No one is a perfect decision maker all the time. We’ve all made our fair share of regrettable decisions. Don’t sweat it; making sound decisions is a skill set that needs every single one of us needs to develop like any other. Many times making a regrettable decision comes down to the environment and the timing we make those decisions in. For instance, were you rushed when you said yes? Were you stressed? Did you take not the best advice from biased parties? Did you make a decision late in the day when you were tired? Under fluorescent lighting? We’ve all done it.
At business schools, where decision-making is studied, good decisions come down to a pseudo-science in which the “human element” of subjectivity is used less so that the “rational element” of objectivity can dominate. But according to Deepak Chopra in an article for LinkedIn, that’s easier said than done. “This tactic ignores the fact that all decisions are human— there’s no machine to make them for us—and history tells us that the greatest decision always involved a combination of human genius, passion, determination, and foibles. Emotions flared, for good and ill.” This is why it’s important to be aware of your emotional state next time you have to make a decision that matters. Here are 10 ways that your approach, and the environment you find yourself in, can help your decision-making technique the next time around. Here’s to being the best decision maker you can be!
1. Make Better Decisions in the Morning
According to Stanford University research, good decision making should happen in the morning. At the start of the day we feel less risk averse due to the serotonin (helps calm our brain) so that we can take risks and make harder choices early in the morning. Later in the day, serotonin starts to decline and we are more prone to indecision.
2. Be Choosy with Your Circle of People
As humans we are influenced by our peer group’s thoughts so that we begin to make generalizations about the world which reflect in our decisions. Spend time with people who explore multiple viewpoints, who are creative, and social. When you’re curious about the people around you, you can delve into their world view and that’s a way of gaining insight.
3. Take a Walk and Think About Your Decision
Ever notice that when you’re stressed and in a bad mood you tend to make bad decisions? The best way to make a complex decision is to use your conscious brain to gather the information you need, and then take a break. Take a walk. Meditate. Nap. Have a glass of wine. Just give your unconscious mind some time to do its work.
4. Consider the Bright Light in your Environment
Researchers have found that lighting amplifies our emotions, which can impact on rational decision-making. “Bright light intensifies the initial emotional reaction we have to different kinds of stimulus including products and people,” said study researcher Alison Jing Xu, from the University of Toronto Scarborough. So take your decision to a dim lit room instead.
5. Decide in a Second Language
Studies show that when you think about a situation in a foreign language, it removes some of the emotional connection you might otherwise have with your native tongue. So if English is your native tongue, disconnect yourself from it and make a more rational decision in Spanish or French for example, your second languages, according to a Psychological Science study.
6. Ask Opinions of Others Cautiously
Good leaders seek the counsel of others, but maintain control over the final decision. In fact where and how much counsel you seek also greatly influences you decisions. Volume of opinions, for the sake of volume will only tend to confuse matters.
7. Don’t Fall for the “Sunk Cost” Fallacy in Decision Making
Like a bad, long-term relationship, when you’ve already invested so much time and effort into it, it’s not easy to make the decision to call it quits, though you really should. In economics, “a sunk cost” is any past cost that has already been paid and cannot be recovered. This money is now gone, so it shouldn’t figure into the business’s decision-making process. But simply being aware of tit will help you make more rational decisions in the future.
8. Keep the Number of Choices to a Limit
Ever feel like picking out a moisturizer at Rite Aid super store is downright overwhelming. Too much choice not only makes a decision harder, but also makes it more likely that you’ll regret your selection. To improve your odds of reaching a decision you feel good about, find ways of reducing the options.
9. Know Your Goal First
If you aren’t self-reflective and don’t know your goal, you are going to end up making a decision you will regret. As Oprah magazine suggest, try knowing what you really want in the first place. For example, before you make a career switch, ask yourself: Do I really want a different job or do I just hate my boss? Don’t make decisions based on the wrong problem.
10. Create a Pro and Con List
Though your major decision may seem too big and emotional to put on paper, making a list of the pros and cons helps you to not only to visualize the situation more clearly, but to prioritize which options are important to you, and which are less so.
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