7 ways to make better decisions

Make bad decisions a thing of the past

Ever made a bad decision? Let’s face it, who hasn’t? However, while bad decisions are an unfortunate part of all of our lives at one point or another, with a few simple strategies you can limit the possibility of making mistakes and equip yourself to make the right choices. Before you give into any gut feelings or make any drastic resolves, check out these seven steps for making better decisions.

7 ways to make better decisions

Gather all of the information

Many of us go with what “feels right” when making decisions; however, the outcome of important decisions should not depend solely on how you are feeling at that exact moment in time, as feelings can change quite dramatically from one day to the next. Before consulting your gut feeling, try to take into account all the important facts and assess the implications of each outcome. Consider what the risks are with each outcome, who it will affect and whether it is feasible. Looking back on past decisions – and particularly past mistakes – is also one of the best learning tools at your disposal and can help you to realize why certain decisions worked or were unsuccessful in the past.

Set yourself a deadline

While weighing up your options is an important part of the decision-making process, spending too much time seeking out possible solutions and trying to pinpoint the “right” one can actually make the process more difficult and stressful than it needs to be. While a certain period of time should be allotted for considering your options, it can help to set a deadline for making your decision and stick to it. Decide what would be a realistic amount of time for making your decision and write the date down somewhere for your reference. Knowing with certainty that from this date onwards your decision will be made (whatever that decision may be) can actually be a weight off your mind.

Make a pros and cons list

It’s the age-old technique for making decisions, but writing down a list of the pros and cons of each of your options is also one of the most effective ways to make a sensible and well thought out decision. Write down all your options, then dedicate a separate sheet of paper to each. Draw a line down the centre of each sheet and write a list of all the pros (or benefits) of the option down one side of the division and all the cons, or disadvantages, down the other. Rather than counting up the number of pros and cons for each option, it is important to “weight” each point according to how significant it is, grading each point on a scale of one to five, for example, in terms of importance.

Get a second opinion

Going with your gut instinct often means that your decisions are highly swayed by emotion, which may not lead to you doing the right thing. To better see the bigger picture, try to get a second opinion on what you should do from someone you trust and who does not have a vested interest in the outcome. Consulting an older person may also be beneficial, as research results published in the journal Psychological Science indicate that while younger people are often motivated by immediate results, older adults are better at evaluating the delayed benefits , as well as the immediate ones, when making decisions. Also, make sure that you are listening to what your chosen person is really saying and not forming an interpretation to fit in with what you want.

Get in the right mindset

If you’ve got a big decision to make, it’s important to try to increase your mental clarity and focus. To get yourself in the right frame of mind, make sure you are well rested before tackling your problem. Also, try snacking on natural yogurt, which is rich in iodine and zinc, which can both help to boost mental clarity and brain function, and the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus casei, which researchers from Toronto University found can decrease anxiety, helping to put you in a calmer frame of mind for decision-making. Studies have also found that regular meditation can improve decision-making by helping you to use different areas of your brain in the process.

Sleep on it

Many of us have heard the advice to “sleep on it” when faced with an important decision, and research has found that catching some Zs could actually help you to make better choices. Research has shown that sleep can help us to organize memories and process information so that we can actually make better decisions when we allow our unconscious to work on our problems. Furthermore, it’s not just sleep that works; daydreaming has similar results. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that when participants’ minds wandered, the parts of their brain associated with problem-solving became more active than when focused on routine tasks, allowing them to work through difficult dilemmas.

Flip a coin

If your decision-making deadline is near and, after some serious deliberation, you are no closer to making your decision, it may be time to trust your gut instinct and go with what you really want. Not sure what that is? It’s time to flip a coin. While flipping a coin may not seem like the most sensible way to make a big decision, the technique may be more effective than you think. While you do not have to go with the coin’s verdict, your response to the outcome will help you to realize how you really feel about each option and discover what it is you really want. Good luck!

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