Everything that happens in life is governed by the decisions you make. Even when events occur that are beyond your control, the way you react and the choices you make shape the results of these events. Some people find the weight of responsibility hard to cope with and become paralysed because they worry about making the wrong choice. Unless you’ve got a functioning crystal ball or have Dr. Who on speed dial, you’re not going ever to be sure of how things will turn out, but there are things you can do to help you choose wisely and stack the odds in favour of a positive outcome.
The psychology behind how people choose what course of action to take is complex and involves many influencing factors. Even the smallest decisions are loaded with variables and complications. Should you get a bar of chocolate when you pop in to pay for your petrol at the service station, or would a bag of sweets be better? You could be worrying about the difference in calories, whether one is more likely to set off your toothache, which is better value for money; are sweets better because they’ll last longer, even though you fancy the chocolate? All this debate over one simple, insignificant purchase – it’s a wonder that big decisions ever get made at all! Of course, the solution is not to have the debate in the first place; use the pay at pump function and don’t go into the shop at all. This is a trivial example of the decision-making process, but it shows how even the smallest things can have many facets that need to be considered and appraised before a choice is made.
Don’t go it alone
One of the reasons people end up making what turn out to be poor decisions is the feeling that they must make a choice themselves. It is true to an extent, in that you have the final say and the ultimate responsibility, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for information and advice from other sources.
- Friends and family. Often the people you turn to first, because you trust them, and they know you best. Discussing the situation with your nearest and dearest is usually a wise move, with a couple of caveats. Because they know you and love you, they may not want to hurt your feelings. So, if you go to them to talk about whether you should retrain to be a chef because you love food and are fed up with your office job, they may be full of enthusiasm, encouraging you and getting entry forms for MasterChef. This is great if you’re good at cooking, but if you’re not, they aren’t doing you any favours by building up your confidence when it is misplaced. On the other hand, they can also be too concerned about security and responsibility, and try and dissuade you from doing anything risky that could affect your financial position. So listen to what they have to say, but filter it through what you know about them and what their attitudes are likely to be. Bear in mind too that although you are asking for their advice, that doesn’t mean you have to follow it – it’s very much in your hands to take on board what you see as good advice and reject the rest.
- Search the Internet. Most people’s answer for everything now is to get online and see what they can find out. There is a wealth of valuable information out there, much of it freely available, so it’s a great place to start. Look for quality websites and authoritative sources of information, so you don’t get misled by inaccurate content. Check what qualifications and expertise the writer and the site have, and compare information from several different sources before accepting anything as fact. If you find this difficult, pop down to your local library, where they will be able to help you learn about appraising the quality of information online, and they might have a useful book or two as well.
- Use reviews and insight from people who have been through the same things as you. It could be as straightforward as using the reviews on Amazon to decide which vacuum cleaner to buy, or it could be something like making the best choice for life insurance by examining the reports on an independent site like Insurance Hero Cover Reviews. Feedback and reviews are something most businesses recognise will add value to their offer, so there are many ways to find out about a company or their service from previous customers. If you can’t find anything useful that covers the topic you need help with, ask in a forum, or post a message asking your Facebook friends what they think.
- Seek professional advice. Some problems are best solved by seeking out someone who is an expert in a related field, and who can be completely If your child is struggling at school and you are trying to decide how to improve things for them, get an assessment from an educational psychologist. They can advise you on any learning difficulties or emotional problems your child has, and how best to deal with them. This is far better than trying to decide what to do when you don’t have the skills required to know what’s best.
Your own biases and feelings influence your decisions, and this can lead you towards making choices that aren’t in your best interests. Deciding to put off completing a report for work because there is international rugby on TV is an example of making a decision that isn’t the wisest in the circumstances. It would be better to complete the report and then watch the rugby afterwards on catch-up, or just record it to watch when you’ve finished. This is where it pays to be able to take a step back and examine whether your personal feelings are hindering the decision-making process.
By analysing your dilemma objectively, finding out as much about the situation and its implications as you can and seeking advice from competent sources, you will be much better placed to make the right decisions.
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