9 Ways to Make Better Decisions

I listened to Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter, Better, Faster. Duhigg’s second book based around productivity. This book is not put together as well as Power of Habit. But Smarter, Better, Faster has some good concepts.

One thing that left and impression on me is the concept of probability-based decision making. If we make decisions from the standpoint of probability, we will make better decisions. Or make the most appropriate decision for the situation. I think this is one of the best concepts I have discovered this year.

Daily we make different decisions. Some have major impacts on your life, and others are minor. Although if we start thinking and making these decisions using the concept of probability, we will ultimately make better decisions. Which will lead to a healthier and better life.

Here is a list of ways you can make better decisions.

1. Think about the math.

Sometimes all it takes to make a good decision is to think about the probability behind something. This may be the difference between making a good decision and a bad one. One thing I find useful is to ask, what is the chance this will be a bad decision. If I find myself thinking the odds are greater that I am making a bad decision. Then I will choose another alternative.

Let’s break this down by using an example about deciding to take a new job. Let us say you are offered a job at a competing company for more money and to work with new technology. But there is a chance that the company could go under in the next few years because of the volatility of the industry. What is the right decision? Is it to take the new job or keep your current one?

The odds:

There is a 75% chance that the company goes under.

There is a 25% chance that the company is hugely successful.

When you look at the odds, there is an obvious answer of staying at your current company. But let us add in some more factors. The new job is very interesting and the knowledge you can gain from taking the job, you would not gain anywhere else. Although by looking at the odds the decision to take the new job is risky.

What do you do? There is the option to stick with your current job but after learning about the exciting new opportunity. Your current job does not seem that great anymore. You can take the new job, but there is a high chance that the company could fail. Being stuck without a job does not seem that great either.

Are we missing a third option? Is there a chance you can keep your current job and come to the new company in a consulting role? If you tell them, you can only dedicate 15 hours of your time to them on evenings and weekends. All your work can be done remotely anyway. This would give you a chance to test the company out. And the company would not have to make a big commitment to you. Seems like a win/win situation.

This is not always an option but by thinking outside the box; you may have figured out the best decision for your predicament. This is a general example, but it gives you an idea of how your can use statistics as a base for decisions.

2. Stop making decisions based from fear.

I did an article on 9 Ways to Control Fear that I recommend you read if you are struggling with this. But fear can really play a factor in our decisions. By letting fear creep into your decision marking you are letting emotions control your life. To make the better decisions, you need to eliminate fear from your decision making. I am not saying you should start doing stupid and reckless things. What I am saying is you need to use fear appropriately. If you have gotten to a place where fear is controlling your every decision, you need to re-approach your life. Let fear be a warning, not a guide in your decision making.

3. Think about the person you want to be in 20 years.

I recently read an article titled Make Decisions Today That Will Impress Your Friends In 20 Years by Benjamin P. Hardy. I like to think that I will have the same friends in 20 years that I have now. But it is possible that your friends may change based off your living and relationship situation. I took this article differently; I looked at it from the perspective of making decisions based on the person you want to be in 20 years. By making decisions based on who you want to be in 20 years you are making decisions that move towards your goals. To do this, you need to know who you want to be. Which isn’t an easy thing to figure out. Although if you determine who you want to be you can then focus your decisions towards your goals.

4. Ask the right questions.

Tony Robbins has a famous quote about asking questions.

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”

If you ask better questions, you get better answers. You may be thinking how can you get better answers if you do not know anyone that can answer your questions?

I get answers to my questions through reading. If I have questions about a subject, I will read a book on the topic. I also find documentaries and audiobooks a great way to discover answers to questions. It would be great to have an infinite number of connections to ask questions too. But most of the people who have the answers have written books, created documentaries, or had books written about them. Find the right sources to answer your questions. The famous quotes from Benjamin Frankly come to mind:

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

5. Make decisions based from your values.

There are two books I recommend people read on making value-based decision making. The first is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The second is The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can be dry at times, but there is a great chapter on values. It talks about how values make the basis of our decisions. If your job is the centre of your values, then your decisions will revolve around your job. This goes the same for money, family, and your relationship. If either of these things are the centre of your values, you will make decisions based from your center. The goal is the make decisions based from all these places not just centered around one. This leads to better decisions and a complete life. See a full summary of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People here!

Mark Manson’s book also touches on this subject. Manson’s book is much easier to read than Coveys. If you think Covey’s book reads too much like a textbook, I recommend you read Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. It is an entertaining read, and surprising imparts a lot of wisdom. Manson has a good chapter on values that I would recommend everyone read. Manson states the following on values:

“Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable. Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially destructive, and 3) not immediate or controllable. Good, healthy values are achieved internally. Something like creativity or humility that can be experienced right now. You simply have to orient your mind in a certain way to experience it. These values are immediate and controllable and engage you with the world as it is rather than how you wish it were. Bad values are generally reliant on external events.”

I also did an article on The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Check it out here!

6. Slow down.

Making fast irrational decisions leads to bad decisions. By slowing down, you will have a stronger tendency to make a good decision. A lot of bad decisions come when people are rushed or acting on impulse. When we act on impulse, we are not thinking clearly. We are acting from emotions. One of the best things we can do is to stop, take a breath and slow down. Do not make decisions from a position of anger or greed. Make decisions from a place of stillness and calm.

“Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent and always assist him to save face. Put yourself in his shoes—so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil—nothing is so self-blinding.” – Ryan Holiday, Stillness is the Key

7. Make everyday decisions automatic.

A way to reduce bad decisions is to make some decisions automatic. Some of the best decisions I make are automatic. One of these is exercising daily. This comes automatically to me and is a habit I have instilled in my life. This automatic decision to exercise daily leads to a healthier and happier life.

By developing healthy habits, you are making some of your important decisions automatic. This frees up space in your mind for more difficult decisions. You do not need to think about exercising you automatically do it. You don’t need to think about what you are going to eat you  automatically cook it. Planning and habit are two of the key things for making good decisions. If you want to learn more about forming habits check out my article 10 Ways to Develop Healthy Habits.

8. Get adequate sleep.

This may seem like a weird one, but I just finished reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. This book changed my opinion on sleep. Not only does sleep deprivation affect our decision making it also affects physiology. Lack of sleep when accumulated over a lifetime will eventually deteriorate our brains. The argument for getting enough sleep can be summed up from one statement from Why We Sleep.

“new report has discovered that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death among Americans after heart attacks and cancer. Sleeplessness undoubtedly plays a role in those lives lost.” – Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

If this quote does not inspire you to sleep more maybe this one will!

“the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations—diseases that are crippling health-care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer—all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.”- Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

9. Reading and Learning.

It would not be an Adam Cornick article if I did not push reading and learning on everyone. One of the best ways to make better decisions is to have more information about the subject. The only way to get firsthand knowledge of a certain subject is through research. You can either do this through reading a book or article, taking a course, or listening to a podcast/audiobook. When you hire an expert, you are not only paying them for their skills but also for their decision-making ability. By becoming an expert or by just gaining more knowledge of a certain subject. You will in turn be able to make better decisions.

Hopefully, this article gives you some information on how you can make better decisions in your life. I have learned – top performers make better daily decisions which create a better life. If you would like to hear more from me, subscribe to my website or follow me on Instagram @the_52_book_challenge. Check back next week for my next article!

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