How Many Times Have You Regretted a Decision You Made? Find Out How to Make Better Decisions in Life.
Who doesn’t want to be successful, wealthy, popular — fulfilled in our careers, our social lives and our romantic lives, and in everything we do? And how often do we get frustrated because we’re falling short? Sometimes, it’s down to things outside our control, like circumstances, or plain bad luck. But all too often, all we have to blame is ourselves, and the decisions we make.
So, let’s get better at living, and find out how to make better decisions.
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Know What Motivates You
Before you start making big decisions, ask yourself, what do you want from life? Because making choices before you know that — is like navigating without a map, or even a destination.
Do you want a nice house, financial security and a family? Or do you want a life filled with adventure? Do you want to earn big bucks working crazy hours? Or are you happy with less income, but more time off?
Is it dumb to spend a big chunk of your income on travel, like your older relatives tell you? Or is it the best thing you can do with your life, like your Facebook feed says? There’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on what you want from life. Figure that out first. And let it be your guide towards the choices that are right for you.
Ask Yourself: Is It a Big Decision, or a Small One?
Let’s take a life hack from the world’s wealthiest person, Jeff Bezos. We’re sure he knows a thing or two about making good decisions. And he uses a simple rule of thumb.
For any decision, he asks — is it a big one or a small one? The time and energy he’ll spend on it match how important the decision is.
By a big decision, we mean — one with a serious outcome on your finances, health, relationships, reputation, or other area of your life. And also something you can’t easily reverse. In other words, after a few days, weeks or months, can you back out of it with no harm done? If you can’t, it sounds like it’s a big one.
Know which kind of decision it is — how much effort you should put into making it. And how much sleep it’s worth losing over it.
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If It’s a Small One, Don’t Sweat It
If it isn’t a biggie, don’t over-analyze it. Don’t agonize over it, or wear your friends and family down endless asking what they’d do.
Just make the decision — quickly. That way, you get more done — because you’re not sweating the stuff that isn’t worth sweating. And sooner or later a big decision is going to come along. And you don’t want to have used all your energy on the small ones.
Be Aware of Risk
You can’t eliminate risk. Living a life that’s fulfilling is impossible without it. But you should be aware of it.
When people make bad choices, it’s often because they took risks they just got too comfortable with.
Like breaking the speed limit, and thinking it will always be fine. Until you get caught, or end up in an accident. You’ve gotten comfortable dodging taxes, eating unhealthy, cheating on your partner, or one of a million other bad choices. So far so good. But sooner or later things will catch up with you.
Recognize risk. And when you do take risks, take calculated ones — not dumb ones you forgot were there.
Balance a Worst-Case Scenario Against What You Hope to Gain
Not exactly rocket science, right? When you’re thinking should I or shouldn’t I — weigh the outcomes you’ll get if it works out, with the ones you’ll be landed with if it doesn’t.
But here’s a useful tip. On the bad side, look at the worst-case scenario — and balance that with a medium positive outcome. Not an amazingly good one – just a good one. Be a little pessimistic in your calculations.
Because it’s human nature to do the opposite. We tend to balance the best possible outcome — because we’re excited — with a medium bad one — because we’re naïve and in denial about the negatives. It’s human nature, and it’s also how we make rash decisions.
Start using the medium good outcome vs. worst case scenario — and you’ll find you’re making wiser choices.
When you’re watching a TV documentary about plane crashes, you may be thinking flying is the worst decision ever. Until you look at the data on how safe it is.
Or the opposite. You’re watching a presentation by a fast-talking salesperson, telling you much money they’ve made for people who invested in their shady-looking scheme. Right now, you’re feeling pumped about how much money you can make too, if you just put a few K into their account. But without doing your research, and looking at some hard data — we hope you don’t need us to tell you where that’s likely to end up.
If the decision’s a big one — do your research. And use data to look at it in the most objective way possible.
Look at the Problem From a Different Angle
Something else that can help — frame the data differently.
Think about a food wrapper saying it’s 90% fat free. Sounds like a good dietary choice, right? What if you re-frame that statement — 10% of it is pure fat. Suddenly, not such a great idea.
There isn’t necessarily one right way of looking at it. but at least try a few ways, and you’ll get a bigger picture — and more insight to make decisions with.
Trust Your Gut Instincts Too
Crunching the data is great when that option is available to you. But sometimes you’ve gotta make a decision on the fly, without much information. For times like those you put your gut instincts to work.
The great thing about instincts is that they’re not random — they’re the combined result of a huge number of experiences we’ve gathered over time.
They can help us make spur-of-the-moment decisions like — don’t get into that cab, the driver looks shady. Don’t sign that contract, something seems off. Or DO drop all your plans so you accept a spontaneous invitation — because something’s telling you, it’ll be worth it.
Conquer Your Fear
The thing about fear and nerves, is that they can really hold you back from grabbing a great opportunity. Like asking somebody out on a date. Or pitching your business idea to a VC.
These are limiting emotions ,and when they show up, be aware that they’re there. Then you can deal with them. You can grit your teeth and force yourself to suggest that date, make that business pitch — do it scared, fine. Rise above that fear and don’t miss out on the opportunity.
… and Don’t Give in to Excitement
Like fear, excitement’s another emotion that can send you down the wrong path – for the opposite reason. When you’re excited, or over-confident, it’s like being drunk. You’re blind to the negatives, and just thinking about positives, that probably don’t even exist.
Like fear, you can deal with it once you know it’s there. Then you can slow down, take a few deep breaths. And see that betting all that money on red, making that cocky post on social media, aren’t such great ideas.
And just a note on managing your emotions. As entrepreneurs and high achievers, we’re dealing with stress and anxiety caused by the pressure of everyday life.
Four out of five successful people use some form of meditation practice to handle this kind of pressure.
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Know When to Cut Your Losses
Put differently, don’t throw good money after bad. Or time or effort either. You’ve been gambling, and have just lost a ton of money. Some voice is telling you that if you just throw some more money in, your luck will change. Not a good voice to listen to …
You’ve put three, five or ten years into a relationship that isn’t working. You can’t help thinking, if I just work harder at it, have another go at changing him or her, I’ll turn it around. Look at it objectively — it’s unlikely.
Know when you’re losing the battle – and get out. Cut your losses, and know when to get out.
Limit Your Options
Having a hundred different options to choose from — and a hard drive’s worth of information about each one of them — has got to be a good thing, right?
Probably not. The thing is, going over every detail with a fine tooth comb makes your brain go to mush from information overload. You forget what problem you were trying to solve in the first place. You can’t see the wood for the trees. You end up with analysis paralysis — overthinking it so much that you can’t decide.
Better — limit the information you’re looking at. And limit your options too. When you’re buying a car and have a hundred to choose from, narrow it down to five. When you’ve got five hundred variables for each car, pick out the ones you consider most important.
Be selective with the information, and you’ll see things more clearly.
Stand by Your Values
All of us sometimes make decisions that don’t work out. And sure, it always sucks. But when you went against your values too — that’s when you’ll really regret it.
Let’s look at going with your values. You help out a friend who deserves your help — but you end up losing money, or opportunities. At least you know you did the right thing.
What about the opposite? You screw somebody over to make a quick buck, and get caught out — and went against your values. Your reputation suffers, as do your relationships, and your self-esteem as you’re beating yourself up about it with your head in the sand. Avoid those situations, and follow your values.
If you want to know some important values that you should abide by to get success, check out 10 Most Important CORE VALUES for SUCCESS.
Imagine You’re Giving Advice to a Friend
A visualization technique that can really help. Imagine it isn’t you making the decision. Imagine it’s a friend, and you’re the one giving advice. How would you make that friend see the situation? And what advice would you give them?
The great thing about doing this — it takes you out of the equation. That includes removing those limiting emotions — remember what we said about those?
And it makes things more objective, because it’s from somebody else’s perspective — and saves you from getting tangled up in all the unnecessary detail.
Watch Out for Decision Fatigue
That’s a thing that’s recognized by psychologists. It means when you’re tired from making so many small decisions, you’re no longer in any state of mind to be making big ones. It’s when you’ve had a hard day at work, and you choose to get into an argument with your partner about something unimportant — when de-escalating it would have been the wiser choice.
When you’re tired, be aware that decision fatigue is setting in. Don’t try making big decisions. Back away from conflicts that aren’t important. And stay away from situations when you might make a stupid mistake.
What advice do you have for making good decisions?