Advertising
Advertising

How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

Decisions can be really tough.

They can change the course of a career, of a life, forever. The thing is, when you’re faced with making a decision, you often only have a limited amount of information and a limited field of experience to draw upon. But the consequences of your decision are huge. They could potentially be really good…or really, really bad!

There’s no reference book where you can just look up the correct decision you need to make and discover what the best course of action is. There are hundreds of variables. Each variable must be weighed differently, and each one comes with a tangle of emotions and worries attached to it.

Making good decisions is one of the hardest but most important things we do as human beings. In fact, anything that happens down the line can be seen as a direct consequence of earlier decisions. Learning to make good ones and having an effective methodology is vital.

Advertising

The reason that decisions can be so tricky is because we get caught up in trying to make an evaluation by thinking about it, but all the while each thought is a tangled mess of emotion as well.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

How to Make Better Decisions: Take Out The Trash

Remember the old wire scourer your mother used to use to scrub the pans after cooking a roast? Perhaps you recall how tangled the wire of that scourer would become after a few uses. Then you probably remember how difficult it was to wash it out as well. No matter how much you rinsed it you could still find pieces of debris and grease trapped in amongst the layers of wire. This is exactly how it is with your thoughts and feelings when you are trying to make a decision. Your thoughts are like the wire, and the emotions are like the discarded food that gets caught up in the wires. As you start eliminating the mind trash and dropping the thoughts around the issue, everything gets untangled.

Imagine the wires are akin to your thoughts. Taking out just one wire at a time reduces the messy knot of wires. Bit by bit it becomes easier and easier to take out individual wires, and the corresponding emotions or sensations that go along with them.

Advertising

Once you’ve reduced the mass of wire and debris, your thinking becomes much clearer. You start to see the forest and the trees.

You gain a balanced perspective and we find that instead of running the same thought patterns and worries again and again, the anxieties give way to more creative ideas about how you can tackle the problem and give yourself better alternatives than the options you originally thought you had. All this is a result of pulling out the individual thoughts, and allowing your mind to get really quiet. It means dropping the thinking and letting go of trying to hold every consideration in mind.
“The key to good decision making is being able to drop the thoughts that are keeping your brain so busy.” ReTweet This

How To Drop The Mind Trash

In the beginning this is easier said than done. In fact, if you’re reading this and thinking, “How on earth do I just drop thoughts, I can’t help what I’m thinking!”, then that’s OK. There is a process that can help you…

  1. Let’s imagine you have a decision to make. It could be important, it could be charged with emotion, or it could be really simple and you’ve pretty much already decided which way you’re going to go. Pick something to use as an example as you read this.
  2. Now, as you think of that decision, you probably have lots of thoughts around each possible course of action. Let’s assume for simplicity that there are two possible things you could do. You may want to jot these two options down on a piece of paper.
  3. For each option there are going to be advantages and disadvantages. So beneath those two options, start two columns labeled positive and negative.
  4. Now empty out every thought you have around each of those points – paying attention to, and allocating to a column, every single thought that comes up. If you have a thought that doesn’t easily fit into one of the four columns, then you can jot this down elsewhere on the piece of paper.
  5. Now go through each column, completely emptying out every thought you can possibly come up with. Once you’ve got them out of your head and on to paper, you are then free to make a decision without trying to hold everything in mind.

Advanced:

Advertising

If this is resonating with you, you can take this one step further. For each thought you put onto the page, see if you can pay attention to any sensation you get in your body and then observe it until it leaves. You’ll be surprised at how suddenly you can’t even remember what that original thought was!

Don’t worry: you won’t forget anything that it is important to remember. Your brain will allow you to let go of the thoughts, live in the moment and still function effectively without having to hold everything in your mind the whole time.

Once you get to this stage, you’ll be completely free of the mind trash and the emotional charge around your decision. You’ll be able to make a decision from a place of balance and complete freedom.

How To Test Drive Your New Skills

You’ve got the method. Now to test it out and make it second nature before you need to use it on something that puts you into a tailspin.

Advertising

It’s like learning to drive. If you know how to pull out of a skid during a test drive, then when the time comes that you need to do it for real, you don’t have to remember the mechanics of it, you just do it.

It’s the same thing with this letting-go technique. If you practice it and get used to it, you will find it all the more powerful when you have a real situation where it will be helpful.

So over to you now: pick a decision, even if it’s not that big a deal right now, even if you think you’ve got it under control for the time being, and test the method out. Remember: write down each option, draw up your positive and negative columns, start filling them out and then feel the sensation associated with each thought until it leaves.

Leave me a comment and share what decision you’re going to test it out on!

And as always – I’m here to help if you need clarification, or if you get stuck…

More by this author

How to Get Unstuck and Get Back On Track to Achieving Your Goals How to Create Sustainable Friendships The Art of How to Make Progress How To Build A Team When You Haven’t Got The Income To Support Yourself How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

Trending in Productivity

1 How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology) 2 How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut 3 Need Journal Inspiration? 15 Journal Ideas to Kickstart 4 How to Stay Consistent and Realize Your Dreams 5 How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

Advertising

Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

Advertising

Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

Advertising

2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

Advertising

6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next