Each day, we make thousands of small decisions; ranging from what to wear (or if to wear anything all together), what to eat, how to respond to others and the best way to interact in conversations. Combined with the less frequent, but bigger, decisions like career, education, financial planning, etc. each decision is part of how we function . Sometimes fear and doubt lead to us compromising ourselves and making bad decisions, or worse, not making any decisions at all. It could be argued that becoming a better decision maker essentially makes us more productive, more confident and leaves space for the fun stuff (once we’ve actually decided on what the ‘fun stuff’ is).
Here are some helpful tips to become a better decision maker.
1. Don’t be a perfectionist
Seeking a perfect outcome might limit how we view our decisions. Do we take all the information into consideration or are we focusing solely on our goal of perfection? Rather than making a decision, seeking perfection might become an endless and unattainable process, subsequently turning us into bad decision makers. So weigh up your options, be open to all the information and focus on where your choices are valuable and trust that the rest will follow.
2. Own up to mistakes
It’s easier said than done to take responsibility for the errors in our way. No-one truly likes to admit that they are wrong, but the sooner we own up to our mistakes, the quicker we learn from making them again. Could a mistake have been avoided and if so, what steps can we take next time to steer clear of it from happening again?
3. Trust yourself
Equally important as learning from our mistakes, is our trust in our own experience and intuition. If we don’t trust ourselves, how on earth can we fully trust the decisions we make? You probably know more than you think you know. It takes a lot of courage, but just like owning up to your mistakes, own your decisions. A good way to build your confidence is to remind yourself of all the small things you do everyday that require you to trust yourself. Knowing when to leave the house to get somewhere on time, knowing what to cook to ensure everyone has a healthy meal, knowing how to save money to buy something and knowing you’ll enjoy that something, are all acts of trusting yourself. The acts might be small but knowing is big.
4. Get on with small decisions to make room for the big ones
Some decisions warrant a higher priority than others and these differ for everyone. Ask yourself the question if this decision will still make a difference tomorrow and if the answer is ‘no’ then make a snap decision there on the spot. What shall we eat for lunch? bam! sushi. What shall I wear for work today? Lay it out the day before. Can I attend this meeting? I’m busy.. so no, email sent. If you spend too much time doubting the small stuff, not only will you dampen your confidence in your own decision-making, but it will leave very little time to effectively tackle the big stuff.
5. Ask for advice
If you don’t have the knowledge or experience yourself to make the decision, ask someone who does. There is absolutely nothing wrong in not knowing everything, and even if you do, certain circumstances can benefit from a second opinion. This could be a close friend or family member when dealing with personal matters or a financial expert when dealing with a new investment for example. Asking advice does not mean you need to follow someone else’s decision, it merely means you’ve explored all the information out there to make your own [decision].
6. Take bias and influence into account
As much as I’d like to say we’re all in control of our own decisions, unfortunately cognitive bias is a huge factor in how we decide to move forward. From a psychological perspective, decisions are often weighed against a set of our needs and by individual preferences. Even if we’re not fully aware of it, we’re constantly being influenced/manipulated by those around us, the media, the economy, society, …. Biases in how we think can be major obstacles, affecting our judgments, in any decision making process. Cognitive biases like how we feel about a certain person/situation, previously held beliefs, fixation on only one piece of information or overestimating our own judgement; can all have a negative impact on the decisions we make.
To try and work around your psychological biases stay focused on the main criteria you’ve set for making the decision, seek out new information from various resources, play ‘Devil’s advocate’, and reflect back on past experiences where you may have rushed into a decision too fast. Take all of this into account to create a holistic picture of the situation and then dive in with confidence.
No one is a perfect decision maker all the time and most of us have had to learn the hard way in order to be a good decision maker today. Everything we’ve done to this day has been a result of decisions we have made in the past. Making decisions should focus on where you want to be in the future.
So try and strengthen the above points for yourself and your decision-making will already become a whole lot easier once you know what your boundaries and your values are.