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Every day we make choices. Most of the time, we make decisions about insignificant things, such as: latte or cappuccino, white shirt or blue shirt. However, from time to time, we face bigger life-changing decisions related to the choice of profession, finances and marital status. Although the choice may be tough, we decide on one of the available options and proceed to the next stage - living with the decision. However, for some people decision making is very difficult, but the longer the evaluation and deliberation process, the greater the chance of experiencing feelings of helplessness or even despair, caused by indecision. Luckily, we can learn how to make decisions faster.

Many sociologists claim that decision making is one of the key skills for human beings. In the past, a quick evaluation of the situation and the choice of the best available option guaranteed survival. Today, prompt decisions making also adds to the level of life satisfaction. Why is it that some of us get stuck at the decision crossroads, while others proceed boldly along the chosen route, although the results of their choice are uncertain?

Practice Makes Perfect 

It might sound like an exaggeration, but research indicates that we start learning how to make decisions early on, in childhood. The majority of people who are not afraid of facing choices and boldly select one of the available options have had good environment for decision making early in life. They were probably lucky enough to practice decision making while playing, in a safe environment. They have learned to trust their own decisions. They understood that making a mistake is not the end of the world and that their loved ones would still supported them, despite the unfortunate choice. 

Know What You Want

Undoubtedly, it is much harder to make decisions, if you do not know what you want. It often happens to people, who in the past had to make decisions under pressure from others, i.e. when someone else’s goals dominated the decision making process. In such circumstances, it is much harder to develop one’s identity, formulate own goals, the vision of oneself in the world, and define one’s needs and values. Effective decision making requires clear vision of the goals and aspirations. So before you make an important decision, ask yourself: “Where will this take me? Will it bring me closer to my goal?” and make sure, you give an answer.

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Be Open to Compromise

It is hard to choose, if none of the options is satisfactory or when there is a discrepancy between the set goal and the potential options. How can we make a decisions in such circumstances? To avoid decision making deadlocks, such as “Is it better to have the cake or eat it?”, it is good to be open to middle-of-the-road solutions. Sometimes a compromise is better than waiting for the ideal option, which may never become available. In such situations, we might need to give something up to gain a new experience or discover new possibilities.

Prioritize

Having too many choices may also hinder the decision making process or cripple it entirely. Therefore, it is important to set priorities. Sometimes it is as easy as asking yourself: “What is the most important thing for me at this time?” Answering this question helps to decrease the information overload, caused by the abundance of choices, and it lowers the level of stress associated with making a choice. Once the level of stress goes down, it is easier to focus on the task at hand.

Rationalize Your Choice

Usually, when making a decision, we hope we are choosing the best possible option. This conviction allows us to get over the moment of indecision, caused by fear of making a mistake, and move forward. It also helps us to take risks and defend our choices. So when the newly purchased TV turns out to be second best, we usually rationalize the choice by discounting the qualities of other TV models and brands. This mechanism reduces cognitive dissonance and allows us to feel good about our choices, because the more effort (e.g. time, energy, money) we invest in our decisions, the stronger we are prepared to defend them.

aneta bartnicka michalska

About the author

Aneta Bartnicka-Michalska - psychologist, graduate of SWPS University. She gained professional experience while working at the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Warsaw and Tworki Psychiatric Hospital. Proponent of systemic therapy and positive psychology in her psychotherapeutic work. Her professional interests include: psychology of creativity, choreotherapy, psychodrama, and music therapy.

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