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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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1 Comment

  1. chetan mohakar

    Jan 9, 2019 at 12:49 am

    This will definitely make my life better.

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Life

6 Reasons Why You Should Never Glorify Failure After You’ve Failed

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Many people are ashamed of failure. If they so much as smell a whiff of failure, they quit instantly because the public notices it quickly. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of failure. A lot of people have failed. I’ve failed over and over again in my career, business, relationships and more. Yet, I keep trying because failure isn’t the final verdict. (more…)

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How to Move Forward When All Seems Lost

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A few weeks ago, the relationship of my venture with a long-term client turned rocky. Losing them would mean a huge loss for my business, but it appeared like that’s where we were headed. My mind raced with unpleasant thoughts. Maybe the client had figured out that I couldn’t lead my team well. Maybe I was not good enough to be an entrepreneur. Maybe I was not good enough to do anything.

Why was the world so unfair?! Within moments, my anxiety had shot through the roof and my heart was racing faster than an F1 car engine. But I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.

Why Problems Overwhelm Us

As human beings, we’re good at solving problems, so they shouldn’t stress us out. Yet, they do just that. Why?

Consider some of these situations in life. When a relationship is headed for troubled waters, we wonder whether our partner loves us anymore. Our mind unearths memories of when we got dumped or rejected. We blame ourselves for falling for the wrong people and tell ourselves that we’re not worth receiving love.

How do you think the relationship will steer after that? If we cannot stick to a diet, we think of other times when we gave up. We remember what people said about things that we couldn’t do and ask ourselves, “were they right?” We tell ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to succeed at anything.

Do you think we’ll find the grit to stick to the diet after this? So here we are… thinking we’re not good enough to be entrepreneurs, to be loved, to get promoted, or to achieve our personal goals. Notice a pattern yet? We move in the wrong direction. The destination is to achieve the goal. And unless we stop giving into emotions and start addressing situations, we’ll keep failing to get there.

Negative emotions (and even extremely positive ones) blur our vision. The more we focus on them, the deeper we go into how we feel. We either get angry because things aren’t the way we want them to be, or get paralyzed by the fear of the worst possible outcome. This means we pull away from the one thing we must do to set things right — take action.

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” – Dale Carnegie

How to Take Action in the Face of Problems

Most human beings are good at solving problems. Where we get blindsided is at diagnosing the right problem. To diagnose the right problem, we must address the situation instead of emotions. We must see things for what they are, collect facts on what we’re worrying about, and then ask ourselves, “What should I do next?”

In his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, Dale Carnegie wrote: “Neither you nor I nor Einstein nor the Supreme Court of the United States is brilliant enough to reach an intelligent decision on any problem without first getting the facts.”

To address the tricky situation with my client, I took the following three steps:

1. First, I acknowledged the feeling

Solving a problem doesn’t mean ignoring emotions. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel because it reveals the path, but domesticating your emotions is more important. I acknowledged how I felt by saying, “I feel anxious because the client might not want to work with us anymore and this will be a financial loss for us.”

Note how I said “I feel anxious” and not “I’m a loser.” If I had given into negative chatter, I wouldn’t have uncovered the direction to move in (the part after “because”). This is why domesticating emotions is crucial.

2. Next, I prepared for the worst

We often run from our worst fears rather than facing them despite knowing that the worst outcome rarely comes true. The result is that we stay stuck in fear instead of pushing beyond it. And we never discover what we’re really capable of, which sucks.

In my case, the worst meant losing the client. It would hurt but it was the truth. However, we could get more clients. Plus we already had other clients who helped us pay the bills. In other words, I wouldn’t have to live on the street.

The moment I accepted this, a huge weight got lifted off my chest. This prepared me for the third and final step.

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar

3. Lastly, I examined the situation

Examining a situation means setting aside your emotional baggage and focusing on facts. When you trust that you’ll be okay, you become better at diagnosing the real problem. Once I felt lighter, I could see things clearly.

I used the 5 Whys Technique (asking “why” five times) to figure out the real reason for the client’s dissatisfaction. Then I collected data on the issue and on what we had previously delivered.

Finally, I reached out to the CEO of the client and held a detailed and constructive discussion based on my findings. Within four days, the CEO and I were back to the way things were before.

The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to give today your best. I’m not sure whether the issue with the client got resolved for good or whether the client won’t pack up and leave one day. However, I am sure that I’m prepared to handle such cases better today than I was yesterday.

Control your emotions instead of letting them run amok. Accept things for what they are instead of what you want them to be. Be realistic instead of delusional. Address the situation instead of succumbing to emotions.

Don’t preempt what lies ten miles ahead and get paralyzed by fear. Address what lies clearly in front of you and keep moving. One day you’ll be surprised about how close to your destination you are.

How do you move forward when all hope seems to be lost? Share your advice below!

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8 Effective Tips to Improve Your Emotional Wellbeing

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You know what they say, “Health Is Wealth”. But, more often than not, we only mean it in the context of physical health. There’s no question that being fit is the world’s greatest treasure. Unfortunately, not a lot of us take time out to look after our emotional health and wellbeing.

Let’s not forget – it’s ‘Mind Over Matter’. So, if you are able to take control of your emotions, thoughts, how you feel through the day and how you respond to myriad situations; there’s nothing quite like it. When you become the master of your emotions; health, prosperity, and basically all good things are bound to follow you.

With that said, here are 8 surefire ways that will improve your emotional wellbeing:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Half the time, we don’t even know what we’re thinking or how we’re feeling. That’s because we let our minds operate on autopilot. It’s time to take control of your mind. Be aware of what and how you feel throughout the day. The upside to this practice is that you can detect negative emotions right on the onset and quickly change them and their corresponding feeling.

Feelings of anger, jealousy, hatred; they are not good for the mind, soul, or the body. Paying close attention to the spectrum of emotions you experience throughout the day, will help you detect the negative ones and kick them away before they fester deep enough to take away your happiness and emotional health.

2. Stay Physically Active

As you engage in physical activities, your brain produces a whole bunch of feel-good hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. These hormones are what causes the ‘elated’ or ‘euphoric’ feeling. Being physically active uplifts your mood and your outlook towards life. It readies you to take the challenges more head-on instead of becoming overwhelmed by the littlest of inconvenience.

You are better able to analyze tough situations and take a more proactive rather than a reactive approach. It’s no question physical health is in direct proportion with emotional health. A healthy mind resides in a healthy body and vice versa.

“Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.” – Sid Garza-Hillman

3. Get Sufficient Sleep

Ever noticed how you feel depressed and cranky, and just out of focus the day you fail to get a good night’s sleep? Well, if you fail to get sufficient sleep for a couple of days, you are bound to feel more depressed, cranky and eventually more prone to a host of negative emotions. Research shows that sleep deprivation sends amygdala – our brain’s emotional response center into overdrive.

Amygdala controls our immediate emotional responses. When it becomes overactive, we become more reactive rather than active. We become more irritable, angry and anxious. A good night’s sleep is vital to improving your emotional wellbeing.

4. Develop a New Hobby

Learn to swim. Try arts and crafts. How about painting? Swimming is a ‘happy’ activity. You get to make new friends and stay fit. Arts and crafts, as we all know, tends to have a relaxing effect on the mind and the nerves.

Just the process of creating something from scratch makes you confident and gets those creative juices flowing. Similarly, painting helps you express yourself. All these factors together create a ‘happy you’. The one who likes to engage in new things instead of resisting change or difficult situations.

5. Eat Healthy

Ever heard of the phrase, “You are what you eat”? Well, it’s true to the last syllable. When you eat foods rich in salt, sodium, fat – you are bound to feel lethargic. It takes longer for the body to digest such foods. That means the body is forced to deprive organs of blood and use it for the digestion purpose.

Result? You become lazy, moody, not ready to take any responsibility which leads to feeling cranky and irritable. On the other hand, eating fibrous vegetables, fruits, salads, and complex sugars keeps you upbeat and healthy.

6. Laugh Your Heart Out

Laughter is the best medicine. That is why they have a dedicated ‘laughter session’ in yoga studios. You don’t even have to mean it. The simple act of spreading your cheeks and pretending to laugh sends a signal to your body that you are happy.

And what happens when you are happy? Your brain releases happy hormones like dopamine, serotonin and what not. In fact, many studies have gone so far as to stipulate that laughter alone is capable of treating all kinds of physical ailments. Why should emotional ailments be any different?

7. Try Relaxation Techniques

‘’Visualization technique’’ where you imagine yourself in a happy place is a surefire way to calm your nerves if you find yourself distressed. You may also try praying to elate yourself. Praying is good for the mind and the soul.

Controlled breathing or ‘biofeedback technique’ are some other relaxation techniques that can tame how you feel and even your bodily functions. Try surrounding yourself with aromatherapy or scented candles because the smell is a big factor in governing how we feel.

“Positive emotional energy is the key to health, happiness and wellbeing. The more positive you are, the better your life will be in every area.” – Brian Tracy

8. Count Your Blessings

We all have so much to be thankful for. It could be a friend who stands by you or a happy family. Good health. Financial freedom. Make a list of all the things that you feel grateful for in your life. If it’s a person, be sure to communicate your feelings and express your gratitude.

You will feel so much happier. Happiness is the diet of a healthy mind and an intelligent emotional response mechanism. You could also try writing a poem or simply expressing your gratitude through the power of prayers.

There are so many ways to become emotionally intelligent and not one of them requires any investment or special skills. Practically anyone and everyone can do it. All you need is the will and the desire.

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How You Can Use the Power of Gratitude to Your Advantage

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The word gratitude has been tossed around, but do you know exactly what it means or how to implement it into your life? Someone has probably told you in your life, “Express more gratitude.” Well, that sounds like a great idea, but if you don’t know what gratitude is, how can you fully express it in your life? It’s a concept that once you grasp, it will change your life. (more…)

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