Wrong Decision, Wrong Reason

Gerwig 2014-12-23

Do you always make the right decision? If you’re 100% honest, you know you don’t. Sometimes you make the wrong decision. But for now, let’s focus on the right decisions you make. Are they always for the right reason? Is your motive always pure? Come on, be honest. There are times when, although you make a good decision, you do it for the wrong reason. For example, you give to a charity so that others think more highly of you.

There are also times when you make the wrong decision for the right reason. You were trying to buy your wife a nice birthday present but you got the wrong size, color, or style. Your motive was good even if the actual purchase decision was wrong.

I know what some of you are thinking. What about those times when you make the right decision for the right reason. Yes, these occur and they’re the best type of decision. You help out someone in need because your heart says it’s right, not because you receive public recognition for your gift. Or you work hard to support your family even if the job isn’t “fun” or “glamorous.” Again, the right decision for the right reason.

But today I’m going to talk about the wrong decision for the wrong reason. This is kinda the worst of the worst. A lose-lose. The outcome is wrong and the motive is wrong. In every other scenario, at least the outcome or the motive (or both) was positive. And not always, but often, the wrong decision for the wrong reason is based in fear. Let me explain.

I remember vividly the first time I heard about a situation caused by the wrong decision for the wrong reason. I’m not exactly sure why I remember it so clearly, but I do. And I’ve thought about it often throughout the years. I was a young boy, in 2nd or 3rd grade, and we lived in North Carolina on a Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune, where my father was an officer. We lived in base housing which meant that we had many neighbors in close proximity as the houses were densely packed together.

My sister and I walked to Stone Street Elementary each morning and upon our return in the afternoon, my mother would often have fresh cookies or brownies waiting for us. Once a week a so, one of the neighbors would be at the house when we arrived. You see my mother was (and still is) the type of person that attracts others. She collects people, sorta. She’s a good listener, empathetic, compassionate, non-judgmental, and she’s skilled in the kitchen. Why wouldn’t she collect friends and strangers and people in general, including those needing a friend?

One day after walking home from school and getting a few cookies, I overheard a neighbor say that she had gotten divorced from her first husband and remarried. I was “hooked” on the conversation and started intentionally eavesdropping. You see I wasn’t normally big on the discussions that occurred between my mother and neighbors around the kitchen table, but this was different. I didn’t know anyone who had been divorced. In fact, I wasn’t 100% sure I even knew what it meant. But I listened to find out more. And what I heard has stuck with me for decades. And it’s a classic case of someone who made the wrong decision for the wrong reason.

You see this neighbor’s first husband had asked her to marry him and she said yes even though she didn’t really want to marry him. She told my mother she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Even as a young boy, I recognized the folly of this. I thought it was a dumb decision. I still do. But I’ve come to understand it was a decision born of fear. The young lady had not wanted to offend her boyfriend. She was afraid of hurting his feelings. She feared that she wouldn’t find someone else who would ask her hand in marriage. So she said yes. She made the wrong decision for the wrong reason.

Over the years I’ve seen similar wrong decisions made by many people, including me. I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings so I said yes. I didn’t want someone to get angry with me so I said yes. I was concerned about possible negative repercussions to a loved one so I said yes.

But I’ve made more right decisions than wrong. And I’ve made more of these decisions for the right reason than the wrong reason. Why? In part because of the story above. Many times I’ve said to myself (figuratively), “I’m not marrying this person just to keep from hurting their feelings.” I’m not going to be bullied by someone into a wrong decision. I’m going to face the challenge head-on and face the consequences, but I refuse to consciously make a lose-lose decision. Instead, I choose to make the right decision for the right reasons.

How about you? How does fear and fear-avoidance drive your decisions? Have you learned to face these fears and make the right decisions?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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