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How Meditation Helps You Make Better Decisions

How Meditation Helps You Make Better Decisions

Do you ever feel like you make the same bad decisions over and over again? If so, you might be interested to know that meditation could make a monumental impact on your decision-making ability.

You’re not as rational as you think you are.

You probably consider yourself a rational person, but what if I told you that most of your decisions don’t make any sense? Consider that book you started to read, but then realized it was terrible a few chapters in. Did you stop reading, or did you keep on reading despite your distaste? Imagine a person you dated in the past, but then you realized you were not compatible with. Did you end the relationship immediately, or did you let it drag on for months (or years)? Recall a concert or sporting event you bought tickets for, but then you realized you were miserably ill. Did you call it off so you could rest and recover, or did you force yourself to go (even though you were too sick to have any fun)?

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The problem: You are consumed in your past.

The scenarios above illustrate the sunk cost fallacy, which sounds obvious in theory. A sunk cost is a past cost that’s already been paid and cannot be recovered. If you read a few chapters of a book that sucks, you can’t “wish” that time back. Continuing to read drivel won’t make the situation any better. If you find yourself in a relationship that wasn’t meant to be, you can’t delay the inevitable, so you might as well pull the trigger. If you buy tickets to visit a theme park on the weekend, but wake up with a stomach bug so severe that you couldn’t ride any roller coasters, why not give your tickets to a friend who could enjoy the experience?

The solution: Meditate to focus on the present.

Meditating helps you let go of the past, forget about the future, and focus on the present. An academic paper published in Psychological Science, “Debiasing the Mind through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias,” proposes that meditation could help you make better decisions. Two groups of 15 people were asked to perform decision-making exercises. One of those groups performed 15 minutes of focused-breathing guided meditation first, while the other performed the same exercises without preparation. The group that meditated made more effective decisions that were free from bias. Researcher Andrew C. Hafenbrack observed:

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“If you can take these breaks in the day, if you can do a short time-out, you can get yourself to a place that’s going to help you think better.If you find yourself in a position where you need to change the way you’re thinking and be sure you’re thinking in a less biased way…meditation is a way to do that.”

Why you shouldn’t say “stop being emotional”.

Researchers discovered that part of meditation’s power comes from its ability to boost your mood. Put simply, a calm person is going to make better decisions than one who is stressed out. It’s a lot harder to focus on the present moment if you have nasty, negative thoughts screaming inside your head. As co-author Sigal Barsade told Knowledge@Wharton:

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“Meditation changes your cognitive state and your mood, both of which are changing your decision-making. Everyone always says ‘stop being emotional’ when they discuss decision-making, but in essence that’s the wrong thing to say. Just don’t let the wrong emotions cloud the decision-making process.”

Put meditation in practice for a better life.

I know you’re busy, but meditation is totally worth your time. It would be foolish to say you don’t have 15 minutes to meditate, since taking that time to clear your thoughts could save you from making bad decisions that you’d regret. Working on an important project that’s crucial for your success? Debating whether an expensive investment is worth your money? Thinking about ending a long-term relationship that doesn’t fulfill you? Stressing out because you have an awful lot to do and don’t know where to start? Before making a final decision in important matters like these, perform a brief meditation with these five steps:

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  1. Go to a quiet place where you won’t be bothered.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe deeply.
  3. On each exhale, imagine past-based beliefs and biases exiting your body.
  4. On each inhale, imagine present-based focus and clarity entering your body.
  5. Light a candle and play soothing piano music or nature sounds (waves crashing?) if that calms you.

Please share if you’d like to help your friends meditate their way to better decisions like you.

Featured photo credit: Meditation/mrhayata via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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