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​Worst decisions, do they haunt us or help us?

Live and Learn | June 20th, 2018

By Melissa Martin
melissamartincounselor@live.com

Think back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:

How did you make the decision?

What happened after the decision?

When did you know it was the worst decision?

What did you learn from making the wrong decision?

One of my worst decisions was purchasing a water heater without reading Consumer Reports. After myriad cold showers and money poured down the drain to have it fixed, I retired it to the great recycling center in the sky. The warranty covered parts, but not labor, and labor costs far more than parts. Valuable lessons were learned during the problem-solving process. How do you learn from your mistakes?

Lack of hot water formed feelings of frustration. I made the decision out of necessity, but too quickly. I learned a lot about dishonest or incompetent repairmen and those that overcharge for service calls. My expectation to find a worker that would show up on time, do a good job, and charge a fair price, went by the wayside.

Making a decision has two parts: the emotional part and the logical part, and we need to utilize both parts.

My emotional part says, “Take a chill pill and calm down before a decision is made.”

My logical part says, “Do your research. Ask questions and seek advice before you buy. And use word-of-mouth recommendations from several sources before hiring a repairman.”

Decisions about romantic relationships are far more sticky and tricky—so don’t be too quickie or you’ll end up feeling icky.

Think back to one of your worst big decisions about dating, marriage, or divorce. Then answer the following questions:

How did you make the decision?

What happened after the decision?

When did you know it was the worst decision?

What did you learn from making the wrong decision?

Researchers at Emory University studied 3,000 married couples in the U.S. to determine the factors that predicted divorce. The findings: waiting three or more years decreases the likelihood of divorce by 50 percent. “But there's no one-size-fits-all amount of time — couples who waited until they knew each other ‘very well’ had the same outcome.”

Answer the following questions. How long should couples date before taking the big plunge into holy matrimony? And have you watched the Bridezilla reality TV show?

About 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce, according to an article by the American Psychological Association.

From 2006 to 2010, 40 percent of women who lived together with a partner transitioned to marriage after three years; 32 percent stayed with the partner without marriage; and 27 percent ended the relationship. www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm.

In a 2014 Huffington Post article, psychologist Lisabeth Saunders listed 9 ways we learn from our mistakes:

1. Mistakes teach us to clarify what we really want and how we want to live.

2. Mistakes teach us to accept ourselves and that we can be flawed and be loved.

3. Mistakes teach us to accept our fallibility and face our fear.

4. Mistakes teach us about ourselves and how to tell our truth.

5. Mistakes teach us, through analysis and feedback, about what works, and what doesn’t.

6. Mistakes teach us to take responsibility.

7. Mistakes teach us about integrity.

8. Mistakes teach us to engage in our lives — to live fully.

9. Mistakes allow us to inspire others. www.huffingtonpost.com/.

While reflecting on and learning from past decisions can be beneficial, dwelling on and ruminating on past mistakes is unhealthy.

"The years teach much which the days never know." That’s what Ralph Waldo Emerson surmised.

[Editor’s note: Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist.]

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