What is a good decision?

Picture by Caleb Jones
This post is from a machine translation. Read the original post

We all try to make the best possible decisions. But what is a good decision?

We often (and others more so) judge our decisions by the outcome they produced.

We all heard the “you shouldn’t have” that will flare up following a negative consequence of a choice made, implying that the decision was not the one to be taken.
But should the decision be judged a posteriori, according to the effect it has produced?

Can't a decision be good even if it doesn't produce the desired effect?

I remember my friend Sarah. For Sarah, holidays meant lazing around and sunbathing by the pool. Nothing interested her besides deckchairs, blue sky, and of course sun. Each year, she studied the five year weather reports for contending destinations to select the destination that offered the best chance of being sunny during her fortnight of rest.

Again this year, Sarah had engaged in the exercise and of all the destinations she had pinned, it turned out that the Dominican Republic offered the greatest chance of sunshine (by far) for the period.

It was decided, Sarah would spend her stay in the Dominican Republic!

It eventually turned out that every day of her trip was gray and rainy, and Sarah had never come home so pale (and disappointed) from a trip.

Did Sarah make a bad decision in choosing the Dominican Republic? Obviously not. Taking into account the information available, Sarah had made the decision that offered the greatest probability of being bathed in sunshine.

We will call this a case of bad luck, which amounts to making the observation that the probability of seeing this situation occur was particularly low.

The fact that the intended objective was not achieved therefore does not allow it to be considered a bad decision.

As we can see, the quality of the decision – good or bad – must therefore be assessed at the time the decision was taken, and not a posteriori when it takes effect.

The decision may therefore be good even if its effect is regrettable or regretted.

Conversely, a decision can be manifestly bad and yet generate a positive (reasonably unthinkable) effect. Think of Pierre who had decided to climb Mont Ventoux without having trained at all. The round belly, the thin legs, he had rushed confident. He hadn't even thought of taking something to drink. The result is predictable: heart attack at the third kilometer. All’s well that ends well: taken care of by the local hospital, the medical examinations will reveal a cancer which he was able to treat in time and he will marry the paramedic who had provided his transport a year later.

Do these happy consequences allow us to consider that he did well to embark on this ascent without physical preparation?

It will be considered that "he was lucky". The likelihood of the scenario happening as it did was low so the decision should never have been made that way.

Let's remember two things at this point:

·         The quality of your decision is assessed more when the decision is made (and according to the information available at that time) than when it takes effect.

·         The right decision will be the one that increases as much as possible the probabilities of seeing its effects go in the desired direction.

No one can ever guarantee 100% that the decision taken will ultimately achieve the objective. What is fully in our hands, however, is to minimize the chances of seeing the objective not achieved.

In the next posts, we will see how to make sure you never regret a decision!


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