Decision-Making with Mindfulness

March 23, 2019
Discover how mindfulness can improve decision-making in this article!

Recent mindfulness research found that this practice can positively impact decision-making Why? Because mindfulness allows you to focus your attention on the present in order to avoid thinking in “auto-pilot”, which will inevitably bring you long-term benefits.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” 

-Nelson Mandela-

Sometimes making decisions is hard. You might have doubts or fears that make you rethink your situation and hesitate on whether you should quit or keep going. So, how do you know that you’re doing the right thing? How do you know that you’re not making a mistake? Mindfulness can help you in this regard.

Decision-making with mindfulness

Buddha’s teachings claim that suffering stems from delusional mistakes made out of ignorance. It’s clear that the mind has its own nature, a life of its own. So, to set free your mind from all suffering, you must understand it.

Mindfulness is one of the most powerful tools to allow you to understand your mind and focus your attention. It’s a practice that helps you be aware at all times. It teaches you to pay attention to what’s happening, how, and why, and, of course, to focus on how you feel as it happens.

According to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, 15 minutes of meditation helps you make better decisions.

A woman doing decision-making with mindfulness in the grass.

Mindfulness helps you go from the surface of your mind to its deepest corners. In fact, even if your mind is full of thoughts, this technique will make it easier for you to find some peace. That’s why decision-making with mindfulness is highly recommended to have a clearer picture of what you should do, of what you’re capable of doing, and how to act accordingly. Of course, it’s not easy to be aware at all times, but you’ll learn what works best for you with practice.

Mindful breathing helps you learn to pay attention and accept anything that comes up in your mind; no judging, no fueling thoughts, no violence. Practicing mindfulness isn’t different from any other activity or skill you’ve learned before such as cooking, walking, reading, or playing. In fact, the more you practice it, the more skillful you become at it. And little by little, your mindful moments will last longer until they become mindful days, mindful weeks, mindful years…

The decisions you make define you

The decision-making process has four stages and each one of them can benefit from mindfulness.

Identify the decision to be made

Mindfulness can make you more proactive by helping you identify the moment you should or shouldn’t make a decision. This is possible when you have a good idea of what your goals and possibilities are, when you avoid the resistance to commitment that arises due to bad past decisions, and when you recognize the decision’s ethical dimension.

Some studies point out that people who practice mindfulness are also more aware of their ethical principles. So, decision-making with mindfulness is closely attached to your own values. On the contrary, people who can’t link their decisions to their goals and main values may find that their choice is leading them where they don’t want to go.

Gather information

This stage involves researching and gathering all available information to make the right decision. Two important aspects of this stage are the quantity and quality of the information. Scientists found that if you practice mindfulness, you can develop greater tolerance to uncertainty, which makes you more determined to make decisions, even without fully knowing every variable.

Therefore, decision-making with mindfulness is the way to recognize your knowledge boundaries and the magnitude of uncertain situations.

“Every moment is a moment of decision, and every moment turns us inexorably in the direction of the rest of our lives.”

-Mary Balogh-

Man meditating on a mountain.

Reaching a conclusion

On the other hand, mindfulness also helps you evaluate and quantify the discrepancy between intuition and the systematic analysis you do before making a decision. This involves taking a step back from your thoughts and emotions to have a broader perspective, to know what’s relevant and what isn’t, and to be less inclined to believe in stereotypes.

Reaching a conclusion means taking action. Some studies show that people who practice mindfulness are less likely to fall victim to the “all talk no action” phenomenon. Thus, mindfulness reduces cognitive inflexibility, which is the tendency to make decisions based on automatic thought patterns.

Learning from feedback

This last stage is incredibly important in the decision-making process. Accepting the mistakes you make can be difficult at times. But mindfulness helps with this by making you reduce your defensive responses, meaning that you’ll be more open to negative feedback. You’ll be braver and more resilient.

That’s why mindful people are more likely to learn from past experiences. Plus, it’s easier to let go of your ego when you’re more open to negative feedback.