Which party should I go to tonight? What should I wear? Is it even worth going? What if I miss out? What am I going to do with my life? That’s a lot of work for your brain! So how can we make smarter decisions and above all, how can be happy with our choices? Let’s find out.
In order for you to make smart decisions, you will be happy with even long after the decision has been made, we created a decision making map. The first question you need to ask yourself when you’re making a decision is -> is this really important?
We so often over-evaluate every option we have. Just consider, how much time and energy you put into deciding what you wear, what you eat or how you spend your time. Save your mental energy for the most important stuff. Making decisions requires effort and if you deplete your brain on the small things, you will have less energy for the important stuff.
So what to do when we don’t know how to decide?
The reason why we so often delay making a decision is that we don’t know what the correct decision is. What we forget is that oftentimes there is no correct decision. Therefore, making a decision, even a seemingly bad one is better than doing nothing.
Taking time to think is great and sometimes necessary but know when it has reached its limit. Ask yourself: is this decision worth this much of my mental energy? More often than not, you will find that the answer is actually: no. Especially, in those cases make a decision without investing more time into it.
How to make an important decision
But of course, we have to deal with more important things than deciding what to wear or what to eat for lunch. So, in case your answer to the question – is this decision important – is yes, let’s take a look at what you can do to decide smarter.
How to deal with choice overload
The next tip for smarter decision making is perfect for situations when we have too many options to choose from. Choice overload happens when our mind becomes overwhelmed with all the possibilities. One research proved this by offering a selection of jams in a supermarket. They offered one group of customers 24 jams for free sampling. Another group was offered a selection of only 6 jams.
The results of this study are fascinating! While people initially got more excited about the extensive selection, they had a harder time deciding, which product to buy and once they decided, they were less content with their choice. #fomo Customers who were choosing from the selection of 6 jams, we much more content with the choice of jam they in the end decided to buy. So what can we learn from this when it comes to making better decisions?
Sometimes we simply need to limit our choices. Especially today when you can travel anywhere and do almost anything. We have never had more options than we do in this age. Limiting your options can be your defence mechanism. First of all, realize that you don’t have to be everywhere and do everything. Do the things that are right for you. Regardless of what your friends are doing and regardless of what the society says is cool or not.
Using writing techniques for making smarter decisions
The next trick for smarter decision making, you surely know already, and I bet you’ve even tried it yourself. Writing a pro-and-con list can help you in creating a structure for your thoughts. And that’s why it definitely belongs on our map.
The flip-a-coin technique will also give you a hint of what you actually want. Ask a yes-or-no question, assign a meaning the sides of the coin and flip it. The point here is not to let your life decisions be decided by a coin but it’s to observe how you feel when the coin has decided for you. Do I want to go to University next year? If the coin says yes, ask yourself – how do I feel about going to University next year? Relying on your gut feeling is one of the best ways of making sure you’re happy with the decision in the end. You know best what’s right for you.
Overcoming fear in decision making
When we are uncertain or scared about making a decision, we begin to feel fear. Fear, as an emotion, makes us freeze. Our limbic system gets activated and we actually need more time to make a rational decision. Making a decision out of fear or when we are scared is therefore not the smartest thing. That’s why sayings like “sleep on it” come into play. When we give our minds some much needed time to rest, we are more likely to come back to the issue with a new perspective.
Another great way of making sure fear doesn’t get in your way is answering the question – what would I do if it didn’t work out? Write the question down on a piece of paper and write down an action plan of what steps you would take, if things don’t go as planned. Oftentimes these things are much scarier in our heads than they are in real life.
It’s all about making decisions with confidence. Trust yourself. But in times of doubt, you can also use the what would XY do? Trick. Think of a person you admire or simply ask yourself: What would a confident/smart/intelligent person do? Once again, write the question down on a piece of paper and write down the answer.
The interesting thing is that even though we are using another person as a source of inspiration, the answer will come from your own mind. I already mentioned you know best what’s right for you, right? And sometimes the greatest thing you can do when making an important decision is to take a leap of faith and trust yourself.