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How to Make Good Decisions

There are some people whose lives seem to always be in a state of wild disarray. There is often financial chaos or relationship drama. They seem to move from one disaster to the next. Often it’s because they just keep making bad decisions. Here’s the challenge – sometimes making a good decision has no immediate reward. You may never even have solid proof it WAS a good decision! Here’s a recent example from my life. My boyfriend and I found an absolutely gorgeous home for sale in the mountains of NC. We love the mountains and this house was amazing. Think beautiful views, river frontage, log and stone home – magazine worthy. We went to see it twice, even taking friends. Everyone wanted us to buy it. We wanted to buy it! But the more research I did, the clearer it became that this was not a good idea. The price of the home was a great value. By passing it up, I’ll never know for sure if I missed the deal of a lifetime or literally dodged a bullet.

We live in a world where you are encouraged to go for it! YOLO! Live in the moment! You seldom hear anyone say a penny saved is a penny earned. Compound interest isn’t as exciting as visiting Machu Picchu. Making good decisions just isn’t sexy. I would argue having to work the night shift at Walmart in your 70s isn’t so hot either, but we can ignore that. For now.
So, how to make good decisions:

1) Step back. It’s so easy to get caught up in things. We were thinking about waking up to the mountain view and sitting by the fire pit. We were listening to the river babble over the rocks. I had to get away from the place, stop looking at the pictures, and get real. Emotions alone do not make good decisions. (Follow your heart but make sure your brain is driving. You let your heart drive alone and the next time you see your car it will be a burned-out shell in Tijuana.)

2) Do your homework. Do you think it’s easy to take care of a log home? I had no idea until I did the research. Log homes develop cracks on the outside that have to be repaired. And this was not a small log home. There’s a lot of maintenance. Not a deal breaker in and of itself, but you need to know what you’re getting into. Apply this to everything – that good-looking guy/gal you just met, any major purchase or investment, any job change, etc.

3) Don’t ignore red flags. As we further investigated, we learned more – some was good! It really was a gorgeous place. It was on a protected trout stream; the house was undervalued. But I discovered the immediate neighbor was in a legal battle with a nearby landowner – a huge red flag for me. I watch enough “Fear Thy Neighbor” to know drama with a neighbor is something I want no part of. First they’re bringing you cookies, then they’re shooting at you. I’ve ignored enough red flags in my life to know that every time I do, it’s a bad decision. I wasn’t going to do it again.

4) Take the time it needs. You always hear things like “fail fast!” “If you’re not changing, you’re falling behind!” Blah, blah, blah. Sure – sometimes that’s true. Not every decision merits heavy analysis. But some sure do – and you can really mess up your life by failing fast. Marry the wrong person, have children and it will impact you forever. Invest a lot of money in a bad venture, and you may never make it back. Understand the impact of a bad decision and allocate decision time accordingly.

5) Futurecast. My bf really, really wanted us to buy this place. Our friends really wanted us to buy this place. Hell, I wanted to buy this place! But this was the kind of decision that could derail your life. (Like that bad marriage, that matching tattoo, and investing with Bernie Madoff). Sure, it could all work out or we might have a tough time selling our current house. One of us might lose their job or get sick. We might not like living in a tiny mountain town and driving our garbage to the dump. Then what? The financial loss could be huge. I’m not saying never take a risk. I’m saying make a good decision. (Don’t be trapped in the mountains with a crazy neighbor and a pile of garbage.) Play it forward – if you’re dating someone who can’t manage their money, don’t marry them and allow them access to yours. If you don’t know how your beloved is with money, go back to number two. Love is no excuse for making bad decisions.

6) Take advice, but in the end – decide for yourself. Sure, our friends wanted us to buy this place – it was cool! They could visit! And it wasn’t their money. Everyone may think you should have kids, but it won’t be them changing the diapers. Your life will be the result of the decisions you make. Make them well.

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3 years ago

Denise, thank you so much for sharing your life experiences! Of course, your friends are all about you buying the place for them to enjoy! I have very recently transitioned into a new season of life, and am very focused on finding balance and boundaries! You have a gift for presenting profound wisdom in a delightful way!

Christine Thompson
3 years ago

I live in Western NC in a small home of 1008 sq ft (no log cabin near a brooke by any means) and let me tell you from a tax standpoint you did dodge a bullet because I got my new tax value yesterday and nearly passed out. Trying to figure out how to cover this on my salary.

3 years ago

I really enjoy your perspectives. Thanks for sharing them. Any advice for the opposite of deciding too quickly? What thoughts do you have for those who sometimes can’t get to a decision because they are afraid of making a bad one?

Dave Madigan
3 years ago

Always enjoy and learn from your comments . Here is an Ole Dave trickle of wisdom learned from Forrest Gump .Remember the phrase ‘Shit Happens’ , well, if it’s yours ,clean it up , learn and then move on . If it’s someon elses , don’t step in it . Cheers and keep on keeping on !!

Janet Bowen
3 years ago

I needed this right now. What an awesome article. Thank you,

Cindy Nelson
3 years ago

Bravo Denise! Thank you for this. It seems that we all have a tendency to pull the trigger and do anything without much thought or planning, for the sake of as you said “Go for it and live in the moment”.
It is so easy to think with your emotions and get into a bad situation, which is so messy and difficult to get out of. This is a great reminder to us all to stop and think before embarking on new journeys. Happy house hunting! I hope the right one comes along!