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Don't Judge Decisions Based on Outcomes

This past week, I faced a situation that made me reflect on a lesson I learned many months ago from this podcast between Jay Shetty and Will Smith. The lesson is that we should not use the outcome as a measure of the quality of our decisions or the quality of our being.

As Will Smith said,

"When you try to use the outcome as a measure of the quality of your own being, that is the kiss of death…You can do everything right, and it still goes wrong in terms of the outcome."

Image by @tingeyinjurylawfirm on Unplash

For example, we might act with kindness and consideration towards others, but others respond rudely. Or one person does things properly while another cheats, and the one who cheats gets away with it. We shouldn't get upset at the negative outcome, nor use the outcome as a measure of the quality of our decisions or actions.

We should make decisions with proper due diligence, and then let go of any attachment to the outcome. If the outcome goes well, great. If it doesn't, then reflect on whether or not you should've acted differently. If not, then we can rest well in our conscience.

My Story

Last Wednesday, I started a new semester of online teaching, and this course requires an online textbook for the students. I had emailed the school about the online textbook last Monday, and they said they already placed the order. On Wednesday, I still didn't get the e-textbook codes. I thought maybe I should travel to the school and pick up a physical textbook so that I can take pictures for the students because they need the textbook for their homework. But I decided to wait because I could still manage a few classes without the textbook.

On Monday, I asked the school again, and they said they would call the textbook company, but they expect the textbook should be here very soon. I told them if I don't get the textbook by Wednesday, then I will go pick up the physical textbook because I can't continue anymore without the textbook after Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, the textbook still had not arrived, so I made the trip to the school. Shortly after I made the trip, the e-textbook codes arrived.

At first, I was tempted to think, "Are you kidding me. I JUST went to pick up the textbook and then the codes arrived?" But I've been working on my bad habit of complaining, so I resisted the urge to get annoyed.

Then I remembered this lesson from Will Smith, and I thought, "Well, I made the right decision based on the available information at the time. I kept my word and stuck to my intentions for the sake of the students. No one could've predicted that the textbook codes would come in the afternoon, and if they didn't come, I would definitely have needed the physical textbook for the next lesson."


Weekly Wisdom #158

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