Make Better Decisions

Along the road of life, you make many decisions. The decisions you have made will range from the trivial to crucial. What you decide can determine the kind of person you become later. Making decisions at crucial stages can even affect your future. If you have ever done something only to regret it, you can learn how to make better decisions.


Framing the Decision

  1. Outline the issue. Before you can make a good decision, you need to clearly outline the issues. This will help you focus on the decision you are making and not be distracted by unrelated things.[1] It may help if you write down a simple sentence or two that says “The decision I need to make is…”
    • You should also ask yourself why you feel the need to make this decision. What is your motivation? This will help you understand the actions that you are about to take. Perhaps you have decided to purchase a new car. Are you purchasing the car because you need a new car? Do you want a new car because one of your friends got a new car? Understanding your motivation can help you avoid making bad decisions.[2]
  2. Deal with your emotions. Your emotions do have an impact on the decisions you make.[3] This is not a bad thing. The key is to be able to identify and control your emotions. Good decision making is a combination of using your emotions and being rational. You should only include emotions that are directly related to the decision you are making.[4]
    • If you received some bad news right before you go to work or school, those negative emotions will influence some of the decisions that you make. If you are aware of this, you can take a second to calm yourself down and remind yourself that you need to focus on the task at hand.
  3. Do not overload on information. You may hear people talk about making informed decisions. While it is important to have information upon which to base your decision, too much information can be bad thing.[3] We usually make decisions based on the most recent information that we have taken in.
    • You should prioritize the information that is most important and relevant to making your decision. You may want to make a mental or actual list of only the information you need.
    • If you have been thinking about your decision for a long time, take a break to clear your mind. You could go for a walk or read a book for 15 minutes.[5]
  4. Consider multiple options. Make a list of all your options, no matter how ridiculous you feel they are. Your unconscious mind plays a major role in your decision making. Scientists have found that most of the decisions we make are based on our unconscious mind. These decisions often turn out to be the right decisions, based on the information available.[3]
    • Practice mindfulness as part of your decision making.[6] You should set aside any distractions and take time time to meditate on the decision at hand. Take a deep breath and think about your decision, different solutions, and the pros and cons of each option. Just 15 minutes of meditation has been shown to improve decision making.[7]
    • Your meditation should be focused on the present moment. If your mind begins to wander, redirect your thoughts back to the decision you need to make.
    • Keeping your emotions in check and arming yourself with the necessary information you need will allow your unconscious thinking to make better decisions.[3]
  5. Remove yourself from the decision. It is difficult to make a decision when you are involved in the situation. Pretend that it is your friend’s decision, and they have come to you for advice. We often give different advice to our friends than we give ourselves.[8][9] This will help you see your decision from multiple perspectives.
    • If you are making a decision about whether or not to stay in a relationship, pretend that your friend is in the relationship and not you. You would then consider the relationship from the perspective of both people involved in the relationship.You then may think about ways your friend could solve some of the problems in the relationship and what the different outcomes could be.
    • Using an outside perspective will also help you keep your emotions in check.
  6. Consider the risks and rewards. You should make a list of the positive things and negative things that may occur as a result of your decision. You should also think about who else may be affected by the decision you make.[10] Remember there are pros and cons to every decision. You should make a decision where the good things outweigh the bad things. No decision you make will be perfect.
    • If you are planning to buy a new car, some of the pros would be having a good warranty, the latest technology, or better gas mileage. Some of the cons may be a higher car payment and increased car insurance. You would consider these factors along with your financial situation and your current transportation situation.
    • You should think about the best things and worst things that can happen as a result of your decision. You should also consider what will happen if you do not make a decision at all (which is actually a decision in itself).

Making the Decision

  1. Avoid common traps. Your preferences and usual thinking patterns can sabotage your decision making at times. You may frame your decision, get the right information, and weigh the pros and cons and still not make the best decision. It is important that you are aware of your preferences and biases that can influence your decision making process.[11]
    • Always view your problem from different perspectives instead of sticking with your initial solution. You can seek advice from people who think differently from you to get more insight.[11]
    • Do not make a decision just because it is the most comfortable. Change is difficult, but sometimes trying something different or unusual is the best solution.
    • If you already have your mind made up, do not just seek information that supports what you want to do. Try to be objective and consider all sides of the issue.
    • Focus on the decision that is in front of you and your present situation. Remind yourself that the past is the past and do not base your decisions on previous mistakes or successes.[11]
  2. Create an action plan. Once you have decided what you are going to do, you should write out steps to actually implement it.[12] Your action plan should include the your step-by-step approach, your timeline for implementing your solution, and how you will include any other people who may be impacted by your decision.
    • For example, if you have made the decision to go on a vacation, you need to make specific steps to make the vacation happen. Your steps may include budgeting and saving money for your trip, talking to anyone who would be going on the vacation with you, determining a date for the vacation, figuring out transportation and hotel details, and a timeline for when each of these items needs to be completed.
  3. Commit to your decision. Don’t drag your feet, look back, or wonder. Choice becomes a decision when implementation takes place. Focus your time, energy, self, and purpose on the decision. If you can’t do this and you are still thinking about alternatives, then your decision will be not be good because you’re not able to let go of those other options. It is very important to follow through with your decision.
    • Trying to make the decision is one of the hardest parts. You can get so caught up in making the right choice that you never take any action. If you do not follow through on a decision, you may miss out on some of the rewards and benefits.[13] If you were debating about applying for a new job and never took action to actually fill out the application, someone else would get the job. You missed the opportunity to even be considered.
  4. Evaluate your decision. Part of making better decisions is to assess the decision that you made. Many people forget to reflect on the decisions they have made. Evaluation will help you see the things that went well and the things that did not. This process can also help inform any decisions you make in the future.[12]
    • Questions you make ask yourself include: Were you happy with the outcome? What could you have done better? Is there anything you would have done differently? What did I learn from this?
  5. Have a backup plan. No one makes the right decisions all of the time. Do not be too hard on yourself. Sometimes, we are forced to make decisions without adequate time or information to make a decision. Even if a decision did not turn out like you wanted it to, you can use the experience to make a different choice.[13]
    • You probably considered multiple options when you made your decision. You can go back and try some of the other things that you considered. You can also start the process over again.


  • Always think before you speak/do something.
  • Make sure what you are doing will help others, or at least not harm them.
  • Above all, present your decision confidently in the spirit of “let’s try this,” but be ready to change any decision to cut your losses. For most of the decisions you make, you won’t be able to get all the facts, so trust your intuition. Your intuition is the result of accessing the vast reservoir of knowledge and experience that is stored in your subconscious mind.
  • Decision-making, however well it is practiced, doesn’t guarantee infallibility. But if it is executed professionally, it can tip the odds in favor of making a good decision.
  • Don’t, however, go strictly on your intuition on a big decision where the knowledge of an expert like an accountant or a lawyer can be helpful. A quick call can often minimize your risk.
  • This process can be time-consuming and exhausting, especially when it is applied to a complex problem. It demands a wide range of thinking techniques and skills. But it is all a process, and only by following this process will you give yourself the ability to think more wisely about the future.
  • Do not do something that will help you but hurt others.
  • The best decisions are possible only when you know what you feel. You will feel a sense that the process of coming to a real decision has been healthy, satisfying, and creative. Having successful experiences with the decision process is the best way to become a successful decision-maker. And, if you look back through your life, you will often find that you’ve broken through some of the blocks that have troubled you in the past, without even knowing it.

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Sources and Citations