What Are Decision-Making Skills? And 10 Science-Backed Ways to Develop Them

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When you have good decision-making skills, you make better choices in life. How can you develop and improve your ability to make decisions?

What is a decision? We’ll take the simplest definition of the concept. This is what the dictionary says about it: a determination arrived at after consideration. The Business Dictionary takes things a bit further: a decision is a choice made between alternative courses of action in a situation of uncertainty. That’s better. So what are decision-making skills?

So to make a decision, you need to consider alternative courses of action and conclude on the best action to take. When you have good decision-making skills, you’ll make the right decisions.

Now, it may seem like we’re talking solely about hard decisions here.

  • Where should I go to college?
  • Should I accept this job?
  • Should I quit and look for another job?
  • Should I get married?
  • Should I have kids?
  • Where should I send my kid to college?

Those decisions are hard, indeed. At one point or another, you come into a situation of uncertainty that’s about to set the course for the rest of your life.

Believe it or not, we’re making decisions all the time. Half an hour ago, I decided to start writing this article. This morning, I decided to get up early and exercise before doing anything else.

I decided to make a smoothie and eat healthy for the rest of the day. Those were the good decisions. But I also decided to eat some chocolate and I currently have a huge cup of coffee next to my laptop. Those are the not-so-good decisions.

As it turns out, we’re making decisions about everything. An average person makes 35,000 decisions per day. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

Decisions Are Hard

We make decisions about when to get up, what to eat and drink, what to buy, what to wear, what TV show to watch… And then, we also make life-altering decisions, such as what to believe in, if and when to have children, what career to choose, who our partner will be… you get the picture.

Those are the decisions that are really troublesome. That’s when we show how good our decision-making skills are.

Some people seem to have it easy: they can make firm decisions, take risks, and stay strong throughout the journey of change. Others avoid making decisions. When they are in front of a big change in their life, such as getting married or quitting the job, they postpone the decision, thinking things would naturally sort out.

But even not making a decision is a decision. You decide to stay passive. Things almost never sort themselves out without out action. An action is necessary, and we need to develop decision-making skills that allow us to take the right type of action.

So how do you improve your decision-making skills? Let’s list science-backed tips to help you with that!



10 Science-Backed Ways to Develop Decision-Making Skills

10 Science-Backed Ways to Develop Decision-Making Skills

 1. Sleep On It

Sleep on it” is not just an old saying; it’s a science-backed way to make a better decision. Research shows that even a short nap allows you to tolerate frustration better and feel less impulsive.

Be careful; when we say “sleep on it,” we don’t mean “procrastinate it!” A short nap or a good night sleep is enough for you to calm down your impulses. Make decisions when you’re calm and you’re not sleep-deprived.

2. Make the Decision By Elimination

Whenever possible, you can narrow down your options by eliminating the ones that aren’t applicable. Researchers proved that you’re more motivated when you have multiple choices. If, for example, you see plenty of chocolate bars in the store, you’re more likely to choose one type.

So consider all the options you have before making a decision. The more options you have, the better! Then, start eliminating them one by one, and you’ll end up with the right choice to make.

3. Count to Ten

Back in the days, people intuitively understood that they made a better decision when they didn’t act by impulse. Science proves that, too! When you postpone the decision by just milliseconds, your brain is able to block distractions and focus on the most relevant information.



4. Don’t Discard Your Intuition

When trying to make a serious decision, we go through tons of considerations. That’s good; thinking is important. Your intuition, however, is also important.

Research proved that your intuition may have some answers before your rational mind does. So the least you could do about that gut feeling is pay attention to it.

5. Eat Well, Then Make a Decision

A study from 2011 showed that judicial rulings weren’t solely based on facts and laws. “Justice is what the judge ate for breakfast” is a common joke among people in legal circles. As it turns out, food breaks led to more equitable and more consistent rulings.

So don’t make an important decision on an empty stomach!

6. Your Surroundings Matter

Researchers found that intense lighting intensifies people’s emotions. Light intensifies our perception of heat, which triggers the hot emotional system and the intensity of our affective response.

So maybe it’s best to turn down the light and make your most important decisions in the evening.

7. Choose Between Three Options

As we said, having multiple options is important for making the right decision. But when you’re trying to consider options, what number of alternatives should you aim for? Science says three.

A good rule of thumb is that you want three options,” – says Therese Huston, author of How Women Decide. “You should be saying, OK, so I have three options or not? And all too often – and I’m sure I’ve made this mistake myself this week – we only give ourselves one option and we fool ourselves into thinking it’s actually two.

8. Develop Habits

Good habits simplify the decision-making process. If you develop a habit to exercise every single day, you’ll make that decision once. You’ll spend much less energy on deciding what to do each day.

This is the exact reason why Steve Jobs wore the same kind of outfit every single day. When your willpower is low, you’ll profit a lot from strong habits.

9. Work on Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is all about recognizing your emotions and knowing how they affect your decisions. Researchers showed that when you have greater emotional intelligence, you won’t allow irrelevant emotions to affect your decisions.

If, for example, you had a bad day at work, you won’t allow those emotions to affect the decisions related to your family and friends.

10. Try to See Things from an Outsider’s Perspective

Giving advice to others is easier than making decisions for yourself. That’s because you can be objective when the situation doesn’t directly affect you. So when you face a big decision, it helps to pretend that you’re giving advice to someone else.

Psychologists say that distance from a conflict promotes wiser reasoning.

When you understand how the decision-making process occurs, it’s easier for you to start making smarter decisions. Hopefully, you’ll implement the science-backed ways to develop your decision-making skills listed above and you’ll make your daily life easier.

Author Bio: Joe McLean is a blogger, writer, and researcher for AssignmentMasters.org. He holds an MA degree in psychology. Naturally, that’s his favorite niche to blog about. In addition to psychology, traveling is one of his biggest passions.

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