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5 Strategies to Help You Make Winning Decisions

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how to make the best decision

Have you regretted any of the decisions that you’ve made? I’ll take a wild guess here and say “yes.” We all have walked in Remorse-land many times and have made mistakes we would gladly erase if given the chance. So then, if someone comes to you and offers you a time machine to go back and alter some of your not-so-bright choices, you would take it, right?

Of course, this all makes for an enticing plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, but in reality, such kind of magic doesn’t exist. How about then if you are given the next best alternative, the tools to make better decisions from the outset, rather than living with regrets and wishing to have the power to bend time?

Here are five strategies which will help you become better at picking the winning option:

1. See the future you

In his widely-popular research, Hal Hershfield, a UCLA associate professor who has studied for years how people can make better long-term decisions, asked participants to envision themselves in 10 years. fMRIs detecting brain activity showed that we think about our older selves the same way we do about complete strangers.

But when part-takers were shown computer-altered pictures of themselves looking near retirements age, things changed— they allocated twice as much money to their retirement fund vs. buying something new today.

The rather salient takeaway here is that, to make better decisions, we must imagine how they will impact our future selves. If you believe a choice will help you get you closer to the future happy and successful you, then, by all means, take it. But if you are unsure, better have another think.

2. Expand your pool of options

An excellent piece in the NYTimes describes a study by Paul Nutt—a Professor of Management at Ohio State University, who, in the early 1980s carried out a study among senior managers at public and private companies in the U.S. and Canada on how they made decisions. He found out that half of the decisions in companies failed because people tended to take shortcuts and didn’t spend sufficient time looking for alternatives and evaluating them (only 29% did so).

And this can cost us. According to other research, when we ignore assessing other options, our chances for success are about 50 %, while decisions involving at least 2 choices lead to a favorable outcome in 2 out of 3 cases.

To come up with some quality ideas, in addition to expanding the size of our canvas, we should involve other people in our brainstorming endeavor, draft a list of the choices and assign weights to each. The highest score wins.

These approaches will enhance our decision-making skills, which, in turn, will give us a shot at something much bigger; a chance to reach our goals, be happier and have a more fulfilling future.

“Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options.” – Simon Sinek

3. Limit your pool of information

Yes, this idea goes directly against the above point and sounds counterintuitive, but if you get to think about it—it does make sense. Studies from Princeton and Stanford Universities, have revealed that when we immerse ourselves in a sea of information, we may end up pursuing non-instrumental data, which we then use to make decisions.

Naturally, the quality of that outcome will be questionable. Sometimes, we may end up with a choice that we wouldn’t have made altogether (and possibly regret it later on) if we didn’t rely on this irrelevant information.

How do we end up in such a position? It’s driven by our aversion to uncertainty. Simply put, our brains hate volatility and try to resolve it any way they can. One way is by seeking any information that seems like a good candidate and hastily pick it.

Phew, problem solved! Move on. But, as research tells us, seeking out more details do help make a decision, but it may not necessarily be a good one.

4. Take a page from Darwin and Franklin

When Malcolm Gladwell published his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking in 2005, the world was fascinated by the idea that we can make complex decisions with very little effort—just by trusting our gut instinct and by ‘snapping it.’ That is, the book offers some research to support the idea that quick solutions based on intuition can yield surprisingly successful outcomes.

Sounds great but many subsequent studies don’t quite support this. What’s more, sticking to the “old school” ways of making decisions such as conscious thinking and evaluation of alternatives, can lead to more high-quality results.

Just take a note from Darwin who used the pros-and-cons list to make the most important decision of his life—whether to marry. Ben Franklin, similarly, always used this same “simple” method when confronted with challenging choices. Sometimes, the conventional non-fancy ways to make decisions happen to be the best options.

“Warren Buffett told me once and he said always follow your gut. When you have that gut feeling you have to go with, don’t go back on it.” – LeBron James

5. Kill the Company

“Kill the Company” is a best-selling book by Lisa Bodell—the CEO of a consulting company which helps businesses embrace change and innovation. The basic premise of the exercise is that executives are asked to brainstorm all of the ways in which their company can go down. Then, packed with this insight, they work backwards to try and remedy the loopholes in their processes, strategies and choices.

The idea has proven very effective and easy to practice. Just imagine that a decision you pick today turns out to be a complete failure in the future. What will you do to ensure a better outcome?

In the end, our decisions are the foundations of the future lives we build for ourselves, as they have the power to directly affect our success trajectories. While taking the wrong turn may not always have catastrophic consequences, we are also rarely given a do-over in life.

And why is it so vital that we keep honing our choice-making skills, you may ask? It’s very simple—YOLO.

Which one of these strategies to make winning decisions resonated most with you and why?

Evelyn Marinoff is a writer and an aspiring author. She holds a degree in Finance and Marketing,  works in client consulting, and spends her free time reading, writing and researching ideas in psychology, leadership, well-being and self-improvement. On her website evelynmarinoff.com, she writes tips and pieces on self-enhancement and confidence. You can also find her on Twitter at @Evelyn_Marinoff.

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Knowing Your Message vs Delivering Your Message

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Have you ever sent a text message only to have it misinterpreted by the person reading it? Happens all the time. Have you ever given a presentation that you were totally prepared for only to have it fall flat? Happens all the time. Have you ever had someone ask you something like, “Why are you mad?” when you were not at all mad? Happens all the time. (more…)

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The 3 Most Important Things I Learned About Personal Growth

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When you look back on your life, what do you want to think about? Do you plan to reminisce on all of the good things that have happened and how they shaped who you are today? Or would you rather remember all of the bad decisions, challenging experiences, and mistakes made that hurt or wasted a portion of your life?

In my opinion, I think it is important to reflect on both. While it’s important to remember the hardships we’ve been through in our lives – without them we wouldn’t be where we are now. There are 3 very specific areas that I feel have helped me grow in a personal sense more than anything else in my life so far. 

These aren’t simple lessons in a book or a lecture that you can just absorb and apply to your life. These are things that I’ve learned through experience and reflection, and I’m still learning and growing today.

1. We determine how much we’re worth by what we think about ourselves, others, and life in general.

This might seem like a pretty obvious lesson in life but it’s actually one of the most important because we can determine our own worth by how we think about ourselves and the world around us. If you’re looking for success in any kind of business or social setting (dating), then I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t matter if you have 10 billion dollars or not – people are still going to judge you based on your thoughts and beliefs alone.

What determines our value isn’t necessarily what we do with our lives (which is often based on luck) but whether or not we believe that ‘our work’ is worthy or not in some sort of grand scheme or universe. We may not always be able to control what happens in our lives, but we can always control how we value ourselves and others.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

2. You don’t have to change your habits or personality just because someone else doesn’t like it – their opinions are THEIRS alone.

This is another one of those lessons that people tend to pick up on a little bit late in life, but if anything that makes its importance even worse! Basically, there’s going to come a time when you’re going to meet someone who has certain expectations of you as a person…but these expectations might not be realistic due to their motivations and personal beliefs. For example, sometimes parents might expect you to be a lawyer or doctor because that’s what they believe is best for their child.

However, this isn’t the case for everyone and so maybe your passion lies in music or writing novels. In this example, if you were also pressured into becoming a doctor – then there would obviously be some kind of conflict going on within yourself as a person. You should never have to give up something that you want to do just because someone else doesn’t like it! The reason why we’re put onto this Earth is to make our own choices and go after our OWN dreams instead of letting others determine what we can and cannot do with our lives .

3. You can’t change your life until you accept that you need to make a change.

When I was younger, I thought that this lesson would be pretty obvious – but as I got older, it really made me appreciate the fact that there are always different ways of perceiving our lives. For example, if someone wants to become rich and famous one day – their mind might simply overshadow any other possibility in their head because they feel like this is what they NEED to do right now.

However, this isn’t always true within our own lives because we think about things too literally instead of having an open mind. If you want to achieve success in any kind of business or social setting (dating) then you should be willing to try out different things instead of staying in your comfort zone. If you want something, then it’s up to YOU to actually go after it – nobody else is going to give it to you!

The three lessons above are some of the main things I want to pass on to everyone because they’ve come at an important time in my life where I need to start thinking about others instead of only myself. It’s great if we can learn to love ourselves first before anything else, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect everyone around you even though they might be your friends and family members!

If you enjoyed this article on the 3 most important things I learned about personal growth, then please share it with your friends and family! Also, check out my other articles on success & motivation as well as life lessons that could help people who are struggling with their life right now on lifengoal.com. Thanks for reading!

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Building a business is about more than sales, marketing, and flexing on social media. While those things tend to draw attention, they attract the wrong type of clients and are not how you build a sustainable and freedom-focused business. (more…)

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I can still hear the voices of my older relatives and my elementary school teachers telling me “be disciplined”, “keep at it”, to give time and energy towards what we want. As a young, impressionable child, I believed all those things because well, they made sense. They worked. And honestly, I felt like it’s the only way to flourish. (more…)

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