It has often been said in business and in life that we are the choices we make.
Following that thought, we’re saying that we have total control over our experience, and that our lives are squarely in our own hands. Truth be told though, it’s a bit trickier than that.
When does personal responsibility end. Does it ever? Even if a person doesn’t truly understand the ramifications of a decision, does that absolve them of the responsibility for making an informed decision?
For example; Were the investors who lost their retirement savings invested in Enron not ultimately responsible for their loss? It was their choice to make the investment. The potential loss is a reality that anyone who has put more than a dollar into the stock market has learned, sometimes the hard way. At times we make emotional choices, and then find ourselves rationalizing what they probably knew had the potential to be a bad decisions.
This rationalization is the conversation that goes on inside our heads, selling us on something we desire when our reason and intuition tells us that the direct effect or first order effect of our decision will likely not be good. Rationalizing robs us of our control and sets the stage for us to be the “victim” of some external force when the outcome of our choice is not what we wanted.
It is a topic that warrants exploration all on its own, and we see it in business often: buying a business without performing the appropriate due diligence, opting to continue to play a hazardous sport even after sustaining injuries that should have stopped them, or buying the new enterprise software system that the business can’t actually afford.
In each case these decisions had negative and sometimes dire consequences. And there is almost always an opportunity to blame others for their less than desirable results. These undesirable situations also known as unintended consequences occur when we do not fully explore the first, second and third order effects of our decisions.
Our process for making choices is ultimately as important as the choice itself. I encourage anyone reading to test this hypothesis. Take a few minutes to complete the activity that accompanies this article.