Sometimes life gives us snowflakes. Other times, snowballs. Life is full of decisions, each and every day, from what time you get up, to what you eat for breakfast, whether you exercise and what you choose to do with your free time. Those are the snowflakes, small, manageable decisions we make all the time. But snowflakes add up, and when you get thrown a snowball, say, if you should get a new job or retire when your company goes under, the pressure can bury you. How you dig out is yet another decision to make.
So how to make good decisions so you don’t find yourself in an avalanche? Experts say bad decisions are made for a variety of reasons. Avoiding these pitfalls, and following a logical thought process can ensure you make decisions that will lead to a happy, healthy life.
It’s easy to look at your peers and wonder if you ought to be living in the same way, especially if many of them are making the same decisions as one another. While it’s a good idea to investigate before making a decision, the decision is still about you, not your best friend. Different people need different things; they have different interests, priorities, and personalities. And it may be that a lot of people are making a bad decision one, over and over again.
To avoid this kind of decision-making, learn about yourself. Do a self-assessment. What do you most enjoy? Where do you excel? What do you have, and what do you hope for? Understanding your passions, as well as what you do well and what you do poorly, is one of the biggest factors in making a decision.
As our lives become comfortable, we move into patterns and create a world for ourselves. This is not a bad thing, but when you stop looking outside of your world, you miss the opportunity to expand your knowledge, which means you may be making decisions based on what you’ve built around you, rather than tapping into all the information available. Because we may have limited experience, it’s possible to be overly confident in certain areas because we’ve mastered them in our own world, yet maybe they don’t quite work in a bigger sense. Relying on what worked before is another consequence of having a narrow view.
This isn’t to say your world isn’t satisfying and wonderful. It probably is! The way to make sure your world remains fulfilling instead of limiting is to pay attention to your attitudes and thoughts. When you think, I can’t, or that didn’t work last time, or I’m afraid, instead of shutting down, think of how you can open up to conquering that idea. Right now, you do feel those things, but what would make you have a different attitude? How can you learn, how can you feel unafraid?
While we’re talking about fear, this can be a terrible detractor from making a great decision. In fact, feelings are a common reason many of us make poor decisions. Even good feelings – for example, an option excites you because it allows you do engage in something pleasurable, even if, ultimately, this decision isn’t going to benefit you in the long term. Or sometimes we defer to the familiar, simply because it’s easy.
Allowing yourself to get outside your comfort zone, in almost any situation, tends to make you grow as an individual, which of course leads to more informed decision making.
These pitfalls are a danger to all of us – they’re part of being human. When you encounter a circumstance where you have to make a decision, take a moment to breathe. Careful thought and logic will ultimately be the key to making a great decision.
A good decision-making process involves:
- Understanding the circumstance that you must solve. What is the problem? Sometimes we just see one but we don’t exactly know what it is, or where it came from. The cause is often a good place to start.
- Research the situation. Seeing the issue from an informed outlook will help take the next step.
- Think of different outcomes. As many as you can think of. Just put them all on paper, going beyond all the pitfalls mentioned above. Now, do the old math equation from school, if x, then y. Try it for all your potential outcomes. Use your research!
- Weigh the outcomes. Get a piece of paper, draw a line down the center, make a pro column, and a con column. Write them all out as freely and honestly as you can. Now figure out which of what you’ve written matters most.
- Come up with a couple decisions, and get feedback. This isn’t the same as being influenced by friends, it’s gathering different points of view. You won’t necessarily do what your friend did, but maybe there’s information they picked up on the way that makes one of your pros a con, or the other way around.
- Go forward! By now you should have a well thought out, an informed decision you feel confident in. This isn’t to say it will be a perfect process – you will always encounter the unforeseeable, but realign your path. You’ll do it easily because you’ve already clearly, logically thought this through, based on what’s best for you.