If you’ve ever wanted to make better decisions, please get in line. If there is anything that every person on this planet would like to do is make better decisions. In fact, the better way to put it is that we’d all want to make the best decision every single time, without a miss. Is that even possible? Of course not. If it were, someone would’ve done it at least once since the beginning of time, and, as far as I know, it hasn’t happened yet. So, how do you find the middle ground between every decision being the best and the worst decision?
Why Do We Need Decisions?
Unless you act on instinct, everything you do is a decision. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way because the decision appears insignificant; it is still a decision, nonetheless.
The reality is that when you think about decisions, you always picture the big ones—buying a house, having a kid, selling your stock. Everything else that looks trivial seems to be something you do on a whim. But, they’re still decisions.
Your brain is a never-stopping decision machine. Every single moment there are forks in the way, and you make those decisions fast or slow depending on your experience and knowledge of the situation.
When you have little to no knowledge, you might get stuck in a decision-making loop and never make a decision. You’re in no-decision land.
There’s an old saying that a wrong decision is better than no decision. I’d take that with a grain of salt, but there is some truth in there, as we’ll see shortly.
At the end of the day, you need decisions to move your life forward. Small or big, decisions are driving your day moment by moment.
So, how do you know if you’re going to make a good one or a bad one?
What’s A Good Decision?
Before you can figure out a way to make more good decisions, you must first ask yourself what constitutes a good decision?
Every decision that you make has several dimensions which define how you will interpret its outcome:
1) Scope—is this a decision that affects you short-term or long-term?
For example, what you eat for lunch today is a decision that might make you happy or sad over the next couple of hours but will have a zero impact on your life as a whole.
2) People involved—is this decision affecting only you or other people as well?
When it’s only you, the decision, often, seems more straightforward. When you need to take others into account, things start to get a little hairy.
To determine whether a decision’s outcome is good or bad, you need to have something to gauge it against. That means that you need to have an established standard of quality or quantity against which you can then evaluate the result of your decision.
How Can You Ensure You Make Only Good Decisions?
I was working at Next Jump a few years back, and, during one training session, Charlie Kim, owner and CEO, drew a diagram on the blackboard. It looked like this:
Most people want to be on the top side, and we all want to make only good decisions all the time.
The reality, though, teaches us that every so often, you’ll make a wrong decision. The fear of that terrible decision then forces you to take a neutral approach—staying in the middle as in, making no decision.
As you notice, the swing from up to down—the cycle of good and bad decisions resembles something I’m sure you recognize: life, a heartbeat.
I’m positive that the line you see in the middle reminds you of something, too: death; flatline.
The more you strive and focus on making only good decisions, the more you’ll narrow your spectrum and slowly but surely, crush yourself into that one flatline in the middle.
The truth is, you cannot make only good decisions, and you need to accept that to make good decisions, you need to be okay with making a few bad ones.
11 Tips To Make Better Decisions
Now that you have a general overview and an idea about the mindset you need to develop to work on your decision-making skills, here are some tips.
Don’t fear mistakes
The first uber-critical mindset shift when it comes to making decisions is not to fear mistakes or failures. Note that this doesn’t mean that you must lower your standards and accept sloppy work in any capacity. What it means is that you accept that if your decision is a mistake and leads to something terrible, you’ll be able to fix it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.
If you approach all decisions in your life with a fear of making the wrong one, you’ll lose motivation, and soon you’ll be paralyzed even by small decisions.
Every decision in your life requires some energy. It could be in the form of time, money, thinking, or even physical effort. Regardless of the type of energy you put in, that energy must be commensurable to the importance of the decision. You cannot spend the same amount of time thinking about how to paint a room as to whether or not you want to try for a baby.
Each decision you make has a context, and that context needs to be put in perspective. When you prioritize your life, you’ll be well aware of those decisions that require more energy versus those that need less. Without priority, you’ll either treat everything as inconsequential or, the opposite, as an emergency. In both cases, you won’t be able to put the right type and energy level required and won’t learn from those decisions.
Make a lot of small decisions
Decision-making is genuinely like a muscle. The more you use it, the better it gets. The less often you use it, the more it gets stale and atrophies. To gain the self-confidence and drive to make the big decisions in your life, you need to make many small decisions and often reflect upon the results of your process.
There are dozens of opportunities to make small decisions in your life, and you’ll find them around your family, friends, or even in other social situations. Recognize when you are about to make a decision and go for it.
At a later time, write in your journal how you felt and what you’ve learned. I’m not saying you should document every decision you make throughout the day, but find some that touched you emotionally.
You want to acknowledge them and mull over the process and the results, which will help sediment that self-confidence you need to move to the next level.
A wrong decision is better than no decision
Often, when a decision seems too complex, and you feel stuck, there’s a tendency to do nothing. More often than not, that behavior winds up putting you in a corner. You allow that decision to be on the back burner until it becomes so urgent that you must choose something.
At that point, you might even justify a wrong decision because of the time crunch. But, the truth is, you allowed that decision to be delayed until it was too late.
So, when you put off looking for a hotel because there are too many options, choose one anyway. If it’s a bad hotel, you’ll learn something, and if you don’t make a decision, you might wind up in a worse situation. More importantly, though, you prevent developing the bad habit of pushing away those difficult decisions.
Instead, decide with a clear understanding that it might be wrong no matter how much effort you make. In any case, it is always better than not making any decision at all.
Be aware of overthinking
Another issue that affects your ability to make better decisions is overthinking. Because any decision requires a logical path that can fork in many directions depending on multiple variables, it’s not unusual to get stuck in a thinking loop.
Every session takes you to a new fork, and with every direction you choose, it seems to create more and more forks in the road. Soon, the decision appears to have so many variables that it becomes overwhelming to the point where you don’t know what to do.
Beware when you find yourself in these kinds of loops. When you see that you keep coming back and re-evaluating the same things over and over again, and you research the same issue ad-nauseam, take a break. Please step away from it and let it be. Later, come back with your mind refreshed.
When you find yourself in this kind of predicament, it might help to ask someone else for advice. Either way, learning to stop overthinking is a great way to ensure that you make more decisions.
Reduce your options
No matter how complex or straightforward a decision is, the more options you have, the more it appears complicated. A simple decision, such as what food to order, can take seconds if the menu has five items or ten minutes if the menu has twenty pages.
As a similar example, if you’re trying to buy a house and your target is the entire map of the US, you’ll be spending the next few years trying to find something suitable.
Reducing options sometimes can feel like limiting the possibility of the best decision, but in fact, having too many options increases the chances of making a bad decision, too.
When you see that you have too many options, try to eliminate big chunks of them. Please don’t do it willy-nilly, either. Use a similar decision-making process to eliminate those options in the way and only keep those that are essential.
When you eliminate the fluff, your decision-making process will speed up, and your judgment will improve.
Trust your gut / take a leap of faith
Often, you feel something, and you think that one way or another is the right way. That usually happens when you are connected emotionally to a decision, or you’ve been making several decisions in that specific context. When you feel that way, the best thing to do is go with your gut and take that leap of faith.
The moment you doubt yourself and start questioning your gut and instinct, you are diluting your judgment. If you take the leap and hit yourself in the head, so be it; you learned something. But the more you deny your gut feeling and start to bring more logic and additional options and more people into it, the less you’ll learn to trust how you feel.
Being bold and courageous in the face of decisions is precisely how you sharpen your skill for decision-making. So, next time you feel like you know the right way, take it.
Think about the opposite
This tip is handy when you’re talking about binary decisions. These are those decisions where you have two options, and for each of those options, you can create a list of pros and cons.
Think about things such as:
- quit the job or don’t quit the job
- buy a new house or don’t buy a new house
- go for a walk or don’t go for a walk
Of course, in these examples, you can probably spot the hard ones versus the easier ones, and you can imagine how the decision-making tree is much hairier in the first two. But, in the end, there are still only two choices. You already have reduced options, and you probably have a gut feeling to go one way or another.
That is the point where you could play a bit of the devil’s advocate. Imagine that you make a decision that is opposite to what your gut and logic tell you. How does that look like? Do the pros and cons still stand?
Many times picturing that you’ve already taken the opposite decision is a great motivator to go with your initial gut.
Control your emotions
Before, during, and after making a decision, an avalanche of emotions might hit you. They could range from happiness and joy to frustration, anger, fear, or despair. Sometimes those emotions swing from one end of the spectrum to the other depending on where you are in the decision-making process.
For example, you might feel pleased about the idea of buying a new home. Then, you make the call and place the offer. Five minutes later, fear hits you. “What have I done?”
That is perfectly normal, and it’s part of the decision-making process. After all, you are human, and you are entitled and should embrace both comfortable and uncomfortable emotions.
The difference is how you react. If you are well aware that any decision you make will elicit emotion, and often that emotion will be the opposite after you’ve made the decision, you will be well prepared to feel it.
In fact, after doing this for a long time, you’ll be happy when you feel that knot in your belly. After all, this happened before, and the world hasn’t ended.
Know that the way you feel will not change the outcome of your decision nor the circumstances that led to that decision. So, practice being comfortable with those emotions. Let them be a signal that you’re growing and that you are sharpening and strengthening your judgment muscle.
Stay true to your values
Your behavior and attitude toward everything, including your decisions, are strongly influenced by the set of values and beliefs you have. Even if you are not fully aware of your values and beliefs, they still exist and drive your behavior subconsciously.
Many times, when you face a decision, you will deliberately weigh it against your values and beliefs. When you do that, you’ll get that gut feeling we discussed above, and you’ll instantly feel what matches your values and beliefs.
When you start to feel emotions overriding those values, catch yourself. Often, fear, anger, or peer pressure might drive you to decide against your values. More often than not, you will wind up regretting that decision.
Other times, you might find yourself having an epiphany about your values and shift your value system.
The point here is that whatever your values are at some point in time, you need to be well aware of them and never act against them.
Limit feedback to trusted sources
Sometimes, even the best decision-makers feel stuck. It will happen to you as it happens to everyone, no matter how trained and developed your judgment is.
Those are some moments when you should consider asking for help or advice.
However, this tip comes with a huge warning sign. In the same way, too many options made decisions much harder; too many external inputs will do the same. Don’t ask everybody in the world what to do because you’ll be even more confused than before.
Instead, have a limited number of people, or even just one. That person or group should be invested in you; in other words, they should care. In addition, they should have good knowledge about the subject and a proven record of making good decisions, at least in that context.
In this way, you are getting targeted advice from people who are “in the arena.”
When you get advice, run it quickly through your decision-making framework and see which direction it tilts. The most important thing here is to only get advice from people you trust and add value.
Keep Sharpening Your Decision-Making Skills
If you want to be a better parent, leader, son or daughter, husband or wife, learning to be decisive is a critical skill. When you’re bold and self-confident, you’ll be able to move mountains. You’ll grow and move forward toward your goals and vision in life.
But decision-making requires a deliberate effort and practice, and it requires you to show up every day and do the work. Be courageous.
Over time, your judgment will improve. You’ll never make 100% great decisions, and you won’t even make 100% good or so-and-so decisions. But the more decisions you’ll make, the greater the chance that you’ll make a few great ones that will change the course of your life.
That predicament is much more favorable than expected never to make bad decisions. Once you accept that, you’ll become unstoppable.
Other Resources on How To Make Better Decisions
- 9 Little Habits That Make You a Better Decision Maker
- Make Better Decisions
- 12 Ways To Make Better Decisions
- Top 10 ways to make better decisions
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- Do you consider yourself a good decision maker?
- What do you think makes you stuck when it comes to decision-making?
- Have you developed your own decision-making framework? How does it work?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!