Black tie or brown? Donut or fruit? Should you take the back road to avoid the accident ahead, or wait it out?
Your days are filled with decisions. Sometimes, the decisions are really stressful. Should you quit your job to start your own business? Should you get married? Buy a house? Have children?
By the time you get home, you would rather just go to bed than decide what to make for dinner. You hand the take-out menu to your spouse or roommate and beg them to choose.
A recent body of research has shown that this is not abnormal. The decision-making part of the human brain only has the capacity for a certain amount of focus during the course of a day. When it is tapped out, it is tapped out. This is the danger zone, when you end up making poor decisions. Many people fear decision-making as it is; knowing that you really are incapable of choosing beyond a certain point is terrifying. How can you be assured that you will make decisions that won’t come back to haunt you in the future?
Minimalizing and Planning
You know how fatigued your mind is after a big exam, or after choosing to accept one job over another. Recent research suggests that it is not just the major decisions or brain-straining activities that wear you out. It can be the little decisions. In a series of studies conducted at the University of Minnesota, a team of psychologists repeatedly found that even the act of “selecting” depletes the decision-making storehouse.
Successful people are known to minimize their choices in order to save up resources for the big decisions. For instance, if you plan out what you will wear the next day, do some simple meal planning for the following evening or even the entire week, and schedule certain days that you will pay certain bills, then these minor decisions will be completed while leaving your mind fresh when you really need the extra brain power.
Envision the Possible Outcomes
A common decision-making fail is to overestimate your abilities or to ignore the things that could go wrong. Painting a mental picture of the future, with all its possible outcomes, will give you a broader picture of where you have gaps in your planning or where the chaos factor might take hold.
Being prepared allows the smart person to manage problems before they arise. If you have a big decision coming up, imagine the possible outcomes of each choice. This pre-planning will allow you to halt some issues from cropping up along whatever path you follow.
Be Aware of Your Human-ness
Even if you act and perform like a superhero, it doesn’t mean you are one. Each human being is subject to the same constraints of the human body — namely, fatigue, hunger, and emotions. Physical stress equals poor decisions.
Successful people learn to recognize their emotions for what they are, and they don’t let this hinder them from making rational decisions.
Time is Always a Factor
Make sure to deliberate on a big decision until you have looked at it from several angles. If possible, get a good night’s sleep before committing to a decision. Taking time before rushing into a choice will allow you to view the situation from a rational perspective rather than an emotional one, as emotions are more short-lived. However, remember to schedule the final decision within a reasonable time period, because not making a decision is also a decision.
Get Advice, and Not Just the Advice You Want
Smart, successful people are able to understand many different points-of-view. If you seek advice on your decisions, try to avoid the confirmation bias phenomena. Confirmation bias is making up your mind and then only researching the perspectives that support your initial decision. If you want to be the kind of person who makes rational decisions that will be the most beneficial in the long-run, you must be willing to seek counsel from all sides.