According to Trewatha & Newport, “Decision-making involves the selection of a course of action from among two or more possible alternatives in order to arrive at a solution for a given problem”.
Decision making has always been a difficult task but in the current day and age of multiple choices, the task has become even more stressful. Logic suggests that having options makes it easy to select exactly the thing that makes people happy. However, that’s not how it works. Studies have shown that abundant choices create more misery. In fact, according to Psychologists David Myers and Robert Lane, the current abundance of choice is leading to depression and feelings of loneliness.
Whether it is choosing a job, a project, a restaurant for an anniverssary dinner, a child’s school or the resort for vacationing, decisions are creating stressful situations. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to ease the situation.
Here’s how decision making can be easier:
1) Understand yourself better. First and foremost, take time to figure yourself out. What do you want? What matters to you? What’s your goal? In short, every decision maker needs a better awareness of his or her needs, wants and requirements. This can’t be done at the time of decision, but its’ an introspective exercise that can be done beforehand and at leisure.
2) Be aware of your values and principles: Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and behavior in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance). So, it is important to know one’s values and principles because Cognitive dissonance arises when there is a conflict in attitudes, beliefs or behaviors, resulting in a feeling of mental discomfort.
3) Be objective and think of yourself as an outside observer. Strategies such as considering others’ perspectives, thinking about different ways to address the situation do help in the decision making process.
4) Identify and manage your emotions: Once you identify emotions, whether yours or others, you can keep emotions from influencing unrelated decisions.
5) Take a moment before making your decision: According to researcher Jack Grinband, Columbia University Medical Center,“Postponing the onset of the decision process by as little as 50 to 100 milliseconds enables the brain to focus attention on the most relevant information and block out irrelevant distractors.”
6) Don’t fear the consequences: What’s the worst case scenario? We overestimate the impact of decision outcomes and life events, both good and bad. “The hedonic consequences of most events are less intense and briefer than most people imagine,” says psychologist Daniel Gilbert from Harvard University.
7) Go with your gut instincts: Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov from Princeton University found that we make judgements about a person’s trustworthiness, competence, aggressiveness, likeability and attractiveness within the first 100 milliseconds of seeing a new face. So, trusting your instinct is indeed a good idea.
8) Play the devil’s advocate: This allows different perspectives that aid decisions and it also prevents confirmation bias.
9) Be aware of social influences: Research has confirmed that even the most normal, well-adjusted people can be swayed by figures of authority and their peers to make terrible decisions (New Scientist, 14 April, p 42). Therefore, it is necessary for decision maker to be aware of the social influences around him or her
10) Simplify and eliminate choices: Focus on the factors that are most important to you. (For that you need to know what’s important to you. Refer to point 1).
Lack of sleep, hunger, time of the day etc. do interfere with your decision making process. So, be rested, eat well and take important decions when you are at your best. Decisions can’t be avoided but the stress associated with them can surely be reduced. The trick is not to be overwhelmed by decisions and to trust yourself a bit more.