How many times do you do something that has a bad ending and you call yourself stupid? If you were truly stupid, you should be able to easily forgive yourself. Its more likely you were acting foolishly.
I heard this great distinction at a leadership conference this past week. Stupid refers to not having enough knowledge to make the right choice. If this is the case, then the mistake you made is truly a good lesson to learn from. Experience is a very good teacher.
However, you might have been foolish not to seek out more information before you made your decision. Or more likely, you made your decision on an emotion instead of rationally considering all options and consequences. You should properly call yourself foolish instead of stupid. Or maybe you can just call yourself human.
Atul Gawande, in his book The Checklist Manifesto, describes this distinction as errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don’t know enough) versus errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know).
Gawande suggests making checklists to follow whenever you are faced with a complex decision. I believe this is good practice even for simpler choices.
I recently made a checklist for making purchases over $200. Have I read comparative reviews on the product? Have I checked for a cheaper price online (I added this after I found a pair of headphones I bought on sale were $100 cheaper on Amazon.). What will the loss be if I don’t buy this product now? How does this loss compare to the gain I might get in saving time or whatever rationale I’m using to justify my purchase?
You can create your own checklists for making decisions on how to spend your time, on when and how you should meet people, on exercising, on eating or on any other decision you call yourself stupid for making.
Checklists may sound boring. According to decision-making expert, Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, making checklists is a wise thing to do. There are times when you need to think fast. Yet when making everyday decisions, you might want to slow down and have a method to override your controlling emotions.
You can be both smart and wise. Just quit calling yourself stupid!