Decisions, decisions. We’re faced with so many over the course of a single day. Some small, some big, and some small ones that seem big.
If you find yourself frequently unsure about which choice to make, whether it involves relationships, career moves, or simple things like which dress to buy—there are 7 daily habits you can introduce in order to make better decisions.
1. Remove yourself from the situation
When our friends come to us for advice about their problems, we suddenly become fountains of wisdom. Why can’t we give ourselves the same good advice? Because when we’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to keep an unbiased, impartial mindset. That’s when removing yourself from the situation can be helpful.
One way to do this is to think of yourself in third person. Yes, it sounds funny, but studies show that thinking of yourself this way can help you make better decisions. Because suddenly, you’re not harping on your own issues; rather, you’re carefully mulling over someone else’s problem and allowing yourself to tap into the same wisdom that’s usually reserved for others. If you practice this way of thinking for a short amount of time each day, you may see pleasantly surprising results.
2. Sleep well
We all know how important sleep is to our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. But did you know it can also help you make better decisions?
Studies show that getting a good night’s sleep is a key component of making good choices; especially when dealing with risks. People who sleep less are more likely to take bigger risks, as opposed to people who get a solid 8 hours, who are more likely not to take bigger risks.
If you’re faced with a tough decision, give yourself at least a few nights of solid sleep. This daily, or rather, nightly, habit, can help you approach decisions with a clear head.
3. Write things down
Writing things down on paper can force you to articulate your thoughts, feelings, and facts. Whether you do this in the form of a pros and cons list, an Eisenhower Box, journaling, or anything else you can think of, the idea behind writing is to help organize your thoughts. Sometimes we feel a certain way, but that feeling isn’t actually based in the real world. Writing things down is a good way to check if our emotions are in tune with reality.
4. Don’t overthink
Does this sound like the exact opposite of number 3? Well, yes and no. You certainly need to think about your decisions and what will be best for you—but overthinking? That’s a no-no.
While writing down things can be a great habit to help you make decisions, constant dwelling can lead to stress. So instead of dwelling, get a good night’s sleep (see above) or throw yourself into another activity that’s completely unrelated. Often, while we sleep or do other things, our unconscious works in the background and helps sort things out.
5. Refrain from consulting everyone and their mother
Sometimes we feel unequipped to make an important decision—where to move, where to send our kids to school, whether to switch jobs, which antivirus software to buy! In these situations, we’re likely to turn to our friends, coworkers, partners, anyone pretty much we think can offer guidance. And yes, seeking advice is a good move—provided you seek it from the right people.
Just like you wouldn’t ask a doctor about your carburetor, and you wouldn’t ask a mechanic about your heart condition, you shouldn’t seek advice from just anyone. Pick 1 or 2 people who you trust, who are experts, or who have experience in that specific area—and ask them. Once you start asking everyone and their mother, you’re in for a lot of advice that may not be right for you at all.
6. Recognize your biases
When it comes to making decisions, everyone has their own biases, called heuristics. Heuristics are mental shortcuts that help us make decisions faster. These are designed to help you make educated guesses and avoid things that are bad for us without doing comprehensive research.
But there’s a downside to heuristics as well—they can lead to erroneous conclusions. For example, if you hear a lot about car accidents on the news, you may reason that driving is really dangerous and not get into a car. Or if you once acted a certain way in one situation, you may act the same way in a similar situation, even if the same action isn’t called for.
When it comes to decision making, it’s important to be aware of your heuristics—perhaps these mental shortcuts are leading you down the wrong path. Taking a few minutes everyday to consider the thought processes behind your decisions can increase your awareness of what’s motivating you.
7. Practice mindfulness meditation
Sometimes we make decisions based on the sunk cost bias, which is when we invest time, money, or effort on a bad decision. Rather than admit we made a bad decision, we follow through with it, which is another bad decision in itself. For example, if you invest a lot of money into a small business, the sunk cost bias tells you to keep on investing money even if the business is failing.
Studies show that a brief session of mindfulness meditation a day can build your resistance to the sunk cost bias. This is due to the very nature of mindfulness meditation; it cultivates awareness of the present moment and clears the mind of other thoughts.
Practically, this means that if you meditate on the present situation of your failing business, you won’t think about the money you invested in the past. You see it as it is now— failing—and can come to a rational decision about whether to continue to invest.
Better decisions, better self
There’s no magic involved in learning to make better decisions—there’s hard work, commitment, and dedication. But if you’re tired of doubting yourself and living in constant uncertainty, investing the time to internalize these 7 habits is definitely worth your while. After all, you’re not just investing in the habits, but in yourself.