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How To Make Better Decisions

We encounter an estimated 35,000 decisions each day, such as “Do I want a drink of tea or coffee?”, “What shall I wear?” These decisions shouldn’t take too much mental energy and usually don’t have heavy consequences, but other decisions in life may be far more complex such as “Shall I apply for that new job, even if I have to move home?” or “Am I ready to have a family?” These more complex decisions impact our lives and others greatly. Each decision carries certain consequences which are both good and bad and involves us attempting to predict the future by imaging how each decision will affect us in the days, months and years to come. Furthermore, as a level of responsibility increases, so do the decisions and the risks.

Decision making can be quite overwhelming and we may just let others decide for us or completely avoid making a decision as we think this will be easier.

When we make decisions, we can choose to use either of the following strategies to help guide us to the most beneficial outcome, personally or mutually. We can choose to be:

Impulsive – Uses little thought and usually goes with the first option

Balanced – Weighing up all factors and make the best decision at the moment

Delegating – Give decisions to others

Compliance – Choosing the most popular option

Prioritising – Taking the most time and effort into the decision which has the most impact

Avoidance – Ignoring the choices and avoiding responsibility

Each of us usually utilises all of these strategies throughout our lives depending on the severity of the situation, we may even use a combination of strategies to reach the best outcome. However, how we approach decision making is the first choice we actually have.

There are things we can do help us make better decisions, after all, it’s not about which decision is right or wrong, but which decision is the best for us at that particular time:

Don’t fear the consequences

As previously stated, we tend to attempt to predict the future to help with our decision making, the problem is we are always never as good at it as we think. We usually overthink and overestimate the impact of a decision on our future, for example, we think that winning the lottery will make us happier than it actually will or losing our job will make life unbearable. Truth is that things won’t be as good or as bad as you imagine. Don’t fear the consequences as the worst probably won’t be as bad as we think, and if it is, then we have the psychological resilience inside of us to cope with it. Life goes on.

Trust your gut

We may feel the need to weigh up each option carefully when attempting to make a decision but sometimes a quick judgement using instincts can be just as effective. Your instincts are an embodiment of your feelings, knowledge and experiences which are archived in your subconscious mind which all come together in less than a second to form a ‘gut’ decision. Your subconscious mind keeps us consistent with who we are and our values throughout our lives by using ‘gut’ instincts to help us form quick decisions. For example, ‘gut’ feelings help us determine whether or not a person is trustworthy within the first few seconds of meeting them. This person could have sounded or said something similar to an untrustworthy person in our past which then has forced us to make a quick gut decision about the individual.

Limit your choices

We may think more choice is better, but in reality, it actually hinders our decision-making process. A greater selection of choice makes more demands on our information processing which can be confusing, time-consuming and can even paralyse us to not make a decision at all. When we eventually choose a decision out of so many, we may feel we have missed out on a better opportunity as more choice increases the chance of making a mistake. By choosing the ‘good enough’ outcome, it alleviates the pressure when encountered with limitless choices. Instead of trawling through countless shops, catalogues and websites looking for the perfect choice, ask a loved one if they are content with their choice. Chances are that if they are content with their choice of household appliance, car or computer etc. then you will be content with that choice also.

Finally, one thing that may hinder our decision-making process is our perception of our own identity such as “I’m not good at making decisions”, “I always make mistakes”, “I always chose wrong” etc. Our decision making does not define us as people and does not affect our self-worth or value. What truly matters is learning from our mistakes and moving forward in spite of them. Do not be afraid of making decisions as one of two things can only happen: you’ll choose right or you’ll choose wrong. If you choose wrong you have the opportunity to learn and grow, as you can need to learn why you were wrong before you can learn to be right.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

- Albert Einstein

By Rachel at Cheswold Park Hospital

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