Life is a series of decisions, the results of which are oftentimes difficult to see. It may be challenging at times to know that your decisions are the right ones, which makes it all the more important to focus on improving your decision-making process. Below are nine ways to help you make informed, reasonable and balanced decisions.
1. Explore the Available Alternatives—Even the Unlikely Ones.
We live in a world where people tend to wear either black or white hats; there is no continuum of moral relativity, just personal opinion and everything that falls outside of it. What if we lived another way? What if people were willing to explore alternatives?
For starters, Congress would probably see heretofore unimagined increases in productivity. We’d also avoid a great many conflicts with our significant others once we open the world of compromise. Deep convictions are healthy, but unblinking devotion to them is not.
2. Renew Your Commitment to Meaningful Communication.
Silence may be golden and—in the right situation—it may be your best course of action. The thing is, most decisions shouldn’t be made in a vacuum. Talking it out with someone, like your significant other or even your parents, is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you want to make an informed decision.
Talk to any relationship expert and they’ll tell you something like “communication is key.” They’re not wrong; talking about the things that stress you, or the decisions you don’t want to make, can help to open up paths that you didn’t know were there.
3. Use Sound Reasoning Instead of Your Instincts.
We’ve all seen our share of movies where the hero is counseled by an older, wizened character to trust his/her “feelings” or “instincts.” That’s all well and good in fiction, but in the real world our gut instincts can get us into trouble.
Reasoning is your friend. It will help you to weigh the consequences of your actions after your instincts have totally failed you. Instinct is what prompts people to get in fistfights while waiting in line at the self-checkout; reason is going home with all of your teeth intact.
4. Keep Your Expectations Realistic.
You were probably told as a child that you could be anything you wanted when you grew up. The fact that you’re not a cowboy-astronaut hybrid proves that was a lie. Part of growing up is learning to measure our expectations against harsh reality.
There’s nothing wrong with some healthy self-confidence. Believing we’re destined for important things is a natural impulse, and shouldn’t be fought. In fact, it goes by another name in the professional world: ambition. What you don’t want to do is lose focus on the here-and-now in favor of unrealistic goals and expectations.
5. Take Care When Making Important Purchases.
Whether we’re thinking about buying a new mattress, a car or even a house, purchasing big-ticket items can be as stressful as it is exciting. While most of us tend to look for the absolute best deals on important purchases, sometimes spending a little more can be the better course of action in the long run.
During our formative college years, buying cheap furniture or even renting furniture for our temporary housing made sense. After we strike out on our own, however, it makes a lot more sense to buy something that’s going to last. Instead of buying a new $100 couch every year for ten years, why not buy a high-quality couch just once? It might be a larger one-time expense, but you’ll thank yourself down the road.
6. Think About the Pros and Cons.
While we said somewhere above that nothing in life is black and white, that’s not to say that certain decisions don’t call for a thorough breakdown of their positive and negative qualities.
This kind of bilateral thinking may seem counterproductive or even juvenile, but it may help you to think of upsides and downsides that otherwise would have remained hidden.
7. Use Appropriate Framing When Looking at the Big Picture.
Most of us begin each day with a single thing in mind: making it to sundown in more or less the same condition as when we awakened. In only the most extreme situations are our waking thoughts given to someone else.
That’s why it’s important to think of our lives as a piece of a puzzle, and to determine anew our piece in it each day. Having a myopic view of the world and our place in it is to lack context—a frame, if you will—for our lives. Having an unrealistic idea of our own importance is the road to regret, and possibly a lot worse.
8. Realistically Evaluate Your Commitment to Action.
Have you ever heard the phrase “no half measures?” It refers to a mindset in which you are wholly committed to a particular course of action. We too often skate through life without actually making a decision, whether because we don’t feel equipped or because we don’t feel particularly invested in the outcome.
If you want to know that you’re making the best decisions, there’s a simple test: Ask yourself “Am I committed to this?” Are you interested in how it’s going to play out? If you find your commitment to something flagging, it’s a sign that you may have the wrong motivations.
9. Fight Procrastination. Today.
That last-minute scramble to finish your assignment or work project is doing you no favors. It’s going to lower the quality of the final product and induce unnecessary stress. The same goes to make good decisions.
If you’ve got a decision to make, a reasonable amount of examination and discourse is not only natural, but necessary. The last thing you want to do, however, is to use that as an excuse to put off making that next important decision.
Featured photo credit: Rachel via Flickr Creative Commons