How To Make Better Decisions

How To Make Better Decisions

Whether it’s what to have for breakfast, whether to go for a promotion at work or who to vote for in the next general election, sometimes decision-making plagues us all. Making clear decisions can feel empowering – and boost your self-esteem and confidence too. How can you make better choices? We asked the experts for their top tips…

Knowing you’ve made the right move when faced with different choices can feel like a real win. It may be as simple as buying a dress that your friends all compliment you on, or as big as making a career move that defines your future plans, but either way there’s a sense of satisfaction and personal gratification. For many of us, however, it can take quite a bit of mental to-ing and fro-ing to arrive at a decision – even one as simple as what outfit to wear that day.

Why can decisions be so hard to make? “It normally comes down to being overly preoccupied with the idea of making the wrong one,” explains Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and Co-Founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. “This can stem from all kinds of deep-rooted issues, such as feelings of defectiveness, low self-esteem, not trusting your own judgement, fear of missing out and much more.”

Mindset coach Poppy Delbridge agrees. “It takes guts to commit to one way of doing something when there are often so many options available to us,” she says. “Throw self-doubt, fear of failure or rejection, and guilt into the mix, and it doesn’t sound so appealing to make a decision.” 

This may all sound quite obvious, but many of us don’t tend to analyse our decision-making process. “Psychologically speaking, we tend to separate decision-making into two camps,” says Elena. “There are those who make impulsive, emotionally driven decisions (with an ‘emotion mind’) and those who are overly analytical (with a ‘reasonable mind’). Ideally, you should be looking to find a balance between the two (a ‘wise mind’). That means taking into account how you feel about something, while also logically weighing up the pros and cons.”

Want to make your choices work for you? Poppy and Elena have the following advice…

Tune Into Your Feelings 

“This is one way of practising ‘wise mind’,” explains Elena. “Project yourself into the future and imagine what the consequences of that decision would really feel like.” That way, you’ll know whether it’s the kind of choice that is emotionally right for you. 

Weigh Up The Pros And Cons

As well as tuning into your feelings and thinking emotionally about your options, look at the choices logically. “This is the rational part and involves tapping into ‘reasonable mind’,” says Elena. “Bringing both ‘emotion mind’ and ‘reasonable mind’ into balance like this helps you make a decision that is neither overly triggered by your feelings nor too emotionally detached and cut off.” When looking at the different choices available to you, Poppy suggests writing down your points. “Put your thoughts onto paper in a brainstorm spider diagram,” she says. “For most people it is easier to see your options than to simply think about them.” 

Make Values-Based Decisions

To ensure you’re taking the right steps in life, think about the bigger picture and consider what you’re working towards, both emotionally and rationally. “Before making any decisions you need to know your big vision for your future and your key values,” explains Poppy. “If you’re not living in alignment with what really drives you, you may feel confused because you don’t know where you want to end up. Values are a set of defining principles which you consider to be important to the way you operate on a day-to-day basis at work and in life. When we live in harmony with these values, we can start to flourish.” 

Let It Go

Part of what makes decision-making so hard is the thought that you’re only able to commit to just one option, and it might be the wrong one. Here, it’s important to let go of your concerns. “Try to find radical acceptance with the fact that not every decision you make is going to be the perfect one,” Dr Elena says. “You can only ever make a decision based on what you know at that particular moment. Ultimately, not making a decision is significantly worse than moving forward and committing to something, so bear this in mind.” 

Trust Your Gut

If your gut is telling you to go for it, chances are that’s what you should do. “Many decisions require a leap of faith,” Elena says and Poppy agrees. To help you see the value in trusting yourself, she recommends meditating for a minute in silence, then making a list of three poor decisions you have made in your life. “Did you know deep down that your decision-making was a bit ‘off’ in these occasions?” Poppy asks. “What would have happened differently if you slid the door the other way and followed your instincts instead?” Ruminate on these thoughts and encourage yourself to trust your inner gut. 

Don’t Avoid Failure At The Expense Of Success

“Often we avoid decisions because we’re afraid of failing,” says Poppy, who advises asking yourself: ‘If I knew I could never fail at anything, what would I do?’ “Write down your answers, then go through them and ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen if you did fail after making this step. Follow this up by questioning what ways your life would change for the better if you succeeded.” This will show what you could be missing out on by shying away from scary choices. “Failure is inevitable but so is success – it’s all just experience really,” Poppy adds. “It’s liberating to take back control in this way and reframe ‘failure’ into exciting self-development and life progression.”

Take A Step Back 

It can be easy to make spur-of-the-moment decisions, particularly if you’re upset, angry or feeling very passionate. This is exactly the point at which you need to take a step back, says Elena. “Pay attention to moments when you have a particularly strong urge to act a certain way,” she advises. “When you’re in a heightened emotional state, this should serve as a major red flag that you’re about to act on something that needs further evaluation. Take a moment to examine your motives.”

Work Out What’s Driving Your Decision-Making

If you feel you often make the wrong choices, it may be worth looking at what’s driving these habits. “Usually, when our decision-making falls off kilter, it is schema-driven and points to a particular underlying psychological vulnerability,” Elena explains. “For example, if you’re frightened of separation, a lot of your decisions are going to be driven by a fear of abandonment. Likewise, if we have feelings of inadequacy, we’re going to avoid situations where that might be heightened. When we make decisions that are not in line with our goals and values, it usually points to a pattern and is worth digging deeper with a therapist.”

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