We make hundreds (or thousands) of decisions every day.
Some are big decisions that affect the rest of our lives. Others are small decisions that only affect the now. Most are somewhere in between, with consequences that often extend farther than we might have imagined at the time.
Regardless of the size of the decisions, what matters is that you understand the smart approach to making those choices. The more thought and deliberation you put into your decisions, the greater the chance that you’ll “get it right”.
Here are some things you can do to make smarter choices starting today:
Most of the time, you’ll find that you tend to lean one way or another when faced with a decision. You’ll have an automatic or “gut” reaction to a circumstance.
Consider Your Biases
Human nature tends to be biased, and it’s not always a bad thing. However, it can lead you down the wrong path if you’re not careful.
Next time you’re faced with a decision, step back and examine what your instinct or reflexive reaction is. Analyze that reaction and see if there is something influencing it. Are you subtly or unconsciously biased? Do you tend to react a certain way every time, and if so, why?
Understanding your biases and instinctive reactions can tell you a lot about yourself. And, if you’re aware of them, they can help you to make smarter choices. After all, once you know that you’re biased a certain way, you’ll have an easier time removing that bias from the equation and just focusing on the logic and facts of a situation.
Beware of Habits
As humans, we tend to react out of habit. It’s easy to do things one way because “that’s how they’re always done” or “that’s how we did it before”. Values can become ingrained and actions can become a habit. It’s not always a bad thing, but it could be if you start to act automatically without careful consideration.
Always be looking at your responses and reactions to circumstances and your decision-making process. Make it a point to be more aware of how you approach problems and solutions, and look for habits in your process that could threaten to become “ruts”.
Be willing to shake things up, to look for new and better ways to reach conclusions or make decisions.
Update Your Patterns
Our beliefs, memories, and processes all become patterns that we can very easily fall into if we’re not careful. Often, they can become outdated as the world progresses around us but we fail to adapt.
Beware of those old patterns, the habits that you fall back into because they’re comfortable, easy, or they feel safe. Force yourself to step out of your comfort zone and challenge your existing patterns. Try to update your beliefs according to the things you’ve learned and the ways you’ve grown. Access new memories to see if the “way it’s always been done” can be done better. Analyze your processes to determine if there’s a better way of doing things.
Think of your decision-making process like your computer: the more you update it with the latest and best-quality software, the better it will run.
Walk Through It
When making a decision, take the time to walk yourself through not only the immediate outcome, but the short and long-term future.
Not all decisions or choices are going to have very long-lasting consequences. Some will be “one and done”, gone in a flash. However, you’d be surprised by how often those small, immediate choices can affect your future if things go wrong.
Before you jump to a conclusion or make a reflexive decision, take a few minutes to walk through the process in your mind. Analyze the situation and its potential outcomes, going as far into the future as you possibly can and weighing up all the various factors that go into such decisions. Think about how the decision could strengthen or weaken your position, expose you to greater risk or decrease that risk, even how it could affect your temperament and habits. The farther down the path you walk, the more you’ll be able to explore the potential long-term ramifications of your decisions.
There will be times when you have to make a snap judgement and quick off-the-cuff decision in the space of a few minutes. However, these situations are fairly rare. Most of the time, you’ve got time to sit down and weigh things up. It’s absolutely vital that you do so whenever possible.
When faced with a big decision, give yourself time to sit down, weigh up the pros and cons clearly, and come to a decision that is carefully thought-out and analyzed. It will help those affected by that decision to trust that you put proper thought and care into making the decision, rather than rushing into things. And it will give you greater confidence to know you did the right thing—at the very least, the best you could—down the line.
Act With Confidence
Once the decision is made, it’s important that you proceed without hesitation or self-doubt. Equivocation can make it harder for you to follow through on the difficult choice, and could lead you to backpedal or second-guess yourself.
You’ve gone through the process of making a decision, of following the steps that lead you to reaching a conclusion, and now it’s time to stick with it. You have to trust that you’ve made the best choice you could based on the information you had. Once you’ve made the choice, the only thing to do is move forward with confidence and trust in yourself. Do that, and the people following you will have an easier time trusting you, too.