4 Tips for Making Important Decisions

Studies show that the average adult makes about 35,000 decisions every day. Many of these decisions are of little consequence, but when your decisions impact the people around you and the broader community, making the right ones is imperative. The following four tips will help you feel confident that you’re making the right decisions.

Research and Prioritize

Important Decisions
Image via Flickr by pabak sarkar

This two-step process is a good start to making any decision. Researching the issue surrounding the decision, including any arguments for and against, will help you act on facts and not your own gut instinct. The critical thinking imparted through degree programs, such as a Master of Public Administration (MPA), will be useful here.

You’ll need to watch out for opinions masquerading as facts and information presented with a clear bias. Gather enough data to make an informed decision, but don’t spend too long on this step. Too much information can actually make reaching a decision more difficult.

Once you have gathered a reasonable amount of information, prioritize your research. The facts about the issue should have the highest priority. The opinions of others, while important, should have less weight. Remember too that your decisions should always consider what is in the public’s interest. Your research should help make what is in the public interest clearer and help you more accurately predict the consequences of any decision you’ll make.

Pretend You’re Advising a Friend

Studies show that emotions can cloud our judgments. For example, people who feel a “frustrated anger” during decision-making are more likely to choose high-risk options, while people feeling fearful are more likely to choose a low-risk strategy. To gain some objectivity, try taking yourself and your emotions out of the equation. Instead, pretend that you’re advising a friend through the decision-making process.

How would you approach this conversation with your friend? What types of questions would you ask, and what pros and cons would you mention? Considering this scenario can help you step back from your emotions and gain the perspective you need to make the best decision you can make given your situation.

Putting yourself in the shoes of another person should also help you make decisions that are in the public’s interest. No choice you make will affect only you, so you should let your desires guide your decision-making process.

Remember the Big Picture

British business mogul Richard Branson never forgets to assess the big picture when he’s making decisions. Before he settles on his decision, he carefully considers how that decision will impact his other projects in the short- and long-term time frame.

No decision you make occurs in a vacuum. You could be presented with a great opportunity, but you probably shouldn’t act if your focus needs to be elsewhere. Remember to mentally zoom out and assess how all the pieces of the puzzle will fit together.

This means looking beyond your own circumstances and thinking about how your decision will impact those around you. As a business owner, Richard Branson would consider the impact his professional decisions would make on his customers and shareholders. You should also think about whether your decision would benefit or harm others.

Listen to Your Gut Instinct

Ultimately, you should listen to your own instincts. If a decision doesn’t feel right, despite all the data you’ve collected to support it, don’t ignore what your instincts could be telling you. Our brains are wired to help us make the best possible decisions with the information that we’re given. We instinctively know whether a decision is the right one for us and other members of the public. This process occurs naturally, so don’t second-guess it. Trusting your intuition will make you a more confident decision maker, rather than someone who hesitates during the process.

Making an important decision can be a stressful situation. By keeping these tips in mind, you can feel confident that you’ll make the right choice that’s best for you.

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