How you can make a right choice
Making Tough Decisions
Making a choice is always tricky. It may turn out right or wrong. At the time of making the choice, circumstances may dictate a certain course of action – which may change later. Who knows!
So what do we do when it comes to making choices – important choices which are long lasting? Like choosing a profession, a life partner, making a major investment, embarking on a new project. Should we simply toss a coin or go where our heart tells us? After all, as they say, it is the heart which finally makes the choice!
We cannot escape it. We are forced to make choices in non-decisive situations – situations where we do not have sufficient information. Even in such situations, we weigh the pros and cons of the information we have and decide. The decision may be right or wrong – that can be said only after some time. Often, despite our best efforts and intentions, despite having rationally considered all options, despite having applied scientific decision making tools, things may not work out as expected.
Decisions Cannot Be Right All The Time
Some decisions, in hindsight, appear not only wrong but foolish. Sound familiar? This happens because situations are never constant. They are dynamic, transient and constantly changing. Our mind tries to project itself into the future as though it were a linear equation – which it is not. There are lots of practical limitations. Predictions, therefore, are often inaccurate (listen to the weather bulletins or invest on tips in the stock market and you will see what I mean).
Blaming yourself for a choice made in the past is unwise – foolish. It is not a remedy. The important point here is, not whether a choice was right or wrong – it was always right when it was made – it is how we react to it now. That is what is important. You must not let the past get into the equation. Deal with it as a given situation, and act in your best interests. It is similar to the “sunken costs” philosophy. Just because you have invested a lot of time and money in a project does not justify staying with it if it is obviously not productive.
Decision on Jobs
Decision about your profession is important. It is something every student has to face on leaving college. Moreover it is very likely to be a long term decision.
Let us take an example of a student in his final year in college. In a placement drive in the college, he is offered a fairly well paying job in a call centre. Graduating as an engineer, say in ECE, a job in a call centre may be far from what he was hoping for. However, considering that he had got 65% marks (which is not good enough to get a job in an MNC) what does he do?
Assume that he had also attended an interview for a lecturer’s post in a college on the outskirts of town. He has been offered that job too, but the salary is low.
Assume further that he can improve his chances by not doing any job but taking a coaching class for GATE. If he gets a good score in GATE, then, despite his ordinary marks from college, he can get into a good PSU or an admission into an IIT for M.Tech.
He may have yet another option – to join his uncle in his small electronic firm as a junior engineer.
As you would have observed, each of the options has its own positive and negative points.
- The call centre will give him good pocket money and free time to study for some skill developing course like “embedded systems”, “VLSI”, “Automation” etc. Such skill acquisition will make him eligible for a better job later.
- As a lecturer in a college, he will be able to prepare for an M.Tech. and Ph.D. After two years he can decide to either do his M.Tech. or take up a job in a factory or even an MNC. He need not be in a hurry as he has a proper job.
- GATE coaching is useful and will give him a high probability of getting a good score in the exam. This will automatically get him into a PSU or a college. If nothing else, it will sharpen his engineering knowledge for future interviews. In fact, even appearing in the GATE exam makes him eligible to appear in the entrance exam of many prestigious PSUs.
- Joining his uncle in the small electronics firm will give him valuable industrial experience. He can later apply for many jobs which require some industrial experience. On the other hand, if he wants to, he can stay with the job and make a career out of it – after all, his uncle’s firm will grow with time and so will he!
As you can see, each choice has its own set of opportunities. Of course it can have its own set of problems too.
- The call centre may close down;
- The college may not pay salaries regularly;
- The GATE paper may be extraordinarily tough; or
- His uncle may decide to sell his firm and move to South America!
Personal Example – Army or IIT / USA ?
Let me give you my own personal experience. In school, I was one of the best students in my class. At that time, i.e. in the 1950s, I could have chosen any field that I wanted.
I chose to write the NDA exam. My class mates, however, were interested in IIT and wrote that exam. I also wrote the IIT entrance exam. The NDA results, however, came out earlier, and I had passed. I joined the NDA.
I learnt later that I had also cleared the IIT entrance exam, but by then I had already joined NDA. My classmates joined IIT and later went to USA.
Who was right, who was wrong? On looking back, I feel that my friends led richer and better lives in the US. I, being in the Army, spent most of my life in barracks, tents, in the borders, deserts and cantonments.
If you ask my friends, they have a totally different view. They feel that the life in India and that too as an Army officer with sports, adventure, mess life, parties and challenging assignments is far better than the grind they went through as second grade citizens in US.
We always tend to see the brighter side of anyone else’s life and not the problems! We also tend to look back at our decisions with mild, if not major, regret.
Respect Your Decision
No career is good or bad. Nothing is right or wrong, good or bad. It is how we look at it and what we make of it.
There are excellent and happy bus drivers, bank clerks, tour guides, washer-men, masseurs and teachers. On the flip side you have enough examples of unhappy CEOs, disgusting bus conductors, hostile and worthless professors and so on.
It all depends on how each person treats the cards which are dealt to them.
Here is a small video by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on choices. He makes it very simple. I invite you to listen to it carefully and think about it. I even suggest that you adopt it.
In conclusion therefore, I may say that no decision is right or wrong. It was always right when you made it. Accept it as such. In review if you feel it is not OK, change.
In fact it is a crime to stay stagnant and not make a decision at all. You have to decide on some course of action – just keep it open for review after having given it a fair trial.
And as far as the right job goes, in the words of Srikumar S. Rao, author of best-selling books “Are you ready to succeed” and “Happiness at Work”, there’s a lot of good in every job, every situation – just matters what you have learned to focus on”.
According to this view, it is more about learning to like your job than having a job that you like. It’s the same with decisions.