Decisions, those forks in the road that determine the future are always interesting. Some decisions are individual, while others are a group process. Whole books have been written about how to make good decisions, but what I find interesting is how people behave after they reach a decision. There are basically three choices.
Once a decision is made, you are committed to making it work.
You wonder what would have happened if you had made a different choice.
(Usually after a group decision) You can be unhappy with the outcome and spend the next four years listening to talk radio.
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“Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader.”
~ General George S. Patton
In science fiction, which I love, sooner or later the author has to turn to the concept of a parallel universe. In “Back to the Future” Marty McFly’s loser family becomes successful after Marty visits the past and encourages his future father. It’s an interesting plot device based on the theory that each decision has multiple choices, each with its own outcome, and a parallel universe exists for every outcome of every decision. In other words, if you didn’t ask Sally to the prom, there is a parallel universe that differs from the one in which you did. There are also parallel universes (Philosophically is it possible for “universe” to have a plural?) for her accepting, her declining and her derisively declining, etc.. In order to cover every possible decision, the number of parallel universes would be infinite.
Infinity makes my head hurt.
I prefer to live in only a single universe even if the others exist and I merely ignore them. As I thought about this it dawned on me that whether or not we are aware of the science fiction writers’ concepts, we unconsciously choose to live our lives in one of those two styles. The first is to make the decision, not look back and make the most of the decision that was made. The other is to make the decision, and then think about what could have been . When I began writing this, I felt that without a doubt my style was the former. Once I make a decision I know that I can’t change the decision, so my present and future attention and efforts need to be based on that particular decision.
However, as I was writing I realized that there is an important discriminator. If I make a decision and there is a high likelihood that I will be faced with a similar situation in the future and be called upon to make a decision again, then I do evaluate the decision in terms of the alternate possibilities. By the letter of the law that isn’t second guessing, but rather an attempt to learn from my experience.
However, is bringing up this subject like being told, “Don’t think of purple elephants,” only to find that purple elephants dominate your thoughts? Will I spend the rest of the day wracked by doubts as to whether I should have posted this blog? Maybe, I’ll believe that my decision was made, no sense thinking about it and I need to move on to tomorrow’s article.
~Dr. Emmett Brown (Back to the Future)
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