Why don’t I make the right decisions in life ?
Is decision-making a feeling based art, or a logic-based science? When decisions are based on feelings and love is based on logic, both tend to meet with disappointments.
More important than knowing how to make good decisions is to know when to make those decisions. And more important than knowing when to make decisions is to know when not to make them!
Here are 7 circumstances in the Mahabharata that reveal when and how decisions ought not be made.
1. Fear driven decisions – The tortoise shell protects as long as the shell is above it, but as soon as it flips over, the shell makes it helpless and the tortoise flaps around helplessly.
Similarly, a person who takes decisions out of fear flaps around just like this tortoise, and takes stubborn abrupt steps.
In the Mahabharata, Ashwattama when cornered by the Pandavas, took the most foolish decision of unleashing the deadly Brahmastra capable of destroying the whole world. This decision stemmed from his intense fear and need for his own security. The brahmastra was meant to obscure his fear and create fear and insecurity for the Pandavas, which ultimately backfired.
2. Affinity driven decisions – A cloth hung on a hook, takes shelter from it. The same hook tears the cloth, when pulled away forcefully. Just like the cloth, those who take decisions based on unnatural affinity to people hooked to, get torn apart!
In the Mahabharata, since Karna’s each and every decision was based on his assumed affinity to his friend Duryodhana, he was torn apart between his loyalty to dharma and that to his friendship. The friendship hook gripped him tight and when decisions had to be taken, his dharma was torn apart.
3. Grief driven decisions – A drop of ink on a blotting paper spreads and pervades the paper. Similarly, grief too begins with a drop; but when it falls into the blotting paper of the uncontrolled mind, it percolates into every aspect of life.
In the Mahabharata, Gandhari made two decisions blinded by extreme grief and ended up with a mass scale destruction.
The first instance was when she realized that Kunti gave birth to a son before her, she struck her womb in envy resulting in a hundred sons born to her carrying the spirit of envy in their lives. The second was when she felt that Krsna was the cause of death of her children, she cursed that His Yadu dynasty get destroyed.
4. Joy driven decisions – When a hilarious joke triggers uncontrollable laughter, at some point tears roll out from the eyes. The tears indicate that one has gone out of balance. Just like the body has a check and balance mechanism, life should also be based on a similar check and balance mechanism. Often the most crucial decisions of life are taken on a high when there is too much joy or success. When the head is in the clouds, it is difficult to judge ground realities.
In the Mahabharata, the king of Virata was happy beyond imagination on hearing that his son Uttara had defeated all the Kauravas alone in a battle. His joy was overflowing such that he disregarded and even humiliated Yudhishthir. When decisions are taken in a fit of joy, they bring sorrow into life.
5. Anxiety driven decisions – When running for life, will one even have the desire to eat or drink, let alone the ability to do it? Just like one has to have a stable body to relish the joy of tasty food and drink, a stable mind is a prerequisite to relish the satisfaction of tastefully taken decisions.
In the Mahabharata, all of Bhishma’s decisions were anxiety driven. His anxiety to protect the throne of Hastinapur led him to many wrong decisions; more than that, his anxiety made him decision-less sometimes.
6. Opinion driven decisions – Others’ opinions are like sticky notes put on the walls of our minds. But before we use those opinions in our decision-making, we should establish clarity in our hearts by developing the skill of personal discrimination.
When dharma becomes the foundation of the heart, clarity becomes the background on which others opinions can be judged.
In the Mahabharata, Duryodhana’s opinion was constantly molded by his uncle Shakuni, towards the systematic destruction of the dynasty. Since Duryodhana did not have a background clarity of dharma, he blindly followed Shakuni; not seeing his dubious agenda and the deep ditch he was shoving him into. But though Krsna also molded Arjuna’s opinion, Arjuna used the clarity lens of dharma to analyze every strategy suggested by Krsna.
Only when one finds an opinion coming his way that stands the test of principles based clarity and not driven by personal agenda of the advisor, one should consider it.
7. Weakness driven decisions – A weak person uses a stick to balance himself and the stick becomes his life support. But instead if he uses that stick to hit people around him, his weakness has now become his meanness. When decisions are taken focusing on weaknesses, we only over-sympathize with our disability, rather than what is right.
In the Mahabharata, Dhrtarashtra had one weakness, his blindness. All his decisions were based on his meditations and frustrations about this weakness. Every time he made a decision, he always brought out his stick of weakness and lashed out at others reflecting his vicious mind. When your weakness becomes your meanness, instead of attracting sympathy you attract apathy into your life.
Mahabharata is all about the science of decision making, the greatest secrets of good and bad decision making and their repurcussions are placed in front of us. When the Pandavas had to take a decision whether to fight the war or not, they consulted Krsna and all their friends carefully weighing the advantages of the war and its consequences. Their personal understanding of dharma and selfless guidance from genuine agenda-less friends helped them take good decisions. When Duryodhana had to take a decision about the gambling match, he kept it a secret and consulted only the agenda-based Shakuni about it. His personal lack of understanding of dharma and self-centered guidance drove him to take bad decisions that resulted in short-term gain and long-term loss.
In conclusion, good decisions are natural outcomes of stable minds using stable intelligence, in stable situations with the desire to have stability internally and externally, chosing a stable path. A stable mind being free from the influence of debilitating emotions like fear, unnatural affinity, grief, anxiety etc. When your intelligence is unstable, the mind is unstable, the situation is unstable and people who are guiding you are unstable, how can stable decisions happen?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After completing his education in engineering and law, Shubha Vilas Das found his calling in spirituality where he chose to be a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker.The UPS of his seminars and workshops is application of scriptural wisdom in day-to-day living. He travels across the globe delivering talks to youth across many educational institutes.
He is the author of two best – selling books on Ramayana from the series ‘Ramayana – The Game of Life’. The books provide deep insights on contemporary subjects like how human relationships work or how they fail; how leaders can maximize their potential as leaders; and how the ancient epic holds immediate relevance to modern life.You could read his reflections on http://thoughtsutras.blogspot.in/