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5 steps for recovering from a bad decision

  "The doors we open and close each day
decide the lives we live." 

Flora Whittemore



Sometimes we find ourselves faced with difficult choices. We can be staring at two options and almost literally feel torn between which one to choose. We might know what the right choice is, but we might still have the desire to make the wrong one. Life is filled with moments in which you feel as if you are standing in a fork in the road, looking down two potential paths, and wondering which way you should go. Sometimes we find ourselves lost, uncertain of which path will lead us home. Other times we know which path will lead us further away and, yet, we might be so curious that we want to take that path. The wonderful thing about life is that we often have the option to travel down many different paths. However, that ability to make choices can also be one of the most terrifying things about life. 

In a life filled with choice after choice after choice, we're bound to make a few mistakes. Life can sometimes feel like a big game of trial and error, and often you don't have any idea what the best choice might be. But, at times,you've probably been in situations where you knew the right choice but chose the wrong one. And these situations, my friends, are some of the worst situations to overcome. It's a terrible feeling to make the wrong choice, but it's an even worse feeling to make the wrong choice when you knew the whole time that it was wrong. Coping with the aftermath of a bad decision with the knowledge that you knew from the get-go you were making the wrong choice is one of the hardest things to deal with. 

Having (unfortunately) had some experience with this myself, I've come up with some ways to deal with the effects of having made a decision you knew was wrong. It's not easy to make mistakes and it's certainly harder to make mistakes when you knew the whole time that you were making them, but, by focusing on the present and on being positive, it's possible to overcome, well, pretty much anything. 

5 Steps for Recovering from a Bad Decision

  1. Take full responsibility. The first step you must take when having made a poor choice is recognize the part you played in a situation. It does no good at all to make excuses or rationalize or pretend that, for whatever reason, you aren't to blame. If you want to move forward from wherever you've found yourself, you have to take responsibility for your choices and actions. 

  2. Understand your choices. Next, it's essential that you understand why you made the decision you made. Keep in mind that this is not a time to think of excuses for why it happened; this is a time to understand why it happened so you can avoid making similar decisions in the future. Really take some time to think about why you did what you did so you can begin to move on. 

  3. Apologize and explain. If your decision hurt anyone else, the best thing you can do is apologize and explain. Don't offer excuses or try to play down the situation in any way. Be honest and open with those you have hurt and explain to them what you realized from Step 2. Once you've done that, it's also important to apologize to yourself and do what you can to come to terms with your decision. 

  4. Focus on the present. When you've made a bad decision, it can be tempting to dwell on that but, believe me, that's a waste of time. The most productive thing you can do to move forward from your choice is to focus on what's happening now. Cut yourself some slack and begin to focus on the positive things you're currently doing instead of the negative things you have done. 


  5. Be proactive in the future. The best thing you can do for yourself when you find that you've knowingly made a bad decision is to find ways to be proactive after the fact. Ask yourself what can be fixed or changed now. And then think about what you can do in the future to make sure you don't find yourself making similar decisions. Don't downplay the importance of taking future action. 

When you find yourself in a situation in which you've made a bad decision and there is no one to blame but you, it can be tempting to feel down on yourself and to start thinking negatively, but DON'T! No matter what you've done or what choices you've made, there is always hope for the present moment. The past, unfortunate as it might be sometimes, is gone. The only thing you can do at this point in time is move forward with a positive attitude and a focus on the now. That's not to say that things that happened in the past aren't important; they are. But you must realize that the only moment that is real is the moment that is right now -- and it's up to you to start making choices that will leave you feeling positive and happy to be living in every moment of your life. 



How do you cope internally with making bad decisions? 
What is the best way to handle the effects of a bad decision? 



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Ironic that I've stumbled upon this post today. I've recently made some poor decisions financially - some very careless decisions that weigh on me mentally.

I'm trying to recover from them and it's helpful to just read some reinforcing stuff on the matter.

You always have something of value to read!


Owning it is the path forward. It goes back to that saying, "what you resist persists."

We as humans being must take full responsibility of our lives if we want to succeed. If we don't, we will parish in the line of fire. Leaving opportunity at every doorstep as we knock on the door of the forgotten.

Mike - I'm so glad you came across this post and were able to relate to it. It can be hard to recover from bad decisions (I know that for sure!), but it's definitely possible. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope the advice in this post helps you to get through the tough times.

J.D. - Very true! You have to accept the choices you've made and move forward. If you continue to resist and deny, you'll never make progress.

Jonathan - Yes we do. It can be very hard to accept one's choices after having made a bad decision, but if we don't take full responsibility for our choices we can never fully move on from the decisions we've made.

Bad decisions can have bad consequences however they can also lead to great conquences or opportunities, every cloud has a silver lining. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, bad decisions included.

Zoya - You've brought up such a great (and positive!) point. Even when we make bad choices, there is always a silver lining and sometimes bad choices can actually lead to great things.

Bad decisions are scary. Yet they are terrific learning experiences. Everytime I look back at something that was a wrong decision, I also see what I learnt from it. Every road takes us somewhere, sometimes in the external world and sometimes in terms of inner learning of our selves. I love your point about apology. Bad decisions do make us humble and more compassionate. Thanks for a great post.

That's a very nice post my friend,
everyone should read it :)

Uzma - You're right about that. They might be scary, but they can provide great learning experiences for us all. Like you, I always look back on bad decisions and realized that I learned a lot from them at that they made me into the person I am today. So happy you liked the post. Thanks for your comment!

Farouk - Thank you! That's a wonderful compliment and I really appreciate it!

It's always been hard for me to examine the whys of the choice made. It's easier to just move on but that step is so important. Really great info here. Thanks! :)

A beautiful and very helpful article. Something I've not seen anyone write about and yet something we ALL feel at someone point in our lives. Good for you!!!! Very life affirming, forgiving and compassionate.

CC - It can tricky to be hard to look at our choices and try to understand them, but it really IS important to take a look at them before we move on.

Robin - Thank you! I'm so happy you enjoyed the article. It's important to be forgiving and compassionate with ourselves -- even when we have made a bad decision.

Always apologize with honesty!
If you make a mistake, apologize as this shows humanity. Learn from it and try not to do the same mistake again.

I have some of the best relations with people I have apologized to, because it build trust.


Great article. May I add that after accepting responsibility, making amends and understanding the whys that we just lighten up on ourselves a bit too. Sometimes we make a tiny error into a huge mistake molehill when really it didn't merit more than a moment of awareness and a giggle or two. :)

Frode - Great point! It doesn't do any good to apologize if it's not coming from a place of honesty and sincerity. That's a great reminder.

CC - That's definitely a great point to add and I'm so glad you stopped by to bring that up. Sometimes it really is necessary to take things more lightly and to realize that it's okay to be light-hearted about mistakes we make.

What a wonderful inspiring article full of hope and faith.

I recently gave up a job that was potentially life changing and i walked away because i allowed the stresses of bereavement and moving home to defeat me. I am so upset that i let the people down who had invested in me. Im so low.

John - I'm so glad you found this post to be inspiring. I'm sorry that you're struggling with a bad decision. I know how hard that can be. I hope the words in this post will help you in some small way to get through it.

Thanks for this article. Last night I made the decision to use marijuana when I knew it would make my sister upset, who was at the same party. At the point, it feels like hell because my sister is upset and I feel like there is too much to deal with right now, even though I have accepted responsibility for my decision.

Jay - You're welcome. Making a bad decision and living with the consequences is incredibly difficult. It's wonderful that you've accepted responsibility for your decision. It will take time to heal things with your sister, but if you remain true to yourself and keep an open line of communication, in time your relationship will improve.

I'm so glad to have seen this. I have made a horrible decision which has affected not only me, but my family as well. By the time I realized my mistake and changed my mind, it was too late. I'm in too much pain and sorrow right now to fully accept everything the author is writing, but I've saved it and will read it again when I'm more stable. Thank you.

Angela - I'm so glad you found this post as well. This was a really hard time for me and, looking back on it a year later, I can say that I survived and I made things that I had done wrong right again. I know it's hard for you right now, but please re-read this and keep in mind that things will get better - no matter how horrible they might seem right now.

I too am trying to deal with the consequences of a bad decision made many years ago. Every waking moment is torturous and it's almost impossible to see any light at the end of the tunnel. PP, your wisdom and sincerity provide a sense of hope for me. Thank you.

Jay - I'm sorry to hear that you're going through a tough time, but I'm glad to know that you've found this post and that it's given you a sense of hope. Hang in there!

Thank you for making this post. I'm actually suffering from a stupid decisions that i made last year, which can possibly affect my present relationship. This post helped me a lot. :)

MiMI - You're welcome! Doing these things really helped me to recover from this bad decision and, now, over a year later, I'm in such a better place in my life. Just take it one day at a time and things will get better!

Thank you for this. I recently wrote a letter on behalf of my brothers ex wife in a custody battle. He's always been a very mean, angry and aggressive person. And while the letter only depicted my ex sister in law's character and interaction with their children, (who I feel, has been more of a sister to me than he's been a brother), my mother is very upset. I really wanted to say what a horrible person he is (he was abusive to me growing up), I didn't. Nonetheless my mom is devastated. I knew writing the letter would cause problems and that's where my guilt lies...

Nichole - I'm sure it was very hard to write that letter, but it sounds like you did what felt right to you. It was your heart that led you to write the letter and I'm sure you believe you did the right thing. I can see how your mother would be upset -- mothers love their children, even the "horrible" ones, fiercely -- but if you did what you believe is the right thing to do, you cannot let her devastation bring you down. You should let your mother know that you are sorry the letter hurt her, but you wrote it on behalf of your nieces/nephews and not with the intent to hurt her in any way. Stay strong -- and be proud of yourself for doing what you believed to be right, even if it wasn't the easiest thing to do.

Thank you for this article. I haven't been able to find anything online that could help me deal with my guilt, anger and depression. I've been struggling with my bad decision for about 9 months and feel sad everyday. My family and friends tell me it's nothing -- just money lost -- but to me it was a huge loss and it's made me so indecisive in my daily life. I feel like every decision that I make now is wrong and I'm not 'smart enough' to make a good decision.

To everyone out there who is dealing with this -- it gets a tiny bit better with every passing day IF you don't dwell on it. Since I have dwelled on it for many days and nights I feel like I can never forgive myself.

Gertie - It sounds like you are struggling with a difficult decision and I know exactly how you feel. I'm glad you found this article and I hope it will help you get through the tough time. As you said, it gets better every day if you choose not to dwell on the past and instead choose to make the most of the future. The only way you can move on is to allow yourself to do so.

Just spent forty bucks on nonsense. I almost instantly felt it was a bad decision. It was with a gift credit card I received for my birthday. I cant even take it back. I should have saved that money and bought something I truly wanted. I feel like I cheated myself. Guess I just have to move on, no big deal everyone makes mistakes. The more I dwell on it the more unhappy I will be. It may seem like no big deal and that it's only forty bucks but it's the fact that I didn't even think things through I just did it, that hurts. But it's not like it wasn't something I wanted just something I definently didn't need. Whatever no big deal I've screwed up way worse then this, this one just makes me feel like a big old idiot.

Hood - I've actually done the same thing (more than once!) so I know EXACTLY how you feel. It's a weird, unsettling feeling to know you chose to purchase something you didn't really want or need and now you're stuck with it. Whenever this happens to me, I try to put it in perspective and I ask myself, "Will this really matter in five years?"

I'm still suffering from a decision I've made years back.
I've taken responsibility. But I cannot stop thinking and suffering about if it was or wasn't a good choice. Reading your article gave alot to think about. I hope I can find some answers quick.

Laura - I'm sorry to hear that you're still suffering from that decision. It can be very difficult to overcome what has been done. Try to focus on the present. Looking back can be useful at times, but if you want to overcome the decision, the best thing you can do for yourself is focus on the now.

This is Amazing! Thanks.

Angus - You're welcome! I hope this was helpful for you!

Thank you.

ML - You're welcome. I hope this helped you get through whatever it is that you're dealing with.

I started a new job a couple of months ago and I have a made a bad choice which I truly regret. One of those things that YOU knew better. Still caught up on how foolish I've been. Thank you for those balanced words. I'll bookmark this site.

Irene - I'm sorry to hear that you're in a tough position. I've made quite a few bad decisions over the course of my life and, in the end, they've really ended up leading me in the right direction. I hope you're able to have the same experience, learn from what you've done, and move forward. Keep focused on what you can do now -- not what you've already done.

I really like this post, I like how everyone is going through their own issues, but choose to see the glass full.
I recently made a poor choice, at the time it felt truly right, and it was my only option, at least i thought. I knew what i did not want, and the choice i made was what i wanted. looking back now, I chose because I was worried about how others would see me, I did not want to be the "loser". Now i am stuck... how do you forgive yourself when you are reminded of your action daily? how do you fall asleep when your mind is occupied with one thought? how do you stop wishing it all ended? One thing that brings me hope is knowing that everything happens for a reason, I will look for the silver lining. I will accept, and honor my choice; do the right thing and continue to living.

WNM - Making the wrong choice and then dealing with the consequences can be incredibly hard, but it will get easier with time. Cliche as it might sound, time really does heal all wounds. Just give yourself some time and keep focusing on all the good choices you've made in your life.

Probably I have made a worse decision of life . I feel like its end of my life . I made a wrong decision in my marriage . Its not possible to revert back it and It pains like hell . Every morning I see my wife the regret eats me from inside . I have lost my concentration on work . Lost interest in life . I hope there was some way to get out of it . But its all choices I made and consequences are going to be never ending .

George - When you feel as if you've made the worst decision of your life, it can be especially hard to recover from a bad decision. Even though it seems like the end of the world now, things will get better. The best thing you can do is own up to your decision, accept the consequences (no matter how hard they are), and do whatever you can to move forward with your life.

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