Why we should always prepare for the worst when it comes to making decisions.
Clearly, we all have regrets. The words we wish we hadn’t used when quarrelling with a friend, the business agreement we should not have signed, or the meme stock we should not have shorted. With the benefit of hindsight, we can easily identify those decisions that led to outcomes that were less optimal than had we done something else. What is much more difficult, is to understand why we do the things we do.
We make more than 35,000 decisions every day. What we have for lunch, for example, can involve dozens of intricate selections. Should I have that burger with ketchup or without, what about the lettuce, the bun, the cheese, and do we also go with a pickle for this particular meal intake? Clearly, some decisions are more important than others, which is why most of what we do is driven by our sub-conscious. Our mind recognises patterns from past experience. We develop habits, routines, and behaviours that require very little active intervention.
For everything else, things can get very complicated and a lot of that has to do with timing. The actions of others cannot only influence, but even elicit a response we may not want to make. What we did the day before, how we slept, the weather, or the taste of the café latte we had this morning, can also influence which way we are going to go.
No one sets out to make bad decisions, which is why we rationalise, analyse, and agonise about the potential impact of making the wrong move. This can cause stress and anxiety, especially if there is a lot at stake or cannot be undone. Whom we marry, for example, or whether to have children and the career path we choose can all change our lives forever. It should come as no surprise hence that most people do not like making decisions. We procrastinate, we defer, and many of us literally stick our head into the sand, lest we forget that making no decision is also a decision.
According to trusted sources from the internet, we get about 18.48% of our decisions wrong during the course of a lifetime. On one hand, that seems an incredibly high number, and one shudders to think why we mess things up as often as we do. On the other hand, if you gave me those odds when picking stocks, I would probably be writing this blog post from an offshore tax haven somewhere in a temperate climate. The thing is, and again according to trusted sources from the internet, we spend about 110 hours per year thinking about all the things we wish we had not done. That seems like an incredible waste of time, knowing what we know now.