My mother once sent me a miniature dartboard for my desktop, complete with miniature darts. On the dartboard itself were various statements like "Work early, Work late, Do it now, do it tomorrow, take a vacation, etc. It was designed to help a busy executive make decisions. I got very good at hitting "Take a vacation" whenever I wanted to, so it really didn't help much. Still, wouldn't it be nice if there were some absolutely sure way to make the right decision all the time? I mean something better than tossing a coin, doing a chart, spinning a dial or throwing a dart. Whoever could come up with something like that could get very rich very quickly.
However, I'm not holding my breath. The problem is that we never have enough information to make a guaranteed right decision every time we need to. We usually end up after the fact either patting ourselves on the back for having made the right decision when things turn out well, or condemning ourselves for having made the wrong decision when things don't turn out well. The silly part of this is that the decisions themselves were totally unrelated to the way things turned out.
Let's take a closer look at that. If something turns out well, and you congratulate yourself on having made the right decision that led to it, then you are also assuming that events are predestined. Many people do assume that making a decision about the future is like choosing a direction at a crossroads. One road will take you to fame and fortune and the other wil take you to failure and grief. All you have to do is pick the right one. If life were that neat then all we'd need would be good road maps. And to get those, all we'd need to do would be to make exactly the same decisions that people made who have already reached fame and fortune. After all, that's how real road maps are made. Follow the same route that other people have taken and you'll get to where you want to go. So why hasn't it been done? Where are the roadmaps to fame and fortune, health and fitness, love and happiness, spirituality and mystical union? If all you have to do is make the right decisions, why is there such confusion and so many different‹very different‹maps?
Well, I'll tell you. It's because moving into the future is not like traveling over the land, where everything pretty much stays in the same place. It's more like traveling over the ocean, where everything is changing all the time. The more knowledge you have and the more skillful you are, the more often you are likely to be successful. But there can be no guarantee that the next trip will be the same, even though you make all the "right" decisions you made before. There are just too many unknowns, too many variables, too many possibilities. If the future weren't like that we'd have better weather forecasts, no one would bother to bet on races, and everyone would get rich in the stock market.
So what can you do when faced with an important decision? The first thing you can do, if you want any possibility of a good result, is to give up being afraid to make the decision because you might not get what you want. If you are unwilling to take any risk whatsoever, you might as well lay down and die right now (but then how do you know if that would be a good decision?) And how would you know if not making a decision would be a good decision?).
The second thing you can do is to be prepared to modify your decision whenever that seems to be a good idea. To go back to the marine analogy, you might start your voyage under full sail, but if the weather changes it might be wise to modify your sails as well.
The third thing you can do is to increase your knowledge and skill as much as you can, while not expecting to be all-wise or perfect. By the time you know everything there is to know and are so skilled you will never be in error, any reason for making the decision will have long gone away.
The fourth, and perhaps most important, thing you can do comes after you make the decision. It is to keep your mind on what you want, and not on what you don't want. I would venture to say that out of all the things we have any control over (and they are few, indeed), this is the one that has the most influence over how well something turns out. The decision to set sail is over in a moment. Then comes the sailing., and that plays a far more important role in whether or not the trip is successful. Keep your mind on the goal, and as little as possible on what's in the way. When that cannot be avoided, keep your mind on solutions, and as little as possible on the problems.
Remember, it isn't the map that gets you where you want to go; it's what you do after you read it.
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