A 94-Year-Old's Take on Making Good Decisions

Photo: Elvert Barnes

I’ll admit it: I’ve spent too much money, I’ve said things I regret, and I’ve made bad choices. To be fair, I’m sure everyone’s guilty of some bad choices, but it made me wonder — who am I to be giving advice on how to make good ones? So I decided to go out and get some advice from someone with a lot more life experience — my grandmother, who at 94 is as independent, effervescent, and opinionated as ever. I knew she’d have some ideas for me, but boy was I surprised by her perspective. Here are some of her thoughts on making decisions. (See also: 7 Frugal Lessons From Great-Grandmother)

Be Grateful That You Have Choice

It’s natural to dread having to make a tough choice — I know I often do. But what if you thought of that choice as a privilege? My grandmother grew up at a time in which women just weren’t given much say; she was raised to listen to her parents and then later, all the big decisions went to her husband. Now that she’s all on her own, she relishes doing what she wants, even at the cost of sometimes making choices she regrets. So next time you’re struggling with a decision, remember that you’re actually indulging in a luxury that has not always been available to everyone — and that in some parts of the world still isn’t.

Do the Best You Can

How can you ever know if you’re making the right decision in a given situation? The answer is, you don’t. My grandmothers says all you can do is your best, because what often determines the turnout is unknown. She also told me she thinks life is a gift. I take that to mean you have to learn to love it, even when it doesn’t always turn out the way you had hoped.

Do What You Want

As an active and able 94-year-old, my grandmother relishes being able to do whatever she wants. Maybe some of that’s a luxury of old age, but she’s also learned that you just can’t make everyone happy, so it’s best not to try. Going with the flow can often be a way of taking the easy way out. Make the decisions that are right for you.

Try to Be Deliberate

When it comes to shopping, my grandmother admits that she sometimes has a hard time saying “no” to something she wants. As someone who grew up and lived most of her life with very little more than the basics, I think she’s probably the only one who sees her purchases as indulgences. Still, she says it’s important to learn to think hard about what you want. Not so much so that you can make the right choice, but so that you can make ones that you won’t regret.

Take Advice From Other People

My grandmother has more friends and family than anyone I know, and she often turns to other people for their opinions and advice. She’s not afraid to say she doesn’t have the answers, or to seek out someone who can help, whether it’s with filing her taxes or fixing her dryer. If you’re struggling to make a decision, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to those around you for both help and support.

I can’t say I’m a pro at decision-making, but my grandmother was quick to say that despite having more experience, she doesn’t have the answers. But through all the decisions she has made — both good and bad — my grandmother is still as hopeful and spirited as ever. And that’s a choice too.

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Guest's picture

I'm a big fan of PF blogs and Minimalism blogs.

But just recently I did something counter to what some would say makes good sense.

I bought a $15,000 motorcycle. Now why does someone almost 60 need to buy one of the fastest street legal bikes on the market today? Absolutely no reason at all.

But as the years have gone by, and I've grown from boy to man, one thing I've come to learn to trust is my inner voice, my gut.

It's said one never enjoy toys as much as when one is a kid. Well, I'm finding that's not true. I think this motorcycle brings me more joy than any toy I've ever owned. I'm really having a lot of fun.

And if one more person tells me to be careful, I swear, I'm going to slap em.

Guest's picture

Love this article. Glad to hear from your Grandma.

Guest's picture
Rebecca B. A. R.

Your Grandma sound very wise. She is also one of the cutest little old ladies I have ever seen! Be grateful that you have someone so lovely in your life!

Tara Struyk's picture

Thanks for the comment, Rebecca! My grandmother is super cute, but the picture is just a representation. I'm not sure she'd be comfortable having her face in print!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the really insightful post, and of course thanks to your grandmother for sharing her wisdom about decisions. The first tip: be grateful we have decisions to make really resonates with me: I often experience an "anguish of freedom" (Satre I think), when faced with choice. In reality, none of the options I am faced with would be bad, which takes away much of the stress about it.

I still agonise over big decisions, with hours of research and list-writing, but I have tried to reduce my decision-effort for smaller decisions. Often a decision is much better than no decision, with that in mind - pick one and accept it with no regrets. I think this idea is particularly important for those in leadership roles: providing leadership means, in part, having (or being seen to have) that deliberate and strong sense of direction.

Tara Struyk's picture

I think that's good advice whether you're in a leadership role or not. After all, you never know how things would have turned out if you'd chosen something different; the best you can do is your best, and then accept accept the consequences with grace.

Kentin Waits's picture

What a great article - good point about being grateful for having a choice in the first place.

Guest's picture

Your grandmother is just adorable! She's amazing at 94. Great advice too :)

Guest's picture

The "Greatest Generation" strikes again. My Dad, age 92, has owned his own home free and clear for over 60 years. He and Mom traveled for years and after retirement and spent a dozen winters in Florida to avoid Michigan winters. He still builds things in his basement workshop and helps out wherever he can with his kids' landscaping needs and household problems (dripping faucets, eavestrough cleaning, etc). Hard work, lots of exercise and avoidance of harmful substances have improved his quality of life too. Good decisions make life better. Do we listen when he speaks? Yes, we do. His life experience and wisdom is priceless.