Shoulda Woulda Coulda

16 Apr

We all make dozens of decisions every day. Some are important, some are inconsequential, and some we make without even thinking about them. But what do we do if we find out a decision we have already made may have bad or even disastrous results? How can we process that? We may look back and think, “I can’t believe I did that! I can’t believe I fell for that. I can’t believe I was so stupid.” The problem with looking back is that we can’t project the person we are now back to the person we were when we made the decision. Even if we made the decision last week, we are different now than we were then. Second guessing decisions made in the past based on who we are now will never work. Life happens and things can change in an instant – we get information we didn’t have before, we see the problem differently, someone new enters the picture that changes the entire dynamic. Generally, I think we’ll all agree, people don’t intentionally make bad decisions that will hurt them. We try our best based on the information we have, and the situation we are in.

So how do we deal with the results of a bad decision? How do we go forward? How can we fix things and forgive ourselves for making the mistake? If the decision only hurt us, we can cope with that, learn from it, and move on. But if the decision hurt others, caused the end of a relationship or caused us to lose the trust of those around us, it will be more difficult. If we’ve hurt others we can try to make amends, and apologize.  If we’ve really broken a relationship, we may have to accept that it can’t be fixed, and let it go. That is difficult, especially if it was a relationship we valued, but we can’t go back in time. We can’t change the past. We are where we are. There are no “do overs.” All we can do is go forward from here. If we’ve lost the trust of others, we may be able to restore it if we explain why we chose what we chose, and if we include them going forward when decisions come that will affect them. Over time, if we’re careful, that trust may come back.

We are all only human. We are going to make mistakes. It happens. We don’t get a manual when we come here that warns us to “watch out for that decision you have to make in May…” We learn as we go. Sometimes we screw up. It’s just how it is. And when we screw up, we can learn from it, we can cope with the results of the decision, we can try to fix things again, and we will do better next time. If you’re struggling with a bad decision you’ve made in the past, and you are having trouble letting it go, try to remember why you chose what you chose. You were in a different place, you thought things would go differently, and you wouldn’t have made the decision you made had you known it would end badly. Forgive yourself. It’s not the end of times. It’s just a bump in the road. Next time you’ll get it right.

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