5. Make a Pro-Con List
If you find yourself faced with a difficult decision or even a relatively simple one, and you just can’t reach a solution, a pros and cons list can help you sort through your options. You can avoid making bad decisions by carefully weighing the negative and positive aspects of your decision with this helpful tool. This decision-making strategy allows you to break down the situation from varying angles, to consider different solutions, and come to a reasonable solution.
Weighing the pros and cons can speed up the decision-making process and increase your understanding of the situation. With an increased understanding, you are more inclined to make good decisions. This strategy is commonly used in groups to help with team members who favor one idea over another.
You can easily implement this method to avoid making bad decisions in your own life. The first step involves writing your decision on a blank sheet of paper, then divide the paper in half and label one side “pro,” and the other, “con.” Once this is completed, you should list all the positive aspects of the decision in the pro column, and the negative aspects in the con column.
As you write your pros and cons, your decision might become glaringly obvious, if not, you may need to take the tool one step further. To do this, go through each pro and con and assign a rating score. When you are finished, add up your overall scores, and it will determine what you should decide.
4. Take Steps to Overcome the Sunk-cost Bias
A sunk-cost is a cost that cannot be recovered, it is something that you have already spent money on. For instance, a gym membership, regardless of if you reap the benefits of the gym, you have already spent the money every month, and it cannot be returned. So, how does this affect our ability to make decisions? Many people get stuck in a thinking trap called the sunk-cost bias, which causes people to make irrational decisions because of the time, or money they already invested into an activity.
The sunk-cost dilemma is the reason why people watch movies they do not like or continue with bad business investments. This trap causes people to persist with bad decisions due to an irrational attachment to costs, which cannot be recovered. Big organizations and governments are infamous for falling into this trap.
This trap can affect individuals at a personal level and leads to a variety of bad decisions including following through on unfulfilling jobs or career prospects. An individual would find themselves doing that because they are attached to the time and energy they put into it. This same justification applies, with bad relationships, many people stay in bad relationships because of the sunk-cost bias.
The sunk-cost bias can also lead to bad everyday decisions like overeating and keeping useless clutter in your home. To avoid this trap and the bad decisions it causes, it is important to allow yourself to make mistakes and act like everything you own is in the present.
3. Consider Your Emotions
Some research finds that our ability to make decisions is not purely cognitive, but that emotion also plays a big part in our ability to make rational decisions. If you think back on a time when you had to make a hard choice, you will probably recall your emotions getting in the way. Every time you think you have settled on a decision, a conflicting emotion will place you in a tug of war until you end up back where you started.
Our emotions can be helpful in determining how we feel towards some of the most important aspects of our lives. When we are guided by overwhelming emotions, however, it can cause us to make quick decisions and rational justifications. It can also distort facts and create biases and errors. According to several studies, even emotions unrelated to the decision at hand can influence the outcome.
Fortunately, you can take some steps to remove the emotion from your decision-making process. You can start by bringing in an objective outsider, this can be a colleague or friend, but it should be someone who has no emotional connection to the decision you are making. Next, consider implementing your own set of decision-making rules, these should be objective and will guide all your future decisions.
Lastly, you can implement “zero-based thinking,” which involves removing everything except hindsight from your thought process to gain clarity for decision-making. With these simple techniques, you can determine when your emotions are affecting your ability to make rational decisions.