3 Things That Distract Us From Making Good Decisionsby Noorsakinah
Can you imagine a day of your life having nothing to decide on? How does that feel? Say you wake up in the morning, you have tasks to do, goals to achieve. But you don’t want to decide on anything; all you want to do is lie in bed. Wait, that was a decision you just made.
The ability to decide and have a choice is quite liberating when you think about it. It gives us a sense of autonomy. From the littlest things in life such as the above scenario to the most important life decisions such as buying a house, getting married, and making a career change; our choices normally reflect our values and interests. More often than not, our experiences also shape how we make decisions which can be debilitating or inspiring.
Either way, it can be overwhelming to continuously make decisions. And with the complexity of living in the pandemic, many have been affected physically, mentally and emotionally. Hence, we may have more factors to consider before settling on an effective decision.
Humans Are Capable But We Have Limitations Too.
But that doesn’t mean we are doomed. Acknowledging these limitations allows us to find new ways to make things work. Based on my limited life experiences and readings, here are some factors that may sabotage our decision-making process and how to avoid them.
1. Dwelling on the past and making poor comparisons
I put these two points together because most of the time when we look at our past experiences, especially if it wasn’t a pleasant one, it may affect our decision-making process.
Well, learning from past experiences has its pros and cons. But, more often than not, we would evaluate the current situation equally to what we’ve experienced before when it isn’t the same. Each situation has different variables which we can and cannot see.
So, say I had a bad experience driving a particular car model that I wasn’t familiar with. I was alone in the car in a multi-storey carpark, and as I stepped on the accelerator, I lost control and almost bumped into the car in front of me. That’s not all, there was another car coming from the side, towards me, in this constrained space.
Would I have panicked? Of course! Then suppose a week later, a friend asks if I would drive her car — coincidentally of the same model I had driven and had the accident with. Had I allowed my one bad experience to take over my logical sense, my answer would be a definite no.
But I know I have the skills to drive a car and this time the conditions are different; we are in an open parking lot with more space to navigate. So I can choose not to succumb to poor comparisons of a single bad experience.
What’s the lesson here? Perhaps, the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation to one which occurred in the past, we can look at the variables and try to be objective, especially when making an important decision.
2. Being emotionally attached to what we have invested in
When we decide to invest in something, at that point of time, we feel that it’s the best choice for us.
Let’s say you sign up for a wedding reception of 2,000 attendees before COVID-19. You put in 20 percent deposit to secure the booking, and you are looking forward to your big day! On top of this, you have also secured a marital house, which would be ready just in time before your wedding.
All is well until COVID-19 hit and your wedding is just a month a way. You’re offered to proceed with a simple nikah ceremony for 20 pax only but at an additional cost, and the wedding reception package is put on hold until restrictions are eased. You ask for a refund but your request is rejected.
Because you’ve already made that deposit and have your mind set, you decide to follow through with the wedding package and the nikah, hoping that you might be able to hold a reception in the future in spite of the extra costs. In this case, you’ve succumbed to your emotional attachments to your initial decision. In other words, this is also a great example of the Sunk Cost Fallacy.
The moral of the story: You don’t always have to follow through with your initial plans. Doing so may not always be a good decision to make. Evaluate your situation as objective as possible and if there are alternatives that are more time and cost-effective, be open to consider those.
3. Not seeking guidance from Allah and others
A decision-making process involves evaluating and assessing the available choices and solutions at hand, weighing the pros and cons, and selecting the best option based on our knowledge, skills and/or experiences of the given situation.
However, a great decision involves seeking consultation from others. Seeking others’ advice is one way to broaden your perspectives and see things through a different lens. It certainly doesn’t reflect a person’s lack of credibility or display indecisiveness.
What needs to be considered is the person we consult. As mentioned by Imam Al-Nawawi, we should consult with those whom we have the confidence and trust in in their knowledge and wisdom.
Other Muslim scholars such as Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami also mentioned that seeking consultation from others can prevent us from our own bias or ‘egotistic inclinations’ as he called it. As mentioned in this verse:
“Consult with them in (conducting) matters. Once you make a decision, put your trust in Allah. Surely Allah loves those who trust in Him.”
[Surah Ali-’Imran, 3:159]
According to Imam Al-Nawawi, seeking consultation from others comes before we perform the Istikhara prayer.
How many times have we been regretful of our own decisions? Perhaps this happens as we put so much expectation on ourselves and others. When making a decision, we are recommended as Muslims to perform the Istikhara prayer to seek Allah’s help and guidance.
Let us not forget to include Allah in our decision-making process as He is the All-Knowing and He knows best. With His wisdom and guidance, we will surely be inspired to make the best decision in all of our affairs, inshaAllah.