“How often do you look back and go yikes, I shouldn’t have made that decision. You wish you could go back in time and make a different decision. I was recently listening to Annie Duke a professional poker player talk about the tendency we have to collapse decisions and outcomes. We stand in the future with an unintended outcome and conclude that we must have made a poor decision. What if instead we looked at the situation to determine, was it a poor decision or was it the correct decision that just resulted in a poor low probability outcome. This realization and attention to separate decisions from outcomes has been mind-blowing for me. I realize I am often guilty of looking back on the past and questioning my decision.”
I wrote this over 2 years ago, and I needed to re-read it today. Over six months ago, I was riding a friend’s horse and fell off over a jump and broke my femur. I landed on my hip and broke the ball end of my femur completely off. It was a bad break that didn’t heal after the first surgery so after a second surgery I’m still on crutches and have months of recovery ahead of me.
I’ve been riding horses most of my life, and I know this particular horse fairly well. Due to shock, I don’t remember the moment I fell or the jump so I don’t even know what exactly went wrong, yet over the past six months, I have been wondering if I made the wrong decision to ride that day. As a rider, I know that each time I ride, there is a chance for something to go wrong. I’ve fallen off before and I know riders that have had very serious injuries. Horseback riding can be dangerous. Falls and injuries are a “poor low probability outcome.”
Reading about separating decisions and outcomes, reminds me that I don’t need to blame myself for my decision to ride that day. I made a good decision and just experienced a poor outcome. What I do remember from that day 6 months ago was so much fun. We were at a small show and practicing the day before the classes. We had lots of great jumps before I fell.
So, I ask you, where do you find yourself looking back on a decision and question or blaming yourself for the outcome? How would this shift if you take a moment to separate the decision and the outcome? In complex situations, we only have control over a few of the pieces and there are always multiple outcomes that can arise from any decision. Anne Duke suggests using the outcomes to help inform future decisions while remembering that your decision was made with the best of intentions and for the right reasons at the time.