10 Ways to Avoid Making Bad Decisions

2. Listen to Your Body

Don't let stress lead you down the wrong path.
Don’t let stress lead you down the wrong path.

When the body experiences stress, a physical reaction occurs resulting in a variety of symptoms including muscle tension, rapid breathing, and headaches. Anytime we feel threatened, our nervous system reacts by releasing the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones, not only prepare the body for emergency action, they cause the blood pressure to rise, raise your heart rate, and increase our senses.

Making decisions under stress can leave individuals flustered, distracted, and incapable of making any decisions at all. In many cases, when we are feeling stressed, or afraid, our decision-making ability is skewed and we will default to making risky, snap decisions.

Individuals who listen to their bodies find they are much more equipped to cope with stress, thus can make more sound decisions. When you find yourself feeling stressed, or anxious, you can employ some strategies to help you calm down; the first involves taking a simple time-out from whatever you are doing. This could include meditation, a nap, yoga, or just simply listening to music, whichever it is, the objective is to step away and clear your head. Next, always remember to eat well-balanced meals and limit your intake of alcohol. There are also breathing techniques you can try including inhaling and exhaling slowly, and counting to 10.

To avoid making bad decisions in the future, listen to your body and focus on taking calming breaths. The goal is to allow your body time to return to a calmed state before making any further major decisions.

1. Make Your Most Important Decisions First

Fear the sleepy (or sleeping judge) especially if you're in criminal court.
Fear the sleepy (or sleeping judge) especially if you’re in criminal court.

If you find yourself faced with several decisions throughout the day, make your most important decisions first. Many times, we will make unproductive and unhealthy decisions, even when we know better as a result of decision fatigue. This phenomenon has been cited as the reason why many judges do not give criminals a fair trial. At the end of the day, our brains get tired, and after so many decisions we get fatigued and need a break.

Many people think that our decisions are influenced by sheer willpower alone, but after researchers studied judicial rulings over a 10-month period, they found the opposite to be true. The choices made by judges in the morning, when they were refreshed were favorable and the percentages would drop at the end of the day. Once the judge took a lunch break, however, the odds were back in the defendant’s favor. This trend held strong regardless of the crimes committed, or the details of the cases.

What we can learn from this is that when we make decisions repeatedly, we become fatigued, and lose our objectivity. The researchers who performed this study likened this to performing a repetition in a gym and coined the phrase, “decision fatigue.”

You don’t have to be a judge to suffer from decision fatigue; it can happen on a particularly busy work day, or in the comfort of your own home. To avoid decision fatigue, plan your daily decisions the night before and tackle the most important ones first.


Whether you are making a major life decision, or a trivial one, the choices you make can greatly impact your life. Although it may seem like the decision itself is most important, how you make decisions can mean the difference between a good and a bad decision. The weight of a bad decision can weigh on your finances, personal life, and your career. Learning how to recognize a bad decision is a significant step in stopping it in its tracks.

For starters, if your gut is telling you something conclusively in regards to a specific situation, this is a good warning sign. While our instincts are not always right on track, it is a safe bet that there are good reasons for our apprehensions. Additionally, if you find yourself rushing through something or telling half-truths, you may be headed towards making the wrong decision.

If you do not see any of those signs, then you are probably making the right choice. There are however, characteristics to a good decision, which you can look for to ensure that you are well on your way.

Your decisions should have a purpose, which you can follow with a rational description of your process. The criteria used to reach the decision should be relevant and transparent. Finally, throughout the process, you should solicit the experience of others before reaching a conclusion.

With these simple strategies, and learning how to avoid making bad decisions, you will be well on your way to conquering the decisions in your life.