Whether we want to or not, difficult decisions accompanied by long and tedious deliberation are an inseparable part of our adult lives. From the considerations of our career, through the crossroads of marital relationships to the little dilemmas of life, these and more can take quite a bit of time and energy from us, and sometimes add up to feelings of frustration and confusion instead of one definite decision. The good news is that there are simpler and easier ways, such as the following 8 methods below, which if applied every day, can ease your decision-making process and increase the chances of making the right decision for you.
We’ve all been told to "sleep on it" when faced with a fateful decision, and it is worth knowing that behind this sentence there is actually a reasonable explanation. Many studies show that our freshness in the morning, coupled with the fact that our brain has processed the vast amount of information accumulated throughout the night, provides a sound basis for judgment that allows us to make a more intelligent decision. This explanation is shared by psychologist Dr. Daniel Kahneman who presents in his book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" the fact that the great psychological burden that is applied to us throughout the day is somewhat dissipated after a good night's sleep, and enables us to respond to various events in a more restrained way.
Have you reached a crossroads and don’t know where to turn? Be sure to remind yourself that most of the time, even the most important decisions can wait a single day without anything changing. And if you feel that you can’t postpone the decision for such a long time, there are studies that show that even a short break of a few minutes from your occupation may positively affect your decision-making.
When it comes to giving advice and making decisions, it is much easier for us to help our friends than ourselves. Now it turns out that there is a real reason for this when a joint study by Waterloo University and the University of Michigan found that distance from the dilemma prevents us from sinking into it and makes us more considerate. In addition, the researchers pointed to the fact that the act of providing counseling succeeds in getting us out of the point of view that we have chosen unconsciously, and allows us to think in a way that gives us a wider range of possibilities.
In the future, when you fail to reach the right decision, write a letter to a close friend advising him what to do in the same scenario. Beyond the fact that writing the letter will help you "advise yourself," listing the considerations on paper will formulate them in an orderly manner, which will help you deal with the dilemma more intelligently.
We often refrain from relying on our emotions, especially when it comes to important decisions and complex considerations. Reliance on emotion is perceived by most of us as irresponsible and reckless in our adult lives. However, Dr. Kahneman disagrees with this view in his research, in which he divides our reactions into two types: one is an instinctive response that occurs within a millisecond, and the other is a conscious response that involves a lengthy process of processing the information presented to us.
According to observations, Kahneman shows that our fast thinking mechanism usually leads to the right choices for us. The next time you face a difficult decision, don’t be quick to dismiss your gut feelings. Even if you’ve already entered an endless vortex of considerations, try to isolate the first thought that came to mind, there’s a high probability that it is the right choice.
In their book, "How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work," brothers and researchers Chip and Dan Heath identify "narrow framing" in how we as humans think, pointing to it as one of the main factors that constrain us and is guilty of mistaken decision making. In their book, they state that most people tend to think in narrow terms of "yes" or "no" while in fact, they can set themselves a wide range of different and better options.
In the future, avoid narrowing the decision in these ways and return to them only after you have examined and disqualified all the possibilities before you. For example: In relationships, the question sometimes arises in a crisis: "Should I stay with my spouse?" Instead, try to get out of narrow, limiting framing with the broader question "What can we do to improve our relationship?" Which opens before you a multitude of possibilities that for the most part will be better for you.
In everyday life, we encounter many situations in which people try to influence our decisions. However, even if they are interested in our personal wellbeing, they are sometimes unaware of the total personal considerations we take into account and even create peer pressure leading to a rise in our mental stress, which only further undermines our judgment. In such cases, you need to disconnect from the background noise for a moment, so that you can make a more reasonable and sensible decision.
When you encounter external pressure, simply move away from its source. If a colleague or manager puts pressure on you for a particular decision, get up for a few minutes and walk away from your desk, and if your partner tries to change your mind about a particular consideration, try asking them for a few minutes of space so that you can think about it in a separate room. Another great way to break away from the external noises is by walking, jogging, or breathing and meditation techniques that help reduce the level of stress hormones in the body, which are reflected, among other things, in the inability to think clearly.
In the 1950s, Psychologist Herbert Simon stood on one of the main differences between people - those who are satisfied with the “good enough” choice and those who never stop searching for “better options”. According to Simone's theory, most of the time, the second group drags the decision-making process to a long and confusing journey that sometimes ends with a mistaken decision due to the great frustration that the person experiences.
The bottom line is that if you notice that you have been dragged into the trap of countless wrangling and debating, sometimes you just have to make a decision. There is no doubt that there are decisions that require time and thought, but it is recommended that you don’t drag them out too long thus turning time into your enemy. Do you feel yourself being caught in a whirlwind of thoughts? Just set yourself a deadline to ask yourself to make the decision and the chances of it being the right one for you will only get higher.
There is a big difference between our personal experience in light of a decision we have to make and the way others respond to it. For this reason, consultant and leadership expert Mike Myatt recommends imagining what friends and family we know well would say in light of the decision before us. In this way, we manage to get out of our mental fixation and actually force ourselves to think "outside of the box."
There is, of course, the possibility of asking the true opinion of people close to us, but sometimes we should leave the decision making to ourselves in order to avoid unnecessary pressure from other parties that will only undermine us. It is not easy to imagine how others would think, so make yourself a short list of those you know most deeply, which you will think of (or like) every time you need to make a difficult decision. Be sure to narrow the list to no more than 2-3 people, so as not to create an additional load that will only make your life more difficult.
If you were looking for the perfect excuse to finish the book you’ve abandoned on the shelf, you now have a good reason, one that’s scientifically backed. In a study conducted by the University of Toronto in 2013, researcher Maja Djikic found that subjects who read books, especially of the science fiction genre, exhibited higher cognitive abilities at the end of the experiment and were able to open up to new ideas and make decisions more wisely.
Try to read a good book from time to time and even for a few minutes. Also, in addition to the beneficial effect of books on our minds, the "escape" into an interesting plot will slightly quiet the swarm of thoughts that flood your head, allowing you to approach the decision that is presented to you more balanced and calm.