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Have you made a bad decision? Honestly, we have ALL made mistakes in life and work when it comes to decision making.  So, what are some of the top 7 common mistakes people make with decisions? 

As a coach I see clients conflicted when making meaningful life and career decisions.  Generally, most decisions are minor, and we make them instinctively or automatically.   We have been given free‑will and a multitude of choices in life, for example:

  • what to eat
  • what to wear
  • what to buy
  • where to live
  • what we believe
  • what career choices we pursue
  • how we vote
  • who to spend our time with?
  • who will we date and marry?
  • what we say and how we say it
  • whether or not we would like to have children

Many decisions we make throughout the day take real thought and could have serious consequences.  Consistently making good decisions is arguably the most important habit we can develop.  Our choices affect our health, our safety, our relationships, our career, how we spend our time, and our overall well-being. 

Various internet sources estimate that an adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day (Sahakian & Labuzetta, 2013).  This number may sound strange, yet we make 226.7 decisions each day on just food alone according to researchers at Cornell University (Wansink & Sobal, 2007).  As your level of responsibility increases, so does the range of choices you are faced with.  Each choice carries certain consequences – good and bad.  This ability to choose is an incredible power that we have each been entrusted with as human beings.

Below are 7 common mistakes people can make with decisions:

  1. Not learning from making bad decisions.  If you make a bad decision, learn and grow from it.  There is nothing to be gained by feeling regret, anxiety or self-loathing.  Ask yourself: “What will I do differently next time?” and “How can this experience make me better?”  Self-loathing is a seriously over-rated recovery mechanism that people do not have time for.
  • Not prioritising decisions.  This can include making snap decisions or beingimpulsive.  Be sure to give appropriate amounts of time, research, reflection, consultation and energy to those bigger decisions.  Amidst 35,000 potential decisions, our ability to prioritise the significance of the decision context is the most crucial.   If you have too many on your plate, get a pen and paper and write them out.  What is the most important decision you need to make first?
  • Not aligning decisions to your core values.  Understanding and utilising your core values forms a solid framework for making clear decisions.  Many people are not aware of their own values and this leads to poor decision making.  The simple act of aligning your values will help you make better values-based decisions.
  • Letting strong emotions guide your decisions.  Experiencing frustration, excitement, joy or sadness is a fundamental part of the human experience.  And while these emotions have a meaningful role in our lives, our ability to make good decisions is decreased during heightened moments such as happiness or anger.  For example, deciding to speak or send an email while angry often compounds a tough situation, because the words do not come out right.
  • Facing decision fatigue.  Even the most enthusiastic people do not have endless amounts mental energy.  Our ability to perform mental tasks and make decisions wears thin when it is repeated.  With so many decisions to make, especially ones that have a big impact on other people, it is inevitable to experience decision fatigue.  To counter it, identify the most important decisions you need to make, and use your time wisely so you make decisions when your energy levels are elevated – which is usually in the morning for many people. Also, get plenty of sleep!
  • Being distracted.  Evolving technology has created an environment where information and communication never stops.  Researchers estimate that our brains process five times as much information than in 1986. Many people live in a stead state of distraction and struggle to focus.  One tip is to find time each day to unplug and step back from email, social media, the news and the onslaught of information.  This may be easier said than done, yet when you make it a priority, your brain will thank you for the break!
  • Having a lack of information.  Making important life and career decisions needs input.  In fact, even the minor decisions need some form of data – for example, “What choice of clothing do I need to wear to my interview tomorrow?”.  Bad decisions can be made on no information, and that will have a raft of unnecessary consequences.  Good decisions are made on clear information, research and timings.  The old saying of “I’ll sleep on it”, can work wonders and gives you time to analyse and compare information before making a decision.

For more information on how to recover from a bad decision, check out this blog: Positively Present.