One of the good skills I needed to develop was to know the difference between good and bad advice. It sounds simple, but it was not that simple for me and it is still not. Knowing the difference between good and bad advice is not only hard, it is a skill – at least I have been trying to develop it as such in the last 10 years. Because I am a scientist, I deal with data all the time. My expectations of my abilities have given me — or this this is what I thought — a power to analyze information. This self-evaluation of being good has resulted in complete frustration and disbelief when I have followed poor advice.
Taking bad advice and not realizing the consequences have created doubts in my ability to move forward when I have to make my next decision. I am an avid reader of non-fiction, and I consider myself to have a talent to research things. When I have analyzed why I took wrong advice, I discovered that I was emotionally attached to the decision. My analytical ability to think correctly was paralyzed. In another way, taking advice from someone allowed me to shift the blame if things fired back.
What lopsided logic! Finding a way to not blame myself for something wrong created delusional justification of not accepting the fault, allowing me to live with myself — at least temporarily. After all, blaming someone else for my mistakes produced wonderful and temporary relief and much less stress. After deep thinking, I realized the escape route was totally misleading.
Once I made a decision, I had to own it. The blame of a wrong advice or a decision ultimately rested on me — nobody else. This whole process had pushed me to explore how I could control my emotions, specifically my thoughts which interfered with my judgment.
When I am confronted with a difficult decision, I follow a method which I read about in a book (I cannot remember the reference) to discover the consequences of each piece of advice or decision which I am not sure about. I ask myself five whys and come up with an answer for each one of them. If the answers to all of these five whys are convincing, I move ahead with the decision. Sometimes, I wait for several days and run it by someone else, most likely my wife Sara or my son. If the logic stands and the explaination of the whys doesn’t change, I move ahead with the decision. This strategy allows me to increase the amount of analysis and test the advice against my logic and wisdom. It allows me to accept the consequences of my decisions and decrease or mitigate the impact of bad decisions.
Discovering this strategy has decreased my anxiety and fear of taking wrong decisions. After all, we all make mistakes. This should not paralyze us or slow us from moving forward with our life.
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