7 Simple Ways to Make Better Decisions


Decisions, decisions, decisions. Our lives are full of them. And what's more, the sheer volume of options available for any given choice is virtually infinite.

As Barry Swartz mentions in his TED Talk, your local grocery has around 285 varieties of cookies, 175 different salad dressing options, and 230 unique soups. A few decades ago, buying a pair of jeans involved zero choice, but today, you could spend hours trying on different fits and styles at your local department store. (See also: 10 Ways to Improve Your Decision-Making Skills)

All this choice leave many of us with decision paralysis. There are too many options to consider. It overwhelms us, and we find ourselves either avoiding the decision or simply "going with our gut," abandoning any sort of systematic selection process whatsoever.

If the question is, "What chips are you eating tonight?" you're probably not overly concerned. For bigger or more meaningful decisions, however, decision paralysis can really hurt your life's trajectory. Here's how to start making better decisions, faster.

1. Know What You Value Before It's Time to Choose

The best decision makers don't wait until the moment of decision to choose. Their choices come from a set of a predetermined core values that make the momentary decisions easy and consistent. When you have a set list of non-negotiables and a firm priority list, you'll find most decisions aren't even really decisions. (See also: Trade Goals for Values)

2. Determine Your Goals

Never make a decision without context. What are you hoping to accomplish? Where are you going? What do you want? The answers to these questions will provide the context you need for effective decision-making.

3. Immediately Eliminate Inferior Options

The more choices you have, the harder it is to decide. Immediately eliminate inferior options (or options that don't facilitate point fit your values. As you consolidate your selection, the right choice will become more clear.

4. Review Third Party Recommendations

There's no reason to make the same mistakes as others. Learn from the choices of others. If you haven't walked this road, there may be variables you can't see yet. Taking third party advice into consideration allows you to benefit from a broader range of perspectives and experience.

5. Write Down the Pros and Cons

On a practical level, jot down the upsides and downsides of each option. How does each stack up? Is the level of risk worth the potential benefit? Does option A just sound nice, or is it what you actually want? Cost/benefit ratios are an important part of every decision and can help neutralize emotional influence by forcing you to write down a rational collection of thoughts.

6. Evaluate Opportunity Costs

Many people fail to consider their opportunity cost in making every day decisions. Sometimes, the benefits of Option A aren't so great when you factor in what you will have to forego. A $20k raise sounds amazing, but what will you be sacrificing with 10% more working hours and the costs of relocation? (See also: Opportunity Costs and Conscious Spending)

7. Look Back From the Future

Most of us are hard-wired for convenience. We entertain imaginings of grandeur, but when the moments of decision arrive, both small and big, our natural inclination is to choose convenience and the status quo over risk. We have to learn to look at this moment from the future. Forget what feels comfortable. In 10 years, what will we wish we would have chosen today?

How do you make big decisions? Please share in comments!

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