With every decision that we face, there are two main parts: figuring out what to do and accepting the result. I’ve talked quite a bit about the first one, on this blog or in my book, because making a decision is a matter of confronting all the things involved and trying to achieve as much control as possible.
I guess that’s to be expected since the figuring-out-part usually has a more immediate need and sometimes is a situation that we infrequently confront or is a daily event. Whether it’s the next demand by your job, back strain from gardening, or taking a bite of that luscious dessert: they all involve decisions about control. And once we’ve dealt with that decision, we want to leave it and get on with whatever comes next.
Yet, in reality, we can’t leave it completely since the second part, accepting the decision and its consequences, is inextricably bound with the whole. A decision can come back to bite us later, or provide a reason to celebrate. Since we all would prefer the celebration, it’s worth discussing what’s involved in getting to that point—or not.
There are four elements of this: accepting the decision you make, how you feel about that, accepting the results of that decision, and how you feel about that too. So, there are two parts that involve logic and two that involve emotions. Let’s look more closely at each one:
1) Accepting the decision. At some point in every decision, you have to stop trying to gather information about what is involved and weighing how much control you have. You have to just say, “enough” because you ran out of time or your mind is overloaded. That’s acceptance of making the decision.
2) How you feel about the decision. We can be analytical about getting to a decision, but we also can’t avoid our emotions about it: whether it’s relief, doubt, joy, or whatever. Those feelings are part of the whole decision process, and we need to accept that fact. Of course, we can let doubt lead us to dredge up the control process of making the decision again—and lead to more emotional turmoil—but I don’t think that’s wise. Just leave it. Modifications can come when results of the decision begin to appear.
3) Accepting the outcome. Ah, now it’s time to face the big one—will it be self-flagellation or celebration—or maybe just, “whew, I got by.” The last two are definitely OK; the first is not. Kicking yourself is not productive; however, learning from the results is. Taking even a moment or two just to go back over your control decision process can be helpful at this point: for example, did I overstate my ability to control something, were there things involved that I missed, was my timing off? Of course, you can’t ever get control of everything. That is reality and is key to the next, and last, element.
4) How you feel about the outcome. You will have some kind of emotion about the results of your decision, as just noted. It’s inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be negative. For one, you can learn from what happened—a positive that can aid in future decisions. That’s a great thing to feel good about. It’s looking at the glass as half full, rather than half empty. (There’s a significant perspective on life in that little aphorism.)
For another, in reflecting back on the control process in your decision and remembering that you can’t control everything, you can conclude: “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time” given the information and emotions you had then. And now, get on with your life. You’ll have another chance at it later—and real soon, most likely—not for the exact, same situation, but close enough to do better and feel better about it. Every day we make mistakes and get to try again; regardless of our age, the opportunity is guaranteed to present itself. We just have to try; trying is success. A decision is a failure only if you don’t try.
So there you have it, my thoughts about acceptance. Is it actually more complicated than this little talk? Of course, but I would contend that the complications are in the details and that the overall perspective provided here is correct and useful. It comes down to that first little step in any decision, asking “What can I control?” And I think there is a lot that can be controlled in the acceptance of a decision, which can importantly help in your feelings about the whole thing.