Tricks to Help You Make Tough Decisions
Most of our day-to-day decisions involve fairly low risk: what to eat for breakfast, what to wear to work, what to watch on Netflix. But even if the choice of food for breakfast doesn’t change the course of your life, the choice can be a real challenge.
It makes sense, therefore, that important, high-risk decisions can cause serious stress in your life. Things like buying a house, getting married, divorcing, moving across the country, or getting fired from our job can drain our willpower . Fortunately, there are certain exercises to help you with your decision-making process. Before making a big cross-country move, I used these tips to decide where and when I want to go.
Imagine advising a friend
Tough decisions can undermine your emotions, making it harder to make a firm decision. So help mitigate that, The New York Times invites you to pretend you are advising a friend through a solution .
The reasoning here is very simple: your short-term emotions can get in the way of decision making, and this clouds your judgment. It’s difficult to let go of your emotions, but it’s helpful to know that they influence your choices.
This only works under certain circumstances. It doesn’t make sense to pretend to advise a friend about the cheapest moving truck, but the advice on where to go makes sense. This was one of the most rewarding ideas for me as I was trying to choose what the hell I would like to move on to. I went with an imaginary friend who looked like me and tried to figure out how I would approach talking to them. I imagined the type of questions I was asking, thought about the various risks I might mention, and even came up with a few things to research about different places.
It takes a little mental gymnastics, of course, but it’s worth a try. You can always ask a friend for advice, but this way you can do it on the fly, without long phone calls.
Limit the amount of information you enter
It is a fairly common belief that the more information you have, the better you will be at making the best decision. However, at some point, you will reach a point where you have too much information. This is one of those silly tricks that our brains impose on us, which are difficult to resist.
When we have too much information, we start filling in the blanks and adding weight to information that doesn’t matter. Psychology Today explains what’s going on :
The human mind hates uncertainty. Uncertainty implies impermanence, chance, and danger. When we notice that there is no information available, our brain raises a metaphorical red flag and says, “Pay attention. This can be important … ”When data are not available, we overestimate their value. Our minds assume that because we spend resources looking for information, it must be useful.
This information comes in all forms. You may have done so much research on a topic that you’ve crossed the point of “mindful decision” and jumped into too much information. Or it may be that you have sought advice from several friends, each of whom has given you different opinions. However, when you have too much information on your desk, you make the decision-making process much more difficult.
In my case, I definitely reached that point of information overload where there were too many facts and opinions in front of me. Cutting out some of this helped. Instead of talking to a bunch of friends, I’ve left it to just a few people I really trust.
Another important realization that I had both big and smaller choices was that my decision was always reversible . When we make many decisions, we attach more importance to them than they are worth. Yes, moving across the country to a new location is a big deal, but it’s also completely reversible. If it sucks, you move again. Likewise, with most small decisions, setting the rule of two minutes to make a decision gets it out of the way so we can move on. Most of the decisions we make are not as important as we think, and recognizing this helps to keep the amount of information you make to a minimum.
Reinforce your inner contradiction and turn your assumptions around
I’ve already mentioned the benefits of thinking outside of yourself a bit and pretending to be giving advice, but it’s also worth going further and challenging your underlying assumptions. It might sound a little crazy, but you are so inclined to keep making the same choices throughout your life that setting yourself a challenge and doing the exact opposite is often the best way to get around the problem. The idea here is to counter your default behavior , step outside your comfort zone, and use your imagination to test out some completely new ideas .
The suggestion here is simple: if you are deciding between several different options, add a new option, which is essentially the exact opposite of what you usually do. Now imagine yourself as if you have already made this choice and are living with this decision. For a bit of a move, it was about a couple of extra places I didn’t want to move to. Then, when I weighed my choices, I had a few options that I didn’t even consider. It made my brain question my guesses about what mattered in my chosen city, what I was really looking for, and what details really mattered.
It might seem like you’re just confusing yourself by adding options that don’t matter, but in certain cases – especially in cases like a move or even a career change – it’s about thinking outside of your comfort zone in order to do your best. solution. If you need help with this mental back flip, the Think Jar Collective suggests asking yourself a few simple questions :
- List any of your guesses about the subject.
- Challenge your fundamental assumptions by changing them. Write down the opposite of each suggestion.
- Ask yourself how to achieve each reversal. Make up as many useful points of view as possible.
The end result is a new perspective that you might not otherwise have thought of. You may not necessarily make these choices, but they can help you understand what you really want when making a decision.
Print it out
Many people love charting, and if that sounds like you, then you know that spreadsheets are one of the best ways to help you make the best decision. A simple spreadsheet of pros and cons, qualities, ratings, and more can help you get the big picture of your decision. It helped me figure out both where to go and more details like choosing a truck transport company.
The good news is that you don’t need to be very knowledgeable with spreadsheets. This spreadsheet provides a template for all kinds of solutions and has a ranking system so you can easily fill out whatever you want.
You can make your spreadsheet as simple or complex as you like. I needed a two-column list of pros and cons so that each city gets its own set of columns. If you want to really improve your game, you can create incredibly complex spreadsheets for all kinds of decisions . Find what works for you with the ultimate goal of showing yourself a clear view of all aspects of your decisions in one place.
Everyone has an idea of what is an important decision and what is not, but doing these exercises is a way to get to the point where you will be more confident in your choice. For me, it was about running out of options and feeling educated but not overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter how you do it, decisions tire your brain and willpower, but hopefully you can make it a little easier on yourself so that you don’t regret too much in the end.
This story was originally published on 08/01/13 and updated on 10/14/19 to provide more complete and up-to-date information.