“To be, or not to be, that is the question”— William Shakespeare’s , Hamlet
The answer lies with you. Yes, you- the one making the decision. 7 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year, or every minute of the day, we make decisions, big and small about our relationships, families, careers, finances, health and even entertainment. The approach used to make these decisions might be influenced by one’s personality, personal philosophy and/or unique situation at a point in time. For some of us, the process is quick, easy and decisive, while for others it might be slow, tough and painful. Regardless of who you are, making decisions can be a challenging and intimidating experience, for with every decision comes, responsibility, consequences, and sometimes risks. Alas, that’s the nature of decision-making and decisions are a fact of life.
“History never reveals its alternatives.”
When we make decisions, we make choices. Choices that we will have to live with, and sometimes can’t even change. And for every decision we make, there is another we didn’t make. And, that same decision made typically, sets off a course of events that will change the trajectory of our lives in ways that we probably can’t fully see or understand at the time. As for that other decision left at the table, there will be other options unexplored, opportunities lost or a range of possibilities we will perhaps never know. But, we take comfort in the fact that, given all the variables, our decision was the best decision to make at that point, given our circumstances, priorities, emotions and the information we had at the time. Then again, “hindsight is 20/20” and with the passage of time, we are often prone to reflect on our decisions, rethink them or regret them.
I fancy myself good at making decisions and I don’t have any regrets about anything in my life (personally or professionally). I reckon that, if I thought about something and made a decision to pursue a course of action/path, and was fully conscious and well when I did so, then I would accept the outcomes of same, however they manifested themselves-success, failure, happiness, joy, sadness, pain. But, this is not the case for a lot of people. I have often heard colleagues, friends and family bemoan and express regrets about decisions that, they have made in their personal and professional lives. Upon deeper probing, they would always reveal that their decisions were influenced by considerations about their current obligations, circumstances, fear of the unknown, uncertainty about future risks and/or the insecurities they had at the time.
For me, the decision that has made me wonder – what if?, was a job I turned down just after completing graduate school. Having studied Government at university with an emphasis on International Relations and Public Administration, a job in diplomacy would have been a dream come true or so I thought at the time. So of course, I submitted my job application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sometime after, a long time after, I was invited to come in for an exam. I did the exam and left it hoping I did well enough but was not overly concerned about it. Some three months after, I got a follow-up call inviting me to attend a panel interview.
I thought about declining the interview because, by now, the process had stretched out for a nearly a year, and I was 3 months into a new job. A job that paid well, reflected another interest and passion of mine, and provided that I could secure the independence I needed at that point of my life. Nonetheless, not one to leave anything unexplored, I accepted the interview and participated. Not long after, I was made an offer to join the ranks of the Foreign Service. You can only imagine how elated I was. Think status, prestige, international exposure, ambassador for country at large. But, all of that was before I learnt more about the nuances of roles, understood how the service worked, the salary and the entire package. But, truthfully, the worse part of it was that my dream job offer would require that I uproot again, start all over with a significantly less compensation package, than the one my current job afforded me.
So, now I was in a quandary. Here I had an offer for my “dream job” in the nation’s capital, but it “didn’t pay”. Accepting the offer would totally eliminate any possibility of me having any independence for the next couple of years, and would not allow me to meet my financial obligations. On the other hand, I had a great job with a good company doing something I liked, a new apartment, the means to take care of me and urgent obligations (student loan). I asked my friends, family and mentors to weigh in, and even had a heart to heart with the Director for HR at the organization.She was open, and ever so gracious and kind. In the end, the decision was mine to make and mine to live with.
I guess you can figure out what I decided. I declined the offer and was told that I could reach out again should I rethink my decision. Though I never regretted that decision, every so often, as I reflect on the successes I achieved in my career as I know it, I would wonder what could have been, and how my life might have been different. After all, our decisions usually result in opportunity costs that we can’t always calculate. Does any of this mean that I gave up on a goal? Or that my analysis of the all the variables involved at the time was flawed? Or that I neglected the big picture and choose short-term goals over long-term ones? No, not to my mind- it doesn’t.
Nothing about our lives(personal and professional) are entirely linear. Things have a way of coming full circle. Our decisions and choices have a way of creating diversions, opening up new worlds or restricting us the familiar, the certain and the safe. Some call it fate, others destiny…or even karma. But that’s the nature of decisions. You will never know what could have, should have, would have been- for history won’t ever tell us what would have happened, had we decided otherwise.
So in essence, some decisions are easier, more comfortable, less risker than others, and can even lead us towards good and satisfying lives. But they may not always be our best choices. Once in a while, the circumstances in our lives, the places where we find ourselves, might require us to take the plunge, launch out into the deep, and stretch ourselves in areas and ways we never thought we could and still don’t even know we can. This is by no means advocating that we break off unhappy relationships, leave frustrating/dead-end jobs, give up pension plans and start-up your own new business. But sometimes, we may just have to. And in so doing, we redefine ourselves, embrace new, exciting and rewarding experiences and find/ rediscover happiness in our lives.
So while decision can be daunting, we should never shy away from making them. Instead, we should try as best as possible to make them for the right reason, with much care, weighing what your heart and mind inclines you to do. For though we might seek and receive good counsel from others, it’s our lives, our responsibility, our decisions and we will have to live with them- come what may.
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Some choices we make are bad choices, and we are aware of that but we make them anyway. Why is that? And this is for both personal and professional. I guess we can’t help ourselves sometimes, but things do come back to haunt you. Important to always try to evaluate every decision and action you are taking to make sure if things turned out bad, it is something you can live with.