There’s one behavioral action every one of us does which is to make hundreds of choices all day long. We make excellent, horrible, and sometimes kind of stupid choices. All of them have consequences, even if those consequences are negligible.
If making good choices isn’t one of your strong points, it’s never too late to learn how to improve your decision-making capabilities. By being someone who makes strong choices, you can be secure in knowing that you made a decision that you can stand behind and not be afraid of any surprise negative repercussions.
Here are 10 Things You Can Do to Make Better Choices:
Wait Until You're Calm
If you’re upset or exhausted, you may not be thinking straight and may inadvertently make a poor decision. In an article on Greatist, counselor and couples therapist Melody Li, LMFTA says, “It’s one thing to be in tune with your feelings. It’s another to let them steer the course of important choices in your life.” When we’re angry, sad, anxious, or feeling anything too intensely, we may not be thinking clearly and it can make us impulsively decide things.
Don’t just decide to simply get it out of the way: Sometimes we need to take extra time and really think about what the possible results of a decision might be. Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT is the author of the book “Life Transitions: Personal Stories of Hope Through Life’s Most Difficult Challenges and Changes” says, “Give yourself time to really think through a decision before you make it,” McBain advises. “Talk to people, journal about it, go on a long walk and mull it over.” Also, if you’re completely exhausted, it’s not a bad idea to sleep on it before you decide so that you don’t make a decision too quickly and regret it later.
Don’t Overthink It
The flip side of not taking enough time to make your decision is taking too much time. This will just make you appear indecisive and as if you aren’t able to take action. If your decision affects someone else, they may resent the fact that you’re taking so long to decide.
Assess Your Values
If you have a strong idea of what’s meaningful to you in the long-term, then when an important decision comes up, you’ll already have a guide in place to help you. Mindset mentor on Smartlifetips.com Yvonne Lines says, “Once we’re clear on these [values and goals] we can use them as our guiding principles for decision making.” Lines gives the example of making a travel decision and says that if you know you value experience over material goods, then you’ll know that you’d rather take a trip to France than buy a new computer.
Determine Your Goal
If you know what you ultimately want from this decision and you’re honest about it, it will help you to make a more intelligent decision. If you know yourself well and you act on that knowledge, you’ll have a higher percentage of good choices.
Consider the Factors
There are many things that you need to look at before you make a decision. Highly respected psychotherapist Lisa Bahar says, “[Take into consideration the] capability of yourself and the other person(s) to give you what you want, [the] timing of your request, whether there are legalities or moral obligations to consider, [and] does acting on the decision jeopardize long-term goals for short-term satisfaction. No decision lives in a vacuum and if you’re able to see the big picture, you can make better choices.
Examine Your Options
Going into a decision and knowing all your options is a strong position to be in. Eliza Boquin, MA, MFT of The Relationship & Sexual Wellness Center says, “Options are rarely perfect, but once we take the time to weigh out the benefits and limitations to each it makes it easier to decide.” Also, consider if there are any alternatives that you could be missing and put those on your list of options, even if they seem silly or outrageous you never know what they can spark just by acknowledging them.
List the Pros and Cons
You can’t know what will happen for sure in the future, but you can come to some natural conclusions and theorize on what might happen if you do decide in one way or another. If the cons outweigh the pros, you may want to reconsider deciding in that direction. Think of best and worst case scenarios and let them influence your decision.
Listen to Your Gut
There are many ways that our subconscious tries to communicate with us. It could be an instinct or gut feeling, or the tiny voice in your head. Don’t ignore them and try to really hear what they’re trying to tell you. Dr. Susan Shumsky, the best-selling author of 14 self-help books, says, “When you listen to your inner voice and follow what it’s guiding you to do, then you gain confidence.” We’re often our own best advisers and we need to trust ourselves, that we know what’s right for us.
Solicit Opinions Selectively
The more opinions you get, the more difficult it will be to make any kind of decision at all. If you absolutely need a sounding board or someone to give you another option, that’s okay, just don’t rely on a group if you don’t have to. Too many opinions can make you feel too overwhelmed and unable to decide anything.
The single best thing you can do to help yourself make better choices is to look back on choices you’ve made in the past. What can you learn from the good ones and the bad ones? Are there things you’d do differently or were there outcomes that were even better than you expected?
No one is doomed to forever make bad choices. Once you believe that you have all the tools you need and that you’re capable of making great choices, you’ll be your own expert decision-maker.