5 Strategies for Making Better Life Decisions

Decision paralysis or fatigue will literally stop your goals in its tracks.  The average American makes about 70 decisions per day.  And with every decision comes consequences.  In an ideal world, the consequences would be good and propel you toward your intended goals.  Of course, this is not always the case.  But there are helpful strategies that you can apply in order to avoid making poor decisions.  The decisions that you make can shape the conditions of your life.  Here are five strategies for you to try: 

1.  Decisions Are Not Created Equal

You should not devote more mental energy than a decision deserves.  Mike Whitaker, author of The Decision Makeover: An Intentional Approach To Living The Life You Want encourages people to categorize decisions in terms of impact: small decisions impact you on a day-to-day level; medium decisions impact your life a year from now; and big decisions impact you beyond that.  Successful people don’t exert too much mental energy on small decisions.  Make small impact decisions quickly; realize the consequences aren’t (or shouldn’t be) significant enough to derail your day.

When it comes to the bigger decisions, you should have a list of written goals to refer to.  Make sure that your big decisions align with your goals.  If a goal overlaps with a decision that will bring momentum to that goal—do it.

2.  Automate Small Decisions

Similarly, you can automate small or inconsequential decisions to avoid putting any mental energy toward it altogether.  If you’ve noticed a lot of successful people dressing the same everyday, it’s not because they’re making a fashion statement, but because they’re automating the what-should-I-wear-today decision.  Barak Obama noted, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits.  I’m trying to pare down decisions.  I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make.”

3.  Fail Fast

We have a tendency to wallow in bad decisions.  It’s easy to keep beating yourself up because you feel like you’re dishing out some form of justice.  But successful people recalibrate quickly; they recognize the bad decision, pull the learning lesson from it, and stop looking for me.  Whitaker explains, “they fail fast, move, and then they don’t talk about it again.”  

4.  Stop Lowering the Bar

Once a mistake is made, people often lower standards and adjust goals downward so it appears like they haven’t missed the mark by that much.  We’ve all heard someone say “Well, I didn’t really want that job anyway.”  Successful people don’t lower their standards; their goals are immutable.  Make your goals immutable, and stop lowering your standards when your decisions fall short.  Forgive yourself, but don’t coddle yourself.  This will push you to rise to the occasion. 

5.  Check Your Emotional State

Decision making is easily influenced by your emotional state.  “Hangry” is real.  How you would act when you’re tired can be very different to the decision you’d make after a good night of sleep.  When you’re facing a medium or big impact decision, successful people will factor in their mental/emotional state when they are making the decision.  And, if they’re not in the best mental state, they’ll sleep on it.  Otherwise, regret will surely follow.  If you’re at a crossroad, take a walk, take a shower, or sleep on it; do something that will allow you to mentally disengage and take a break from thinking through it.  The disengagement often brings clarity.