“While we are free to choose out actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions” – Stephen Covey
In my 25 years on this world, I guess it’s safe to say that I have made a lot of decisions in life. From simple, everyday choices like what to eat for lunch or what to wear to work that day, to the bigger things in life like career or love. And eventually, after learning a lot of lessons from all those decision-making and their consequences, I have found what works for me. Overthinking. LOL.
I have also, at one time in the past, based my choices and decisions on my emotions and what I feel I like at the time. I want to do that. I did it. I like that. I went to get it. But as Stephen Covey said, “While we are free to choose out actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions”. Often times, I’d be happy about my what I did. But there have also been regrets, not only for the things I did and said, but also for the things I didn’t do and say.
Building on this, now I try to think of the consequences and how I would feel after a decision. Let’s take my Engineering Board exam for example. Early in my college life, I decided on my future career path as a software developer, even though I took electronics engineering as my course. I then decided that I won’t waste time on reviewing (which would take 6 months) and taking the board exam for my license, as I won’t need it where I was going. But a year before graduation, my friends and thesis group mates made me reconsider my decision. So I thought about it.
“10 years after graduation, would the thought of if had taken the exam, would I have passed or failed?”
“Would I have learned new things there?”
“Would I regret this decision after 10 years and will it torment me?”
Those were the questions I asked myself that time and the last one got me. I do believe it will, the decision of not trying. So i did take the exam. And I failed. (Just missed 3 questions on 2 subjects). Did I retake? No. I promised myself to only take it once, just to prevent it from occupying my mind in the future. Did I regret taking it, and thereby losing 6 months that could have been used in starting my career or learning something? Maybe a bit, but I have learned a lot of lessons from it. And looking forward, there would be no what ifs that lay in front of me.
Of course, there are times I didn’t do something to see where it would take me, as I know I would lose a lot more just for trying it. Like in relationships.
I have used this logic not only for myself, but also for friends who come to me and consult on things to do in their life. I ask them what they would feel in the future if they choose one. Is this the best way? I don’t know, but this works for me. And will continue to use this until I find a better way.