Tony Robbins wrote in his book awaken the giant within, “I believe that in your moments of decision your destiny is shaped.” We all know how important decision making is in all aspects of life. Whether it was a big decision or small one we make every single day. However, it can be really hard for us to consistently make the “right” ones.
In order to fix that, you might want to read books on decision making (“The Decision Book” is my favourite), but that can make you overwhelmed and end up taking a huge amount of your precious time because there are so many books on the subject.
To help you with that, I gathered for you a few of the best decision making tips I could possibly find. Ones that are proven to work effectively and that you can start implementing right away.
Here are 7 effective ways to make better decisions:
1. Make decisions in the light of your values
When you have a predefined set of values, the decision making process will become much easier as you’ll be first considering which options reflect your values and which don’t. Therefore you’ll be cutting out a significant amount of the options available to you. Obviously, to be able to do that, you have to know what your values are. So you might want to spend some time on figuring out your values.
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein
2. Seek expert advice
By “expert” I don’t mean a person you know, who has an opinion about everything but no real knowledge in pretty much anything. Taking advice from that kind of person can be quite dangerous and can lead you to making serious mistakes in life. The very first rule of asking advice is to choose the right person to ask.
Someone whom you consider wise and doing pretty well in the area you would like to get help in. For example, you don’t want to take financial advice from a broke person, nor a health advice from someone overweight. You don’t have to get direct advice from someone – although that’s preferred, you can just do a bit of research in books, or simply online.
3. Make important decisions in the morning
According to professor Baba Shiv from Stanford Graduate School of business, the best time to make a decision during the day is early in the morning. This is due to the calming chemical called Serotonin, which is at its highest level early in the morning and declines from that gradually during the day. That’s why in the afternoon, you’re more likely to make the decision out of fear. You can try to keep your Serotonin level high throughout the day by getting good quality deep sleep at night, having a good breakfast rich with protein like egg whites, and exercising regularly. All the previous practices were proven effective in increasing as well as maintaining a healthy level of serotonin during a greater portion of the day.
4. Ask “what if” a lot
I learned this technique from the information scientist Nidhi Kalra. To make sure that we are making the right decision we often try to predict the future by saying this is what will probably happen so I better choose this option. She believes that’s not necessary. Instead, we must ask “what if?” a lot. By doing so, we consider all possible future occurrences and we end up stumbling upon options that can fit with them all. Therefore making better decisions.
5. Only consider reasons created by you
Some like to call it following your heart or listening to your intuition, but I like to call it considering your own reasons just like the modern philosopher Ruth Chang does. She said in her TED talk that what makes a decision hard for us is not that we’re ignorant or stupid, instead it’s because of the existence of multiple alternatives. Some are good in some ways while others are good in other ways.
She says that there is no specific “right option” to choose in such cases. And to make a good decision (one that will make us happy) you simply must solely consider reasons that you create for yourself, as opposed to ones given to you by others.
6. Beware of cognitive biases
Biases can be pretty dangerous: they cloud our judgement, make us adopt wrong beliefs in life, and may mislead us to make some very bad choices. The two biases that affect your decision making process the most are the self serving bias and the confirmation bias. The self serving bias is the tendency to credit all good things that happen to us to our own efforts, and every bad thing happening to us to the outside world.
This helps keeping our self esteem up, however too much of it prevents us from learning from our past failures. Therefore repeating the same mistake over and over again. The confirmation bias is the tendency to only look for and consider evidence and information that confirms our beliefs, instead of exploring both sides of the situation. Just consciously paying attention to these biases can help you massively improve your ability to make good decisions.
“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” – Plato
7. Learn from your past decisions
Reflect upon all the decisions you’ve made before. Look at the ones that went well, and try to figure out the process you followed back then and distill from it the key ingredients that worked for you and just use them again in the future. Bad decisions you’ve previously made are enormously helpful too. So make sure you draw a powerful lesson from each one of them and make good use of it in the future.