Mike Hendricks

Mike at Night

Mike Hendricks recently retires as social science, criminal justice instructor at McCook Community College.

We never know for sure

Friday, May 19, 2017

There are basically two kinds of people in the world; those who think through problems and situations and get the best and often the most advice they can before they act and, on the other side of the coin, those who behave impulsively. People in both camps believe they’re using the proper strategy to solve a problem.

And people from all walks of life use either one strategy or another; from the unsuccessful to the highly successful. Even Presidents do it. Barack Obama was said to think a problem through sometimes to the point of absurdity, looking at and analyzing every potential consequence and reward before making a decision and Donald Trump appears to do just the opposite. If it feels right to him, he does it and thinks about the consequences later. Both men have been criticized almost universally for their decision-making abilities because they did it their way and paid no attention at all to the other.

But common people do the same things and make the same mistakes. I know some people who become so paralyzed over having to make a decision that they become dysfunctional to the point of inaction. I know others who make important, sometimes life-changing decisions at the drop of a hat without thinking through the situation they’re in other than what feels right.

Which group gets it right the most?

It turns out that neither group does. Serious thinkers and impulsive doers are both just as likely to fail as they are to succeed because there are no formulas for success in the world. Some people map their futures out carefully and plan their actions deliberately with great success while others do the same thing and fail. We see all kinds of successful people in the world and when we ask them their secrets to success, they all have different answers and strategies.

Other people do just the opposite. They make their decisions on feelings or emotions. What feels right to them is what they do, regardless of the evidence to the contrary. Some people always choose what they perceive to be the easy road instead of the hard road; not realizing that what appears to be easy now may be hard later. But they choose it because they don’t want stress in their lives, thinking that the least stressful way will always be the best way. Sometimes it is but sometimes it isn’t and there’s no way for these people to know ahead of time.

So if neither way is foolproof or guaranteed, which road do we take? Some people live by the old Yogi Berra saying, ‘If you come to a fork in the road, take it!’ In other words, they don’t anticipate problems in advance and attempt to plot out a strategy ahead of time; they just take things as they come and if difficulties arise, they try and solve the problems then without having thought about those problems before or knowing how their decision is going to affect their lives and the lives of others in the future.

So there’s no advice to be gained from reading this week’s column. I suspect everyone knows how they make decisions and whether those decisions work out for you in the end or not. The problem many people have is that even when our decision making isn’t working out in our best interest, we continue to use the same process in the future; usually forgetting one of life’s undeniable truths:

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: