How to Make a Good Decision About Anything

How to Make a Good Decision About Anything

How do you decide which road to take, what dish to order, how to say something to someone? (image by h.koppdelaney, flickr)

Can’t make up your mind? Here are five simple decision-making strategies to help you decide about anything life brings to you.

Maybe you’re not sure if it’s time to say “I love you” – or how you should propose to your girlfriend. Or, maybe you’re confused or even paralyzed about buying a cell phone, car or condo.

Simply being aware of the following decision-making myths and strategies will help you make better decisions.

Decision-making is actually good for you. Research shows that the more decisions you make about your life, the more “in control” you feel. Your confidence and self-esteem will grow and you’ll feel more capable to handle the ups and downs in life when you’re making good decisions. That said, bear in mind that research also shows that being responsible for too much (such as making all the decisions in an air-traffic control tower) can stretch you beyond your limits.

So, how do you make good decisions? Try these 5 decision-making strategies.

First, let’s debunk two decision-making myths:

It’s a myth that everything hinges on making the right decision

This is not true! Most decisions can be reversed, fixed, or changed – whether they’re right or wrong. Even if you make the wrong decision, such as leaving a relationship, it may not be too late to choose the right path later.

It’s a myth that you are either decisive or indecisive

This is a myth because you’re probably indecisive in certain circumstances, and decisive in others. You’re not likely to be completely one or the other – so try not to label yourself such (or you set yourself up for failure and self-criticism). You may be confused about which cell phone to buy, and completely clear about how to propose to your girlfriend. That doesn’t mean you can’t make good decisions.

Remember that there’s often no “perfect decision.” Every decision has its pros and cons, and every decision will lead you to even more decisions.

5 Decision-Making Strategies

1. Do a trial run. “Live” with your decision for several days and see how you feel. Follow your gut reaction. Pretend you’ve made the decision, live with it for awhile. For instance, picture yourself saying “I love you” – and visualize how it will affect your relationship. You can even project living with this a month or year from now: does your decision still work in the future? Making good decisions involves visualization.

2. Find a sounding board. Sometimes talking to two or maybe three other people will help you think through the possibilities and make good decisions – but don’t talk to too many people or you’ll get confused. Talk to people you trust and respect. You may not need their advice; you may simply need to talk through the options. Talking can help you think more clearly to make good decisions, if you invite your sounding boards to give you objective feedback, you may find some valuable advice.

3. Gather information to make good decisions. Do the research! If you’re making an important decision about investing in a mutual fund or buying a condo, find out about the possibilities, pitfalls, and predictions. If you’re genuinely confused about whether you can admit your love, talk to a counselor, your partner, and/or a wise friend or mentor. Use what you’ve learned to make your decision (in other words, don’t ignore the facts). Don’t be afraid to look into your own soul when you’re making good decisions.

4. Accept the chain reaction. When you make one decision, you will probably need to follow up with others or deal with the consequences. For instance, if you say I love you, your relationship will probably change. If you invest in that mutual fund and it drops, you need to decide whether to sell or ride it out (ride, baby ride!). Few decisions are isolated incidents. Even deciding which cell phone to buy could affect other aspects of your life.

Do you worry about the big and little things in life? Here are a few ways to stop worrying from really smart people.

5. Remember past decisions. What happened last time you were faced with this particular decision? What did you do, and how did it work out? Has anything changed between now and then? Learn from your previous choices! If it was a poor decision the first time, it’ll be poor again the second time unless significant things have changed. When you’re making a decision now, remember your past decisions – good and bad.

Here’s one of my favorite decisions to make in life: how to decide on where to go on your next vacation.

What do you think – how do you decide about big and little things in your life?

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2 thoughts on “How to Make a Good Decision About Anything”

  1. Thanks for your comments, Tina!

    I should’ve added the research about making decisions: it’s actually very taxing and exhausting for your brain to make too many decisions in one day. We should limit the number of decisions we make, and only make decisions when we’re feeling energetic, calm, and healthy.

  2. This is a great article about the steps used in decision-making. I have a son in law who should read this because I think he’s being slightly overwhelmed with all the things he’s coping with. Hey, I’ve divorced and it was overwhelming to me. And, there’s something nice and comforting about having a plan of action like you’ve put together here.