I have no idea what to do.
I say this to myself with a fair amount of frequency: it seems as though many times in which I really need to make a decision, there isn’t necessarily a super clear cut, easy, or “right” answer.
Nowhere was this conundrum more apparent than in the closing of Uplift.
Do I pay the accountant to do the final tax return or do I give my employees more money?
Do I pay the small, local drycleaning business with the hardworking immigrant owner for our final towel-washing bill or do I pay my rent?
Do I fall on the sword and take more responsibility than I should for the business debt because somehow in my mind it’s the right and responsible thing to do or do I insist that my former business partners help out because it was debt we’d all accumulated while running the business together?
Come to think of it, the A vs. B (and often, vs. C and even D) formula appears everywhere for me, not just in business:
Should I break up with that friend who just isn’t for me anymore...even though technically she didn’t do anything wrong and has been very loyal?
Should I demand answers from the guy that ghosted me or just let it go?
Should I take on another consulting gig to make more money but run the risk of putting my passion and the development of my new company on the back burner?
There are the decisions--because eventually they all get made one way or another--and then there are the consequences.
Even the smallest, most seemingly insignificant decisions, have them. I was thinking the other day, as I chose to walk to a meeting across town instead of taking the bus, what that would mean and why I made that choice: would I meet someone significant along the way? Was I saved from being in an accident or a mugging on the bus? Or did the bloodflow from the walk sharpen my mind enough to wow the people I was meeting with into paying me for consulting work?
And these ruminations about choices also lead me to more decisions I need to make, the bigger philosophical ones, about myself:
Do I have good judgement?
Am I selfish monster?
Did I avoid certain death by a hair by getting a taxi at just the right time?
Am I making the right goddamn decisions?!?!
Today’s gurus would have us believe that nothing is a “bad” decision, because we’re exactly in life where we need to be to keep evolving and growing.
Come on. I’ve made some pretty bad decisions, and worse, I’ve made them consciously, knowing in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t a great decision at the time.
I suppose the (only) “good” news is that decisions, both good and bad, seem like they’re not usually really final.
I know this because in my life, a lot seems to be coming back to haunt me, or alternatively bless me, as if I banked all my bad and good decisions as a long-term investment strategy.
I recently read an article (Building an Ethical Career) about ethical decision-making, which notes, as I definitely personally have experienced, that the right decision isn’t always obvious: like life in general, decisions aren’t always black and white.
And, while looking back, I’m pretty sure my instincts tend to tell me deep down what the right move is at the time, I can choose to ignore them, or, actually listen to them but realize that even the “right” decision can and will produce both negative and positive consequences.
David Brooks says, “The person you are and what you’ve done for others--that is your character.” And I think deep down that I’ve been afraid, based on some of the questionable or bad or problematic “between a rock and a hard place” decisions I’ve made, that I am not an ethical person or a person with character...a good person.
But to make me feel slightly better, the ethical-decision making article goes on to say that “reflecting after the fact” is a hugely important part of the decision-making process...and our own growth process.
So I suppose that means instead of “never being ‘bad,’” maybe a decision is more like a fluid learning experience (the gift that keeps on giving, like my aforementioned investment strategy). And maybe instead of me being a “bad” person based on decisions I’ve made, I am simply trying to figure it all out.
(And I think the fact that I am probing into my decisions, asking these questions, and gaining insight into myself, is a good thing--it at least means I care, and want to get better).
Because, in looking back, all of the decisions I’ve made offer me a roadmap to figuring out how I can be a better person.