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How Keeping a Journal Can Increase Your Chances of Making Right Decisions

How Keeping a Journal Can Increase Your Chances of Making Right Decisions

The decisions we make can shape our lives in so many ways. But how effectively do we make these decisions? When it comes to big decisions, either personally or professionally, could there be a more effective and thorough way to make a better choice?

What Are the Problems of Our Usual Way of Making Decisions?

Our decisions involve a process of the mind and can often be influenced by our current circumstances, mood or impulse at the time. This means we don’t always evaluate the pros and cons thoroughly, as a decision we make today may not be the same decision we’d make a month from now.

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It’s hard to keep track of how we came to these decisions or examine how we could have made a better choice. Learning from our decision-making processes can help streamline future decisions and understand our thought patterns and subsequent outcomes.

You Can Learn How to Make Better Decisions by Keeping a Journal

This is where the idea of a decision journal comes in which is when you create a physical account of the thought processes you make during a decision. The advantage of writing down your thought processes are three-fold: you can revisit and analyse the various factors you used, it forces you to organise your thoughts and therefore think more carefully about different outcomes, and prevents the habit of hindsight bias because you have a written reference of how you came to a certain conclusion.

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However, with a decision journal comes the need for structure. It’s not a traditional journal where our random, and almost messy, thoughts are therapeutically written. Instead it needs a more precise and strategic approach in order to allow our future selves to look back and understand the process we went through at the time.

If Your Decision Journal Can’t Be Well-Structured in This Way, There Is No Point in Keeping One

When it comes to creating a decision journal, it’s important to include the right kinds of questions in order to allow you to see the decision-making process from all angles. This will help you with the best possible feedback if you were to have to make the same or similar decision in the future. Below is a basic structure you can follow with an example of what you can write down.

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  • Date and time of decision: day/month/year
  • The decision: Whether or not I should go for a new job role at work.
  • How am I feeling?: Confident/focused/relaxed/exhausted/angry/anxious – it’s important to know the emotional circumstances surrounding your decision so be very honest.
  • What is the context of this decision?: I feel stuck in my job role and it’s affecting my passion for the job.
  • What are the problems?: There’s no longer any progression in my role and I’m no longer developing any new skills, my current manager is unsupportive, and I would like to explore a different side to the business/company which I feel I’m currently cut off from.
  • What are the complications?: Causing negative reactions within my team and other co-workers, leaving at a time when workload is high. Will I be happy staying at the same company or should I make a clean break?
  • What are the alternative solutions? Look for a role elsewhere completely or stay in my current position.
  • What are the possible outcomes? I will be much happier in a different and developing role and gaining new skills but it could also cause animosity in my old team making the new role difficult as I’d still need to interact with them on some level. Could it be more beneficial to me to find a job elsewhere to experience a new company?
  • What are my expectations of the outcome and the probabilities? I’ll most likely be much happier in this new role and I’d feel like I’m developing my career in a different direction, giving me more contentment and fulfilment in my life. Perhaps my old team won’t be as upset as I think they will be and if they are, I can handle it. The change and experience is worth it. If I move to a completely new company, will it be a positive experience and is it worth the hassle? It would mean a possible longer commute somewhere or I may end up working with people I don’t get on with.
  • The outcome: Went for the internal job and was hired for it.
  • 6 month review (date) – what happened and what I learned : Still in the job role. It’s been challenging and I’ve experienced some animosity with my old team but I felt I handled it very well and allowed me to develop my interpersonal skills. However, I feel I should have been more courageous and looked elsewhere for another job as I think I’m more unhappy with the company than I thought. I’ve learned that I need to ignore the ‘safe’ route and not let my idea of a comfort zone stop me from pursuing something different in the future.

The example above shows the raw thought process that was taken. By writing it down, they were able to recognise that their decision was really based around their emotions and blocked off the ability to make a more courageous decision. Having this documented will help show how the decision could have been made better.

This idea of a decision journal is to inject quality control. It doesn’t matter what area of your life you are making the decision – whether it’s ending a relationship, leaving a job or buying a car – making a habit of keeping a decision journal will allow you to see your decision-making patterns over time and help figure out how to improve them in the future.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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