention to paralyze you, Reader, into inaction, because you are afraid of not making the right decision. That would be the worst of all. Because, as Theodore Roosevelt said, in any moment of decision, while the best thing you can do is the right thing, the worst thing you can do is nothing.

But Mark Twain puts it in a more encouraging way: “What is the secret of success? Right decisions. How do you make right decisions? EXPERIENCE. How do you get experience? Wrong decisions.”

So here’s my final wish for the New Year, Reader. May we make many more right decisions than wrong ones. And may we learn from both.

[email protected]

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TAGS: Decision-making, Get Real, New Year 2021, Solita Monsod
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