Life is full of decisions that have to be made. Many have trouble making better choices, especially when a lot is at stake.
You might have made your fair share of less-than-ideal choices in the past. This track record could make you worried about committing more errors in the future. But you don’t have to be held up by this anxiety and fear, and you have the power to make good decisions continually. Here are three practical ways to make better choices in life.
1. Frame Your Dilemmas So You Can Make Better Choices Intelligently
The way you think about and look at choices in your life determines whether or not you make good decisions. Without proper intelligent and mindful framing, you wind up falling victim to various biases and a lack of critical thinking. To make better choices, you should frame your dilemmas in the following ways:
· Outline Your Choices
Suppose you want to make better choices. One of the first things you need is to understand your options thoroughly. That’s why you should always correctly outline your preferences before you begin pondering them. It’s helpful to write or type this out so you can better process it. Start by noting what choice you’re trying to make, your motivation for it, and how each option can fulfill the overall decision’s requirements.
· Consider Various Different Choices
There are always multiple options to every single dilemma. Rarely is it truly a fork in the road. Instead, it is a path that branches into numerous different sub-branches and beyond! You shouldn’t compare every single possible choice under the sun, but you should have more than one or two in mind. This consideration gives you the chance to flex your thinking skills and consider a range of options that may have been previously not considered.
· Reframe Your Mind To Make Better Choices
The framing effect is potent in determining human decisions. The way you present the same information can dramatically change how it is received. For example, this is why 10% fat milk is marketed as 90% fat-free. It’s also why you’d be more likely to gamble, for instance, if something were advertised as “Keep $30!” than “Lose $20”. That’s what research says, having performed that same experiment! This means that changing the language, you use to describe your different options can dramatically alter how you view them. Practice reframing other choices in ways that sound better and worse to you, so you get a full scope of its pros and cons.
· Play Devil’s Advocate
Playing devil’s advocate against yourself sounds silly, but it’s essential in fighting confirmation bias. People naturally seek information that will confirm what they already believe or want, often twisting that information to fit their desired outcome. Studies show that even those who don’t want to do this still can do it accidentally! Playing devil’s advocate allows you to fight this bias and seek out genuine facts, interpreting them correctly to inform your decision. Reframe your choices by putting yourself in the shoes of someone with a different mindset from you. Would you still feel the same way, or can the input be interpreted a different way?
· Consider Risk And Reward
The more familiar you are with a particular path, the more comfortable you’re likely to feel in it. While this is a good thing, it can also cause you to become uncomfortable with taking any risks. But making the best choices doesn’t always involve doing the least risky something! Sometimes, the potential rewards can be worth a moderate risk. Reframe risky options based on their reward, and don’t let fear of those risks cloud your judgment!
· Don’t Overload On Options
It sounds like a good idea to collect as many options and choice possibilities as you can. But this is counterproductive when it comes to making better decisions. The human brain naturally makes decisions based on the information that it received last. Plus, too much to consider can lead to heightened decision paralysis as you’ll have trouble deciding between them. So prioritize essential details and use that to narrow down choices quickly before you stop to ponder the last few most ideal options.
2. Take Your Emotions Into Account To Make Better Choices
People often falsely believe that emotions shouldn’t factor into making better choices at all. There’s a mistaken idea that decision-making must inherently involve nothing but pure logic.
But the fact is that human beings aren’t robots! They have feelings and instincts that aren’t easy to rationalize without accepting the nature of emotion. To deny your feelings is to deny reality, and you can’t separate yourself from them. Studies show that your feelings play a huge role in making decisions, whether you want them to or not. Trying to stick to logic alone leaves you susceptible to the influences of subconscious feelings.
If you were to take your emotions into account from the start, you could treat them as informational factors to consider. This takes power away from them, so they don’t secretly pull your strings. It also grants you insight into things you may not have thought about prior. Here’s how to do this to make better choices:
· Label Your Feelings
When you feel a variety of different emotions relating to decision-making, identify each one. This will allow you to understand how you think and whether or not these feelings should be driving your decision-making at all. For example, if you’ve been feeling like passing up an opportunity, you need to stop and consider why.
Is it because of anxiety? That innate anxiety could be driving a confirmation bias and may have framed the choice in a certain way to prove it. Or perhaps that anxiety is for a good cause – is there a factor you’ve ignored that could make this a bad idea? If you miss the emotion without labeling it, you’ll never know!
· Wait Till Your Emotions Aren’t High
When possible, an ideal way to make better choices is by ensuring you’re of a clear head and relatively stable emotional state. This is because high emotions can dramatically influence how you process input and make choices, according to studies. So if you’re currently stressed out, have just received bad news or good news, or are excited about something, take a bit of a brother. Just sleeping on a decision can allow you access to a much clearer head and more beneficial way of thinking.
· Trust Your Gut When Necessary
Your gut instincts trigger emotional responses. For example, when you get a bad feeling about something, you might become anxious or uncomfortable. Or when you have a good feeling, you may become eager. While instincts shouldn’t be the only thing that drives better choices in life, the fact is that you rely on them all the time!
Most human beings automatically make judgments about the world around them as part of their daily survival instinct. So if you have to make a fast decision and can’t take any time to properly consider your options, trust your gut. It’s emotional, but it can be trusted for the most part.
Anyway, studies show that the difference between stewing over the same information for one millisecond and several minutes is pretty much indistinct. So instead of wasting your time chewing your nails in nervousness, go with your instincts when you have no time!
3. Learn From Your Past Events to Make Better Choices Now
You can’t know the outcome of any situation based on the choices you might make. You can only do your best to make choices well and hope for desirable results. But at the end of the day, one of the most significant factors in making better choices is learning from past decisions. What were their outcomes? How could you have done better? Was there anything you could have changed? Here’s how to keep learning, so you continue to make better and better choices:
· Reflect On Mistakes
When a decision turns out to be a mistake, take some time to reflect on it. Think about the choices you made and your reasoning for them. What underlying factors motivated these choices? Was there any way to prevent this outcome? If so, what steps will you take to do so next time? If not, could that outcome have been better handled? And if this wasn’t something you had any control over, then remember that it’s not a mistake on your part. Don’t blame yourself for things that you had no hand in!
· Make Better Choices By Evaluating Past Errors
It’s good practice to spend ten or fifteen minutes at the end of each day reviewing the choices you made throughout it. This encourages a regular habit of reflection. Congratulate yourself over good decisions and consider how to continue making choices like that. Reflect on poor decisions and consider how to do better next time. Don’t spend too long on these reviews, however. Ruminating over past events isn’t healthy. Take the valuable knowledge and information you need and move on.
· Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk
The goal of learning from past choices is to move on wiser and more decisive. If you dwell on them for too long, you risk further worsening your future decisions. For example, if you made a mistake, you might make several more mistakes in the hopes of making up for the first. Or you may fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy, where you’ve spent so long in a wrong decision that you’re reluctant to get out of it. But these past issues don’t define you and shouldn’t continue to hold sway over you beyond informing your growth. Keep moving forward.
· Empower Yourself To Make Better Choices
Self-compassion and self-esteem play a central role in continual learning and growth, say studies. You have to be able to forgive yourself for previous mistakes to learn from them well. It would help if you were reasonable with your expectations to avoid gunning for something unattainable in decision-making. You must be open-minded and non-judgmental to listen to your emotions and experiences and work with them. You have to have the necessary confidence to be willing to stand by decisions and stride forward while trusting your capability to adapt to future issues. Learning to be kind to yourself facilitates learning!
Final Thoughts On Some Effective Ways To Make Better Choices In Life
The easy and challenging decisions you face in everyday life are opportunities to learn, grow, and do better next time. So frame your decisions intelligently, take your emotions into account, and continually learn from the past with confidence and self-compassion. If you do so, you’ll make better choices in life.