3 Easy Ways to Make Better Decisions
Make a decision, now! They are everywhere in our lives, from the small and unimportant, like what to wear or eat, to the monumental, like whether or not to get married and with whom, what job to take, and how to raise our children. We fiercely defend our freedom of choice. The definition of free will is crucial to our sense of identity. But occasionally we make poor choices that make us unhappy or regretful. Can science be useful?
We need to strike a balance between the forces of emotion and reason when making decisions. We need to be able to foresee the future, perceive the present with accuracy, understand the thoughts of others, and deal with uncertainty.
- The majority of us fret about our decisions but never really understand the science behind making better ones.
- You have the power to positively impact both your external environment and internal biology, which are both reflected in your decisions.
- We can programme our unconscious decisions, which make up a large portion of our daily decisions, to work in our favour.
- Psychological weaknesses give others a chance to influence our decisions, but awareness can shield us.
3 Easy Ways to Make Better Decisions
Your environment and biology have an impact on your decision-making.
And you can use this to your advantage. Our decisions ultimately reflect the structure and operation of our brains. According to research, certain regions of the brain are particularly important for making decisions, and when these regions are harmed or otherwise compromised, our ability to make decisions is negatively impacted. It’s noteworthy that bad decisions frequently occur in people with brain dysfunction or damage. This makes it even more important to take precautions against illnesses like Alzheimer’s that could influence people to make less healthy decisions.
Taking a step back, however, it’s crucial to realise that our decisions at any given time are influenced by both our biology and the events taking place in the world around us. For instance, it appears that being under a lot of stress makes us prefer more impulsive choices, and that both stress and sleep deprivation make us more likely to rely on automatic, habitual choices rather than deliberate ones.
These types of insights underpin a few crucial tactics for enhancing daily decision-making, such as prioritising sleep (sleep-deprived people tend to make less healthy choices), getting daily exercise (people may make healthier decisions after a round of exercise), and practising stress-reduction techniques on a regular basis (like meditation or breathing exercises). Interesting research also indicates that even brief periods of exposure to nature may reduce impulsive decisions.
It’s possible that over 40% of our actions are unconscious.
And we can programme these decisions to work in our favour. Over 40% of our daily actions may be habitual, automatic behaviours, making this statistic one of the most significant ones when it comes to decision-making. When we repeatedly engage in the same behaviours, habits are formed. As you brush your teeth, drive home from work, or pick up your phone to open Instagram while in the bathroom, these actions can almost happen automatically. You would be able to answer a question about what you were doing, but you wouldn’t be able to recall much (if any) of the reasons behind it or having made the decision to engage in the behaviour.
It is risky in the modern world to let our environments programme our ingrained behaviours. This is so because we develop habits when we engage in activities that are both simple and satisfying, and the majority of these are unhealthy (e.g., getting fast food on the way home from work, watching TV for hours after dinner, scrolling on social media in bed after we wake up).
We can replace bad habits with better ones, which is good news. To achieve this, we must follow a set of instructions that teaches our brains how to programme healthier habits. Start by trying to name a few bad habits you have and see if you can spot any particular triggers that cause you to act in that way.
Your psychological weaknesses are being exploited.
Every day, our brains and choices are influenced from a million different directions. Some of the most powerful influences on our decisions, however, come from people who use a few psychological tricks. When we ignore these, our decision-making suffers, and our physical and financial health suffers as a result.
Because our brains have to process so much information every day, they rely on psychological shortcuts. For example, many of us rely on “crowd wisdom” by imitating the actions of others. This could work well if the people we followed made decisions that made sense to us. But, all too often, we fall victim to marketers who use this against us. Consider a few well-placed five-star reviews or a well-known health expert recommending some junk food you would never consider otherwise.
Another example is the scarcity bias, which describes our increased desire to possess something if it is rare or otherwise difficult to obtain. This explains our impulsive purchases during “Today only!” sales, countdown clocks on website checkout pages, and marketing ploys that artificially limit the number of items we can purchase. There are an infinite number of these psychological shortcuts, but knowing a few of them can help you recognise when similar plays are being made for your brain.