Between 1999 and 2005, Lance Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles. Many consider the accomplishment one of the most iconic feats in sports history. But, others weren’t convinced. Armstrong’s performances seemed too good to be true.
Watch the video version of this article or scroll to continue reading.
For years, Armstrong successfully denied a list of doping allegations. But by 2010, a federal investigation of Armstrong began after former teammate Floyd Landis accused him of cheating. Two years later, in 2012, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charged Armstrong with doping.
It wasn’t until 2013 that Armstrong told the truth. During an interview with Oprah, the cyclist said he used performance-enhancing drugs to win all seven Tour de France championships.
In the end, Armstrong was stripped of his titles. He received a lifetime ban from professional cycling and lost an estimated $150 million in future endorsement income. 1 To make matters worse, Armstrong had to pay the US government $5 million to settle a civil lawsuit.
While Armstrong’s story is extreme, it’s a textbook example of what can happen when you consistently make bad decisions.
In Armstrong’s case, he descended from the ranks of an American hero to nothing more than a fraud. His decisions had a devastating effect on his career, legacy, and reputation.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to identify when you’re making bad decisions. For this reason, you can easily get trapped in a cycle of repeating the same mistakes.
In this article, I want to help you break that cycle. I’ll begin by explaining why people make bad decisions. Then, I’ll share some ideas that can help you make better decisions.
Here are six reasons that might explain why you’re making poor decisions.
We all have a natural desire to succeed. This inclination motivates us to stay alive, create meaningful relationships, and build successful careers.
While the desire to succeed is helpful in appropriate doses, it can also get you into trouble.
Greedy people develop an excessive and uncontrolled desire for success. As a result, they go to great lengths for personal gain and often make poor decisions along the way.
Armstrong’s story perfectly illustrates this point. His extreme desire for success, fame, and money influenced him to spend an entire career lying and cheating.
Here are three signs that might indicate that you are fueled by greed.
Our ancestors were threatened by predators, starvation, and illness for millions of years. As a result, one of their biggest daily challenges was staying alive.
For this reason, your brain evolved to reward you for performing behaviors that increase your odds of short-term survival. This explains why eating, sleeping, and social connection are so enjoyable.
When we still lived in caves, this reward system worked well. If you didn’t know when you’d get your next meal, it made sense to overeat when given the opportunity. But, in our modern-day society, many behaviors that provide short-term rewards can be harmful.
For example, many of us can overeat every day. And, because doing so feels good, many do. But, as you know, consistently overeating will harm your health and cause you to gain weight.
So, if you find yourself continually chasing the high of short-term rewards, you might be making bad decisions.
Logical thinking is hard work. That’s because it’s time-consuming and often requires detailed analysis. For this reason, many people avoid it.
Instead, people make snap decisions based on instinct and intuition. For example, many make financial investments based on a hunch, not research.
When you live life this way, you open yourself up to thinking errors known as cognitive biases. Our tendency to follow the crowd is an example of a cognitive bias known as the bandwagon effect.
In some ways, the bandwagon effect is helpful. For example, suppose millions of people who follow a particular diet have a lower risk of heart disease. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to follow the crowd.
But, the bandwagon effect can also be harmful. For instance, assume money is tight, but you feel inclined to buy a new car because your peers are doing it. In this case, following the crowd is a bad idea because it threatens your financial security.
If it feels like your decisions continually come back to bite you, there’s a good chance that you’re acting without thinking.
People who have an overinflated ego have a hard time admitting their mistakes. That’s because those who suffer from egotism never want to be wrong. As a result, they lose their ability to learn from failure. If you have this problem, you’ll likely make the same mistakes repeatedly.
For example, consider the entrepreneur who continues to sink money into a failing business. Or the lung cancer patient who continues smoking.
If it feels like you keep making the same mistakes, there’s a good chance your ego is holding you back.
Not making a decision can be just as problematic as making a bad decision. When you’re indecisive, you continually do nothing. As a result, you stay stuck in place.
Indecisive people are typically afraid of uncertainty. For example, a would-be entrepreneur never starts a business because it might fail. Or, a would-be lover never commits to a relationship because they might get hurt.
If the fear of the unknown prevents you from doing something important, chances are uncertainty is making you indecisive.
Assume you’re single, lonely, and want nothing more than to be in a relationship. You go on a first date, and it goes ok, but you notice some red flags. Then, a week later, you get asked out on a second date.
To someone looking at this situation from the outside, this seems like an easy decision to make. Because there were red flags, declining the date seems like the obvious thing to do.
But, from the inside, this decision isn’t so clear. That’s because saying no to the second date guarantees you’ll remain single and lonely. This is a case where you get punished for making the right decision.
Unfortunately, this is where most people slip up. By agreeing to the second date, they finally get to stop feeling lonely. And, because this reward is so enticing, they choose to look past the red flags.
But don’t kid yourself. Dating someone who isn’t a good fit to avoid feeling lonely is settling. And, while settling might end your short-term pain, it can create far greater long-term problems.
Good decisions that lead to short-term pain are often characterized by a “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” feeling. So, if you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, take special note of your decisions.
Here are five ideas that can help you make better decisions.
As we saw with Armstrong, greedy people have an excessive desire for personal gain, even when it comes at the expense of others. Research by neuroeconomist Paul Zak helps to explain why.
Zak’s work suggests that greedy people do not care about others as most people do. 2 Thankfully, you can become more compassionate by developing empathy—the ability to understand and share other people’s feelings.
You can become more empathetic by resisting the urge to stereotype. To do that, make a conscious effort to get to know someone instead of presuming you know everything about them. That might involve asking questions, putting yourself in their shoes, or talking with others who know them well.
It’s natural to want to feel good in the moment. But, as you’ve learned, chasing short-term rewards can lead to long-term problems. You can overcome this issue by learning to focus on long-term rewards. Here are two examples.
To increase your odds of saying no to the short-term reward of watching TV, focus on the long-term reward of learning for 30 minutes per day.
Likewise, suppose you’re struggling with feeling lonely. You can increase your odds of saying no to a date with the wrong person by focusing on the long-term reward of being available when the right person comes along.
I studied martial arts for years as a child. Our Grand Master taught me a lesson about decision-making that I’ll never forget. He used the following analogy to make his point.
If you walk down the sidewalk and encounter dog poop, you have two options. You can walk through it, or you can walk around it. When you decide to walk through it, you’re creating an unnecessary problem. But, when you choose to walk around it, you eliminate the problem altogether.
Here are a few examples of problems that can be avoided.
You can avoid an unnecessary fight by walking away instead of engaging. You get to keep your job when you respond rather than react to a difficult customer. And you avoid most financial problems when you stop spending carelessly and instead stick to a budget.
Nobody likes to be wrong, but failure is one of the best educators. You become wiser when you’re humble enough to accept your mistakes and learn from them. As a result, you increase your odds of finding future success.
If you have a hard time accepting failure, try the following idea.
When you fail, focus on what the failure can teach you instead of concentrating on what it says about your reputation. When you do this, you shift your focus towards moving forward and away from criticizing yourself.
To develop a failure plan, you begin by thinking about what could go wrong. Then, you decide what you’ll do if it does.
Building a failure plan is helpful for two reasons. First, thinking through what could go wrong helps you build a better initial plan. And second, it prevents you from being indecisive. That’s because a failure plan prepares you to take immediate action when you encounter a problem.
Here’s an example failure plan.
Assume you’re moving to a new city to get a fresh start. In this case, a failure plan might look like this.
You can take the ideas in this article too far if you obsessively worry about every decision you make. To prevent perfectionism, remember that most bad decisions become problematic only when you consistently repeat them.
So if you make a bad decision, don’t panic. Chances are, you’ll be ok if you learn from your mistake and apply that lesson moving forward.
The following book links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a book after clicking one of the links, I will receive a commission.
Reduce financial stress, reach financial freedom, and achieve financial goals like buying a home, paying off debt, and investing for retirement.
Ten Thousand Dollar Giveaway Sweepstakes Entry Contract
By entering this Ten Thousand Dollar Giveaway Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”), you agree to the following terms and conditions:
1. Eligibility: This Sweepstakes is open only to legal residents of the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia, who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. Employees, contractors, directors, and officers of ChrisThornham.com LLC, its affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising, promotion, and fulfillment agencies, and their immediate family members and persons living in their same households, are not eligible to participate.
2. How to Enter: To enter, visit https://christhornham.com/ten-thousand-dollar-giveaway, and complete the entry form with a valid email address. No purchase is necessary. Only one entry per person is permitted. Automated, robotic, or programmed entries are not allowed, and any such entries will be void.
3. Winner Selection: The winner will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible entries received. The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. The winner will be notified by email and will have 30 days to respond and claim the prize.
4. Prize: The prize for this Sweepstakes is $10,000 USD. No substitution or transfer of the prize is permitted, and no other alternative will be offered. All taxes, fees, and other expenses related to the prize are the sole responsibility of the winner. The prize will only be awarded if at least 10,000 eligible entries are received during the Sweepstakes period. If less than 10,000 eligible entries are received, ChrisThornham.com LLC reserves the right to cancel the Sweepstakes, in which case no prize will be awarded. ChrisThornham.com LLC may, at its discretion, extend the Sweepstakes period in order to reach the minimum number of eligible entries required to award the prize.
5. General Conditions: By entering this Sweepstakes, you agree to be bound by these official rules and the decisions of ChrisThornham.com LLC, which are final and binding in all respects. ChrisThorrnham.com LLC reserves the right to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, violates these official rules, or acts in a disruptive or unsportsmanlike manner. The use of any automated or programmed entry method or any other means to obtain multiple entries is prohibited and will result in disqualification.
6. Release and Limitations of Liability: By participating in this Sweepstakes, you agree to release and hold harmless ChrisThornham.com LLC, its affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising, promotion, and fulfillment agencies, and their respective directors, officers, employees, and agents from any and all liability, injury, loss, or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with your participation in the Sweepstakes, the awarding, receipt, use, or misuse of any prize, or any other matter related to the Sweepstakes. ChrisThornham.com LLC is not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate information, technical failures, or any other errors or problems that may occur in connection with the Sweepstakes, including any injury or damage to your computer or mobile device.
7. Governing Law: This Sweepstakes is governed by the laws of California, without regard to its conflict of law provisions.
9. ChrisThornham.com LLC reserves the right to modify, suspend, or terminate the Sweepstakes, in whole or in part, for any reason, including but not limited to any error, technical problem, fraud, or any other cause beyond the reasonable control of the company that affects the administration, security, fairness, or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes. In the event of any such modification, suspension, or termination, the company may, in its sole discretion, choose to extend or shorten the Sweepstakes period by up to one year from the original end date of May 4, 2023.
By entering this Sweepstakes, you acknowledge that you have read and understood these official rules and agree to be bound by them. If you do not agree to these terms, do not enter the Sweepstakes.