When was the last time you procrastinated on an important task? When was the last time you ate too much? Bought something you didn’t really need? Made a bad decision at work?
Admit it. Most of the decisions we make aren’t all good; some of them make us feel regretful after. In some cases, they can make us feel embarrassed and even mad at ourselves.
Learning how to make better decisions can’t give you results overnight, but here are 4 strategies to help you out.
Why Do We Make Bad Decisions?
You can blame your brain for that. Ideally, we are rational beings. It’s what sets us apart from animals.
However, despite being capable of using logic, our emotions often get the best of us. The emotional part of our brain is vulnerable to making errors and cognitive biases.
It causes us to fall into akrasia or the state of acting against one’s better judgment. Take, for example, eating a whole carton of ice cream in one sitting. You know that feeling when you know you shouldn’t do it, but you do it anyway because you just can’t stop yourself? That’s what akrasia feels like.
So, how can we prevent ourselves from experiencing it?
There is a special field that focuses on addressing cognitive biases. One of its experts is Dr. Hal Arkes who revealed how he adapted the concept of debiasing in his own life to protect himself in this video.
Here’s how to make better decisions:
Key Strategy 1: Outside Perspective
Take an outside perspective of yourself. Imagine a friend who’s going through the same situation as you.
What would you advise your friend to do? What mistakes would your friend be likely to make? How can your friend avoid these mistakes?
Thinking of these things and asking yourself such questions can help you avoid making decisions that you’ll regret later.
Key Strategy 2: Consider Alternatives
Before settling on a decision, it’s a good idea if you can take the time to consider other possibilities.
Is there a different solution? Were you influenced in your decision? Do any people you know support alternative conclusions and why do they support them?
Considering alternative solutions and strategies is a great approach to avoid cognitive biases.
Key Strategy 3: Establish Decision Criteria in Advance
Have you ever walked into a bakery, smelled the delicious smell of bread and ended up getting much more food than you actually wanted? When was the last time you walked into a department store and bought stuff you later realized you didn’t need?
Establishing decision criteria in advance can help prevent any undesirable effects your decision can have. These are the criteria you can use to weigh your options and their results before you actually take action.
Thinking about your decision a hundred times as well as its implications can help you figure out if you are being rational or not.
Key Strategy 4: Account for Overconfidence
A lot of people are overconfident. Most of us think that we are more disciplined and accomplished than we actually are. We think we have more resources than we really do.
Just think about today’s drivers. At least 80 percent of them think that they are above average. In reality, however, a large number of drivers still make mistakes that end up in costly repairs and even injuries.
So before you take actions on your decisions, go back and rethink. Make sure that you are not acting out of overconfidence and that you’re making a decision based on your capacity and capability.
These strategies aren’t really that hard to implement. They do, however, take some time to get used to. Once you become accustomed to these techniques, you’ll find it easier to make decisions that actually matter- without biases and regrets.