How to Make Good Decisions, as Explained by Psychologists
Every day, life presents hundreds of decisions. Whether we are making good decisions or bad ones, our choices range from minor things such as made coffee to major life choices like buying a home.
Every decision we make creates a ripple effect of consequences. For example, caving in and indulging in a doughnut can either lead to throwing in the towel on our diet plan for the rest of the week or to strengthening our resolve and getting back on track by having a salad for lunch. It’s all a matter of our choices.
Everyone makes poor decisions from time to time, but repeated patterns of making poor choices should serve as a wake-up call to do some soul searching on how to harness the power of choice.
Follow these six steps to improve your own decision-making power and start making good decisions that will positively impact your life!
1. Identify the Issue
People make decisions in one of two ways: automatically or thoughtfully. Many of our minor decisions, such as what grocery queue will get us on our way most quickly, take place automatically. But for major decisions, taking a slow, more thoughtful approach helps us identify the underlying motivations and emotions driving our choices.
For example, say your partner receives an incredible job offer that will require relocation, and you need to decide whether to leave your own job to move with them or try to make a long distance relationship work.
On the surface, this appears primarily to be a matter of practical economics: will moving or staying make the most financial sense?
However, if you’ve been secretly questioning whether you want to continue the relationship at all, identifying that underlying emotion helps you understand its influence on your choice. Likewise, if you’ve had unfulfilling long-distance relationships in the past, recognizing that fear of disappointment helps you factor it into your decision.
2. Take Your Sweet Time
As the old cliche goes, marry — or accept a job or buy a car — in haste, repent in leisure. Whenever you’re faced with a major life-changing decision, slow down and take your time thinking things through thoroughly.
Whenever possible, allow yourself to sleep on your decision. When we’re tired or under the stress of a tight deadline, our judgment grows cloudy. A good night of sleep helps clear the cobwebs from our brain and look at the matter in a new light.
3. Avoid Decision Fatigue
Because we make so many decisions each day, we sometimes become overwhelmed, leading to poor judgment. Decision fatigue refers to the way that as the day goes on, we experience a reduction in our ability to make good choices. For example, decision fatigue may drive us to skip the gym and unwind with a glass or three of wine instead at the end of a hectic workday.
Recognize decision fatigue for what it is. When you’re tempted to make a choice that you know goes against your best interest, ask yourself if you would make the same choice if you weren’t overwhelmed.
While this won’t curtail all poor decisions — we’re only human, after all — identifying decision fatigue for what it is leads to good decision making overall.
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4. Educate Yourself
No matter how well-rested we are and how long we ponder or overthink a difficult decision, we still cannot make the best choice without gathering information. If, for example, you’re trying to decide whether to accept a new job offer, you should go beyond what the recruiter told you in the interview and research the company culture online.
If possible, speak to other employees who work at the same level position to unearth what they love about their jobs and what they don’t.
5. Write a List of Pros and Cons
Most difficult decisions offer several avenues to travel down, and weighing the relative pros and cons of each course of action can improve our decision-making ability.
Write down the benefits of each course of action, then evaluate the potential pitfalls of each approach. Writing also helps you determine the best choice to make, as it solidifies your thought processes.
6. Foresee the Consequences
Lastly, give this exercise a try when you just cannot seem to reach a decision. Imagine yourself a year from now looking back and reflecting on the choice you made.
How does this resonate with you emotionally? If it makes you feel good, consider that a plus, but if it makes you feel nervous or anxious, take more time to reflect before finalizing your decision.
While nobody is perfect, we can all improve our lives by making good decisions. The next time you’re faced with a difficult decision, utilize the techniques illustrated above to make the right choice.
We are all products of the decisions we make, so make your life story a happy one by choosing wisely!
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