5 Things You Can Do to Make Better Decisions

· September 4, 2016

It doesn’t matter how well you think you make decisions, because you have probably made a couple of bad ones in your life. The judgments we make every day are often influenced by errors of past decisions, prejudice, emotions and mental shortcuts that make us more prone to committing mistakes.

Thus, when the time comes to make an important decision, many people want all the help they can get. However, the important thing is to be prepared, to count on your own tools to decide and, above all, to practice every time we have to make a decision, no matter how small.

1. Take all the time you need

In common knowledge, there is a saying that affirms that the important thing is to meditate your decisions: “Sleep on it.” Beyond the metaphor, sleeping before you make a decision helps you get some distance and lets you get some rest so as to not make the decision with a “hot head.”  In fact, many times it is not meditating or reflecting upon the matter what helps us decide better, but rather simply that we have rested and now have a fresh and liberated mind.

girl looking at sea

But we don’t always have that much time to make a decision. In those cases, taking a brief break can still provide you with better results. Recent studies have found that in even a slight pause before making a decision can lead to better decision.

The next time you are faced with a choice, take a brief pause and focus on the available options before deciding. Don’t let yourself get taken over by the impulse of the moment.


2. Make a list of pros and cons

Making a list of the advantages and disadvantages when faced with a decision is an age old decision-making technique that can help you visualize what can happen in the different situations involved. It’s a good way to visualize the results of whether you move forward or not, or whether you choose one option or the other.

You can make this list on a piece of paper, using a mental map tool or strategy or simply in your head. Just thinking about it, in addition to helping you take a brief break, will help you be aware of how important it is to reflect upon matters.

But, we don’t always have time to do this. When faced with decisions that need to be made quickly, this is not possible. However, it’s important to train your mind for this task, even with simple situations. Do this in order to make a habit out of it and be more agile when it comes time to think.

3. Learn to control the stress

Studies have found that stress can affect the way you make decisions, and that often you are influenced by it in a negative way. A study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science found that in stressful situations, people were more prone to pay attention to positive information, while they simultaneously lose interest in the negative information.

The authors of this study suggest that when you are making decisions under stress, you are more prone to focusing on the benefits, taking attention away from the potential disadvantages. Therefore, in order to make better decisions, it is necessary to ensure that you maintain your stress levels under control and learn stress management skills.

4. Work on your emotional intelligence

A study conducted by researchers of the University of Toronto found that people who have a higher emotional intelligence make better decisions. The study found that the people with lower levels of emotional intelligence tended to let their anxiety influence their decisions. While others who had higher levels of emotional intelligence did not.

man balancing a heart and a brain

Furthermore, the researchers also found that people who are aware that their anxiety is not related to the topic at hand are capable of making better decisions. This indicates that people who are capable of postponing their decisions until they are able to focus solely on the topic in question can accomplish better results.

5. Observe the problem from another point of view

When the matter at hand is very personal and stressful, when it is a decision that will change important things in your life, emotions tend to cloud your judgement. In this sense, a study publish in the magazine Psychological Science found that considering the problem from a stranger’s perspective may help you make better decisions.

In this study, the researchers found that even when the problems are intimate and personal, thinking about them with the mindset of a stranger and putting some distance between oneself and the situation can help you make smarter decisions.