The Art of Discernment and the Beauty of Bad Decision-Making

We have all made bad decisions. From the most seemingly insignificant decisions (Do I turn left or right?) to the life-altering ones (Should I stay or should I go?); the decisions we make shape our lives and the lives of those around us. Now, let’s be clear: when it comes down to brass tacks, there really are no “right” or “wrong” choices. Our choices simply…are. We make a decision and our lives adjust accordingly. However, for the sake of completing a somewhat coherent (albeit circular) thought, we shall forge ahead with the “good” decision/ “bad” decision discussion. The “no right or wrong” is a topic for another post. 😉

Breaking the Cycle When it comes to making bad decisions, there are two types of people: those who learn from their mistakes and grow from an experience and those who do not. The individuals who learn from their mistakes progress in terms of spiritual development, self-awareness and individuation. Those who do not learn from their mistakes stagnate; they become stuck in a holding pattern indefinitely often repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Some of us are stuck in a holding pattern longer than others while a select few seem to intuitively be able to avoid getting stuck at all.

Being able to break free from the cycle of bad decision-making is a three-part process (for now it is, anyway… I’ll update as I have time and likely add a few more steps): 1.) Recognizing and accepting that we are responsible for our own actions, even if said actions landed us in a sticky or otherwise unpleasant experience, 2.) Making change where change is necessary, despite how painful that might be, and 3.) Learning and perfecting the art of discernment so that we are able to make better decisions moving forward.

Let us first explore this phenomenon that, at least momentarily, some of us seem to be oblivious to the fact that we are responsible for our own actions. We are all well aware that “history repeats itself” on a global scale so why do we seem so surprised to find, on a smaller scale, that the same patterns keep repeating in our lives? Why do some of us fail to recognize the same negative patterns keep cropping up in our lives and that we are literally choosing to remain stuck? It is so easy to slip into the blame-game when things in our lives go awry but when we shift blame onto external events or other people; we are relinquishing control over our own lives.

Repetition, specifically cyclical repetition, is how the universe* hints to us that something needs to change. When we do not pick up on the subtle messages the universe is sending us, the messages become more overt. With each cycle, the message becomes louder and louder, until we react to the intensity of the experience or a forced change is made. That’s right; sometimes the universe will force a change in our lives when we are unable or unwilling to change ourselves. If you have been fortunate enough to have had what you might describe as a universal or divine intervention in your life, consider yourself blessed. You have an opportunity for growth; you have an opportunity to get it right. You are in control of the trajectory of your life. So, without some sort of universal or divine intervention, how are some people able to break the cycle while others are not? Is it a matter of intellect? Willpower? Luck? Hardly. Some people are able to break the cycle by first embracing the awareness that no one and no thing is responsible for our feelings; feelings are reactionary and based in fear. It is the projection of our fears onto other people and situations that leads to errors in judgment and bad decision-making. Acceptance of one’s own role in the cycle is critical. So, again, to reiterate: to become aware that we continue to make the same bad decisions and subsequently acknowledge responsibility is the first step toward facilitating change in our lives.

Facilitate Change & Learn to Discern The second step is to initiate change. If you don’t like something about your life, change it. It really is that simple…and that complicated. Just keep in mind that, when implementing change, you are going to experience a broad range of emotions and the process is not going to be comfortable. Broad, sweeping changes that drastically alter one’s life may not be necessary from the get-go (but then again, they might) and it is perfectly acceptable (if not recommended) to take “baby steps” when making changes. Although it requires us to face our fears and step outside our comfort zone, without change, we are unable to progress. Change really is good.

The third step is learning to practice and perfect the art of discernment. A person who is discerning makes decisions by determining which of several options will provide the best possible outcome for all involved. A discerning individual has in his or her minds eye a vision of the ideal version of him or her self and is always working with a “wise mind” and relying on the higher self, the intuitive self, to discern what choices are working toward personal goals.

How can you begin to be more discerning? Reflect on past mistakes, consider how the mistakes impacted your life and the lives of others close to you and determine what you want the eventual outcome in your life to be. Seek balance in your life above all else. When we are balanced, we can be of better service to others. Know your personal boundaries (and maintain them), withhold judgments, learn how to say “No” when it doesn’t serve you, choose your company carefully, interact with others with sincerity and express yourself authentically. That’s a start.

Final Thoughts We’ve all made our fair share of bad decisions in this lifetime and, depending on age and life experience, some of us more than others. Until we learn to discern, we end up repeating the same behaviors and, hence, perpetuate the repetitious cycle of bad decision-making. When one isn’t able or willing to do some personal reflection or introspection, it is easy to become stuck in a cycle of self-defeating behaviors that are a direct result of making bad decisions. No one wants to admit responsibility for the chaos in his or her own life.

Once a limit has been reached (as in we are able tolerate no more), we must sit down and take a hard look at ourselves. We must remove the veil of deception we’ve become complacent with to truly facilitate change in our lives. Once the veil is lifted, we are able to clearly identify our own role in the cycle, accept responsibility and begin the process of learning to discern. It is in the discernment that we are able to skillfully avoid situations that serve us no benefit and begin the process of healing and renewal: the process of moving our selves out of the darkness and into the light.

The beauty of bad decisions is that they contribute to the overall wonderfully imperfect package that is you.

*(The term “universe” is used here as a reference to the “Divine”, “God”, “The Void; that from which we all originate and return to upon death”. Replace the word “universe” with whatever term you deem appropriate; the intended message is the same.) ©  Art Therapy Girl, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Art Therapy Girl with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. What can I say other than this post really resonates with me? A Little Me, Apparently was the link to getting me to your page, but I think it was bigger than him. Your writing, gifts, talents, etc. are truly beneficial. The world is better because you’re in it!!! 🙂 Thank you just for being you because the words came from you without doing anything other than allowing them to spill forth revealing the wisdom on the pages of your blog.

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