10 Ways to Avoid Making Bad Decisions
Every day, we are faced with an onslaught of decisions, which can range from the trivial to the more important life choices. Whether you are choosing what to make for dinner, or how to respond to conflict, the choices you make can have a long-lasting effect. When it comes to making decisions, most people try to make the right choices, but sometimes, regardless of our intentions, we make the wrong ones.
Although it may seem like we come to decisions in a split-second, some people rely on random occurrences or patterns to make choices. This method, known as the “Monte Carlo fallacy” involves the belief that if something happens more frequently in a period, it will happen less often in the future. Although this is a mistaken belief, many people base important decisions upon it, resulting in poor choices and unwanted results.
While some people call upon luck, others rely on their gut instincts, emotions, or past experiences when trying to make decisions. Whichever process you utilize in your decision-making process, many people find themselves looking back on their lives and wondering why they made the decisions that they did.
While you may still make some poor decisions along the way, the good news is, you can take steps to improve your decision-making skills. If you become aware of the things that can lead you down the wrong path, you can make more rational decisions. To help you in the process, here are 10 ways to avoid making bad decisions.
10. Use a Step-by-Step Decision Making Process
On average, every individual will process thousands of decisions every day. There are major life decisions, such as where to go to college, and there are non-life altering decisions that occur all throughout the day. There are also additional decisions that we may not even be aware of as we are making them. With the amount of choices in front of us every day, it can be overwhelming and stressful. If you find yourself stressed or anxious at the prospect of too many decisions, there are some steps that you can take to simplify the process.
When it comes to making good decisions, it is a process that must be learned. With the five-step decision-making process, you can easily reach a good decision in a simple easy to learn method. The first step involves identifying your primary goal, or the decision you need to make. This is a critical step as it requires you to define the purpose and the nature of the decision you are making.
Once you have clearly identified the decision, the next step requires you to gather information in order to successfully weigh options. Seeking the opinions of other people is always a great source of information. Next, you need to consider the consequences of your final decision and how it could impact yourself and other people. After you have considered all the information, you will make your final decision. Lastly, you will perform an evaluation of your final decision, and the steps that you performed.
9. Make Sure You Are Seeing the Entire Picture
At the opposite of good decisions made with clear judgment and common sense, lies decisions wrought with psychological bias. Psychological biases, which are also referred to as cognitive biases, lead people to make actions or decisions in an irrational manner.
A confirmation bias can occur when you are looking for information that supports your existing beliefs, thereby, rejecting anything that goes against what you believe. This bias is motivated by wishful thinking and leads to prejudice towards a preconceived notion or view. This bias can cause individuals only to see one side of a situation and leads to heuristics, or mental shortcuts.
Individuals who seek out confirmation, or evidence that confirms their expectations or beliefs, will make decisions based upon that bias, which can lead to negative outcomes. While it is a natural instinct to want to confirm our beliefs, seeking out data that confirms our ego is counterintuitive, and can lead to poor decisions.
While confirmation bias and other psychological biases are playing a negative role in the decision-making process, you can eliminate the impact they have in your life. By simply recognizing that the bias exists, you will open up the possibility of overcoming it.
After you have accepted the confirmation bias, you should set up some simple strategies, which will open your mind to new possibilities. Consider welcoming a new range of opportunities to counter the confirmation bias and imagine the possibilities of failure. Lastly, discuss your opinions with others and surround yourself with a diverse group of people
8. Only Make Decisions When You Are Well Rested
When faced with a big decision, we have all taken a break to “sleep on it,” this phrase refers to putting the decision off until after a good night’s sleep. The effect of sleep on the brain has been a topic of interest and debate among scientists for hundreds of years. One thing is for certain, sleep deprivation is detrimental to our brain functions.
The first known study into the effects of sleep was published in 1896, and hundreds of studies have since followed. While the data and results vary among each focus group, a consensus has established that sleep loss impairs several important cognitive functions. The cognitive areas affected including attention, memory, emotional intelligence, and decision making.
When these important cognitive areas are impaired, and sleep deprivation sets in, the brain’s ability to process new information declines. Additionally, we lose short-term memory, are less inclined to deal with distractions, and all the elements necessary to process information. As a result, sleep deprivation has been linked to reckless and impulsive decisions. In fact, some of the worst environmental disasters have been linked to sleep deprivation.
Anytime the brain continues without rest; we increase the likelihood of making decisions with our prefrontal cortex, or reward center. Alternatively, a well-rested brain has more self-control and willpower, both of which play a huge role in the decision-making process.
When it comes to making a good or bad decision, always remember to face choices when you are rested, and consider “sleeping on” your biggest decisions.
7. Remove Your Ego
When dealing with life decisions, there is a good chance that someone else has also faced the same choice at some point. This is a perfect opportunity to seek the advice of another person, which only boosts your chances of making a good decision, but often our egos get in the way. Ego-motivated behavior is not always obvious; sometimes it is shown on a small scale, which affects the way we make decisions.
The ego nurtures our physical, emotional, and social needs, and ensures that we are safe and secure in the world. The majority of the needs, which are met by the ego are stored in the subconscious, and if not met, they can derail our decision-making abilities. Since your ego is responsible for safety and security, when it is lacking, it will take over key decision-making roles. An example of this can be seen with a boss who takes credit for another’s ideas.
Luckily, you can run through a quick checklist, which will tell you if your ego is calling the shots, so you can break free from the egos effects and make sound decisions again. If you find yourself always wanting more, craving control, taking things too seriously, or becoming too competitive, then your ego might be taking over.
To reverse these effects, try focusing on generosity and live in the present. Additionally, stay content in the moment, and focus on courage, rather than fear. Although these are difficult concepts, this will greatly increase your chances of making successful decisions.
6. Avoid Analysis Paralysis
The decisions we make can reflect our morals, and values, which is why many people weigh them with much consideration. Some people put so much thought into the process that it leads to something called “analysis paralysis.” This is when a decision, or situation is over analyzed to a point where a decisions or action is never taken, essentially paralyzing the outcome. The decision then becomes over-complicated, resulting in too many specific options, and a choice is never made.
When you are faced with huge life decisions, this does not mean that you shouldn’t give it the time and consideration that it deserves. You should, however, avoid counterproductive behavior when making decisions, especially when it comes to small everyday decisions. Over complicating decisions, or paralyzing an outcome out of fear can force other people to make decisions for you. This can result in negative, or unwanted outcomes.
There are some things you can do to avoid paralysis by analysis; the first involves finding the difference between big and small decisions. Ask yourself how important the decision is, and how important the outcome will be in the future. Once you have done this, only devote effort to the decisions you have determined to be important. Next, identify your objectives and set an end goal. After you have completed these, you should look at the decisions you are facing, and remove any negative options, to eliminate frustration.
With these tips, you will decrease the chances of analysis paralysis and increase your possibility of making successful decisions.