How to Make Better Decisions?

how to make better decisions?

How to Make Better Decisions?

We make decisions every single day – what to wear, what to eat, how to spend our time. Some of these decisions are small and inconsequential while others can have a major impact on our lives, like what career to pursue or who to marry.

With so much riding on the choices we make, it’s important that we learn how to make better, more strategic decisions.

As a decision-making coach, I’ve spent years studying the science and psychology of decision-making. In this post, I’ll share some of my top tips and strategies for improving your decision-making skills so you can make choices with clarity and confidence.

Whether you’re a student, professional, parent, or retiree, learning how to be a better decision-maker will serve you well in all areas of life. So let’s dive in and explore how to level up your decision-making abilities!

Understand Your Decision-Making Style

We all have our own unique way of approaching decisions. Some people are quick, intuitive decision-makers while others are more deliberate and analytical. Some like to gather tons of data before deciding while others go with their gut feeling.

There’s no universal right or wrong way to make decisions. The key is to understand your own natural decision-making tendencies – both the strengths and the blind spots.

Are you someone who sees decisions in black and white, or do you tend to agonize over all the shades of gray? Do you make choices independently or turn to others for their opinions and advice? Do you focus more on the risks or the opportunities of your options?

Gaining this self-awareness of your decision-making style allows you to leverage your strengths while being mindful of potential pitfalls. It also helps you communicate and collaborate more effectively with others who may have a different approach.

Get Clear on Your Priorities and Values

The foundation of good decision-making is being crystal clear about what matters most to you – your core values, goals, and priorities. When you know what’s truly important, you have a North Star to guide your choices.

Before making any significant decision, I recommend doing a values check-in. Ask yourself:

• What do I care about most in this situation?

• What are my key objectives and desired outcomes?

• Which of my values are at stake here?

• How does this align with my bigger-picture goals?

Getting clear on your priorities acts as a filter, allowing you to quickly eliminate options that aren’t in alignment. It also gives you a framework for assessing the trade-offs between different alternatives.

For example, let’s say you’re deciding whether to take a new job. If your top priorities are career growth and learning, you’ll evaluate the role very differently than if your main focus is work-life balance. Having that clarity makes the decision much easier.

Gather Relevant Information

Once you know what’s most important to you, the next step is to gather the information you need to make an informed choice. This is where many people get stuck, either paralyzed by too many options or jumping to a conclusion based on limited data.

The key here is to collect relevant information, not strive for complete and perfect knowledge which is usually impossible. You want to have enough context to evaluate your options, but not get lost in endless research and analysis.

Some questions to consider:

• What are the most important facts I need to know?

• Where can I get reliable data and diverse perspectives?

• What are the potential risks and downsides of each option?

• What have I learned from my own past experiences or those of others?

• What insights can I gain from talking to people with relevant expertise?

• What’s my timeline for deciding and what’s essential to know by then?

It’s also important to recognize what you don’t know and can’t know – the uncertainties and unknowable factors. You’ll rarely have complete information so it’s important to get comfortable with some ambiguity in decision-making.

Consider Your Options

With the necessary information in hand, it’s time to lay out your options and evaluate the possibilities. Even if a decision seems binary – should I quit my job or not? – there are usually creative alternatives to consider.

I like to use a decision matrix to compare and contrast the different options. List out the top 3-5 choices and then assess each one based on your key priorities and decision criteria. This gives you an objective way to see the strengths and limitations of each possibility.

For complex choices with many factors to weigh, you might even score or rank each option on a scale of 1-5 for how well it meets each criterion. This isn’t about finding a perfect answer but rather clarifying the trade-offs and making the best choice given your circumstances.

As you evaluate your options, it’s also important to check the assumptions and beliefs underlying your thinking. We all have biases, blind spots, and outdated stories that can cloud our judgment. Examining these closely allows you to make more objective, clear-eyed choices.

Some common decision-making biases to watch out for include:

• Confirmation bias: Seeking out information that supports what you already believe

• Sunk cost fallacy: Feeling obligated to continue with something because of the time, money or energy you’ve invested, even when it no longer serves you

• Framing effect: Drawing different conclusions based on how information is presented

• Halo effect: Letting a positive impression in one area influence your perception of other unrelated areas

By spotting these biases, you can consciously correct for them and strengthen your decision-making.

Trust Your Gut

While it’s essential to approach decisions rationally and objectively, there’s also tremendous power in tuning into your intuition. Your gut feelings are often pattern recognition and subtle wisdom based on years of experience.

If you have a strong inner sense about a particular choice – a deep knowing or resonance – that’s data not to be ignored. While you don’t want to make choices solely based on emotion, it’s important to balance analysis with intuitive guidance.

I’ve found that the best decisions emerge from head and heart alignment – where the facts and logic match the deeper sense of truth and wisdom. When I feel that click of knowing, even if I can’t fully explain why, I’ve learned to trust it.

This inner knowing is cultivated through practices like mindfulness, self-reflection and accessing a calm, centered state before making a choice. Getting quiet and tuning in allows you to hear the whispers of your wisest self.

Some simple ways to check in with your intuition:

• Imagine choosing each option. Notice how your body feels – is there a sense of openness or constriction? Relief or unease?

• Ask yourself: Five years from now, which choice would make me prouder and more fulfilled? Which would be harder to live with?

• If a close friend was deciding, what would you recommend to them? Notice if there’s a gap between the advice you’d give others and what you’re choosing yourself.

By blending rigorous analysis with intuitive wisdom, you can make more holistic, aligned choices.

Make a Decision and Commit

No amount of deliberation can eliminate risk and uncertainty entirely. At some point, you’ll need to make a choice and move forward. As the saying goes, a good decision now beats a perfect decision next week.

It can be tempting to endlessly second-guess yourself or spin in indecision. But the truth is there’s power in simply choosing a path, even if it’s not the absolute ideal option. Clarity and progress come from taking action.

Of course, this isn’t about making reckless or uninformed choices. It’s committing to a course but staying open and flexible. Making a strong decision today, while leaving room for new information and pivots tomorrow.

One simple way to practice commitment is to state your decision out loud to at least one other person. Declaring your choice publicly builds accountability and momentum to follow through.

It’s also helpful to identify your next few steps after deciding. What concrete actions will you take in the next day, week or month to move forward? Small steps lead to big leaps.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Let’s be real – not all of our decisions will be winners. We’ll inevitably make some missteps and poor choices along the way. While this can be painful, it’s also how we learn and grow as decision-makers.

The key is adopting a growth mindset and seeing mistakes as opportunities for improvement rather than signs of failure. When a decision doesn’t pan out the way you hoped, get curious about why.

Some questions to reflect on:

• What information was I missing?

• What biases or assumptions clouded my thinking?

• How did my emotions affect my judgment?

• What would I do differently next time?

Mining mistakes for wisdom allows you to refine your decision-making process and expand your perspective. It’s how you gain experience and expertise to make better future choices.

Reframing so-called “bad” decisions is also powerful. In many cases, even choices that seem disastrous in the moment contain unexpected gifts and lessons. The job you quit led you to a new career path. The relationship that ended taught you what you truly want in a partner.

Trust that every decision is in service of your growth and leading you to your highest good, even if it’s not immediately apparent. Learn to look for the blessings and bridges in your “mistakes.”

Practice Makes Progress

Like any skill, decision-making improves with practice. The more you flex your choice-making muscles, the stronger and more intuitive they become. And daily life offers countless opportunities to practice.

Start small by making quick decisions about low-stakes issues. What to eat for lunch, what movie to watch, what route to take. Practice trusting your instincts and committing to a choice without second-guessing.

As you build confidence in your ability to make decisions, gradually work up to bigger ones. Give yourself time limits to avoid getting stuck in analysis paralysis. Set deadlines for deciding and stick to them.

You can also practice in advance by mapping out your decision-making process for future choices. Clarify in advance what’s most important to you, what data you’ll gather, who you’ll consult, and by when you’ll decide. Having a plan makes deciding easier.

And don’t forget to celebrate your decision wins along the way! Acknowledge yourself for the progress you’re making and the powerful choices you make every day, big and small. Confidence is a muscle too.

When to Seek Help With Decisions

While it’s empowering to make your own choices, there are times when seeking outside support can be invaluable. We all have biases and blind spots. Consulting others who have relevant experience or expertise can broaden your perspective.

Some signs it might be time for decision reinforcements:

• You’re facing a highly complex, technical or unfamiliar choice

• There are significant potential risks or consequences

• You feel emotionally triggered or unable to think objectively

• You’re stuck in chronic indecision and making no progress

• Trusted friends or mentors are urging you to reconsider your thinking

Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness but rather wisdom and strength. It takes courage to be vulnerable and admit when you need support. And engaging other minds can lead to creative solutions you wouldn’t reach alone.

Just be sure to ultimately own your choice. While it’s great to gather input, you don’t want to fully outsource your decisions to others. At the end of the day, you’re the expert on your life and need to make the call.

Decision-Making Tools and Techniques

In addition to the key principles we’ve covered, there are a variety of tools and techniques that can help streamline and structure decisions. Here are a few of my favorites:

Decision Matrix

As mentioned earlier, a decision matrix is a simple tool for objectively comparing options based on key criteria. To create one:

1. List your options as rows

2. List your key decision criteria as columns

3. Score each option against each criterion on a scale of 1-5

4. Tally the scores to see which option comes out on top

This is a great way to quantify subjective factors and clarify your thinking.

Pro/Con List

Sometimes nothing beats a good old-fashioned pro/con list. Divide a sheet of paper into two columns and list out all the benefits and drawbacks of each option.

This black-and-white comparison can bring a sense of clarity. And it also helps you anticipate potential challenges with each path.

10-10-10 Rule

For particularly difficult or emotionally charged decisions, the 10-10-10 rule offers a simple way to gain perspective. For each of your options ask yourself:

• How will I feel about this decision in 10 minutes?

• How will I feel about it in 10 months?

• How will I feel about it in 10 years?

Short-term emotions can often cloud our long-term interests. This exercise helps you play out the consequences of your choice over time.

The Coin Flip

And when all else fails, the coin flip can be a surprisingly effective decision-maker. While you may not actually leave a major life choice up to random chance, flipping a coin can provide a flash of insight.

Simply assign each option to heads or tails, flip the coin, and notice your instantaneous authentic reaction to the outcome. Are you relieved or disappointed? Energized or dispirited?

Your response to the coin flip often reveals your true feelings about a decision. What you thought you wanted may not be in alignment with your deeper desires.

Putting It All Together

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide to making better decisions. To recap, here are the key principles:

• Consider all your options

• Trust your gut

• Make a decision and commit

• Learn from your mistakes

• Practice, practice, practice

• Know when to seek support

• Use decision-making tools and techniques

With these approaches, you can face any decision – big or small, personal or professional – with greater clarity, confidence, and ease. You’ll spend less time spinning in indecision and more time taking purposeful action towards what matters most.

But above all, remember to have self-compassion in your decision-making. You don’t have to make perfect choices every time. Simply by engaging in this process with intention and care, you’re doing the best you can. And that’s more than enough.

As the renowned psychologist Carl Rogers said, “The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” The same is true for good decisions.

By committing to a lifetime of practicing these skills and improving your thinking, you’re walking that path of the good life, one choice at a time. And that’s the most important decision of all.

Final Quiz

To recap, answer the following yes or no questions to see how well you’ve absorbed these decision-making principles:

1. My natural decision-making style is the only right way to make choices. (Yes/No)

2. Getting clear on my core values and priorities is essential for good decisions. (Yes/No)

3. Gathering more information is always better for making decisions. (Yes/No)

4. Intuition has no place in strategic decision-making. (Yes/No)

5. Committing to a choice means never changing my mind based on new information. (Yes/No)

Answer Key:

1. No. We all have different decision-making styles and the key is understanding your own tendencies.

2. Yes. When you know what matters most, decisions become much clearer and easier.

3. No. The goal is to gather relevant information, not get lost in endless analysis.

4. No. The best decisions balance logic and analysis with intuitive wisdom and gut instincts.

5. No. Committing to a choice means fully deciding and following through while remaining open to pivoting based on new information.

If you answered 4-5 correctly, congratulations! You’re well on your way to becoming a decision-making pro. If you got 2-3 right, you’re off to a strong start but might want to review some of the key concepts. And if you got 0-1 correct, no worries – now you have a clear roadmap for upping your decision game.

By following these core principles, you can approach any decision with greater confidence, clarity, and wisdom. You’ve got this!

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