5 tips you can follow to make better decisions
In our passage through life, we have to make countless decisions every day, and all those decisions shape our lives, changing it this way or that based on the consequences of them. Decision making is the process through which we maintain control over our lives, and that is why it is one of the most crucial and complex tasks our brain performs.
But you’ll have to admit, we humans are generally not that great with decisions. If we are to take a sum of all our decisions till this point in life, for most of us the bad decisions will outnumber the good ones.
We often chalk this up to luck, and external circumstances do play an important role, but that is not the whole story. Decision-making is a skill, and it is possible to train your brain to make decisions that will yield the maximum fruit, both in the short and long run.
Here are five things that you can do to enhance your decision-making capabilities and consequently make better decisions every day.
- Be in a comfortable place
A hungry stomach and sleep-deprived brain are not optimal conditions for decision-making. Make yourself comfortable – both physically and mentally – before taking any decision. Mindful meditation is a good way to keep your mind calm in the long-term. In the short term, take a few deep breaths, eat or drink something, and retire to a comfortable place and away from stressors before making a choice.
- Think of long-term goals
Our brain is wired to avoid painful and hard exercises. Given free rein, our default decision-making mode will choose the option that is least painful in the short-term. Hence, it is important to always remember the long-term impact of our choices before we make them, because they may feel painful but are often more instructive.
Say for example, you have a paper due in three days that would require considerable amount of research to write. You are stressed about it, and your brain is seeking release. You can either start studying now, or watch an episode of your favorite tv show.
If you let your brain be, it will automatically choose the tv show. But the right decision, that will help you in the long-run, is probably starting research. If you are not mindful of that long-term goal, a little decision like can start a chain of wrong choices that can seriously affect your studies.
Ask the right questions
When making a decision, we are more likely to be focused on the question of how much we want to do something. We imagine what it would be like after we succeed in our chosen course of action, and decide on the basis of how pleasurable it will be.
But this is an emotion-based process, and more susceptible to wrong choices. Psychologists these days prefer a regret-based approach – asking yourself whether you’ll regret making or not making a certain choice. We don’t usually think of regret until we have made our choices and are looking back in hindsight. Hindsight, however, is nothing but a rational way of thinking, one that we often fail to employ before making those choices. Thinking about how much we are likely to regret is more likely to land you in a better spot.
Take our former example. You’ll enjoy watching the tv show a lot more than starting research. But you’ll certainly regret not doing proper research even more than not watching the tv show. If you focus on regret rather than pleasure, the right decision would come a lot easier.
Ask for advice, but trust your gut
Seeking advice and second opinions is a great practice, and it is often very helpful to have an outsider’s perspective on a problem you are struggling with. But you have to make sure that the final choice is yours. Nobody, however wise or experienced they may be, can have an exact idea of your situation, or the unique perspective of your intuition. Intuitions are often taken lightly as they don’t appear rational, but in reality they are based on our own observations and the information we have gleaned but have still not fully processed. So, seek advice to make things clear and more intelligible, but trust your own gut when taking the final call.
Practice making decisions
Like every other skill, decision-making too gets better with practice. Practicing decision-making may sound like a funny idea, but we often leave several decisions every day to the mercy of other people or elements. We may push the decision on somebody else, like a superior at work, or an external factor like the weather.
We do this because a) this allows us to avoid responsibility, b) our brain doesn’t want to do all the work that is needed for making it.
Push yourself to make decisions every day, even small ones. Seek out situations where you can make decisions, even. This will make your brain more capable of forming rational connections quickly and accurately in the long run.
Decision-making is a complex process, but one that is incredibly important to muster if we are to lead a fruitful and satisfactory life. Chance and circumstances may influence our choices, but our own skill is still crucial. So, hone your decision-making just like you would with any other skill, a lot depends on it.