How to make an important decision? 6 scientific methods to make better choices

Life is made up of choices. Everyone, sooner or later, we are faced with a decision to make, whether it is what to wear to that meeting, or whether or not to accept a job offer, or buy a product. However immeasurably large or infinitely small it may be, every decision we make brings us face to face with our doubts and uncertainties. And with the fear of making mistakes.

All normal, it is a human reaction to what we do not know. We can also spend hours and hours reading online reviews of a place or a product, but despite this we will never be sure of making the right choice .

The decisions can be of modest importance, such as, taking the previous example, that of the dress to wear, or more important. The more the choice becomes important, often the greater the complexity of the variables involved and the alternatives to choose from and, ultimately, the greater the impact of the consequences deriving from a possible error.

How to make an important decision when we cannot find a solution and are tempted to rely on fate?

The most common method of making a decision is to make a list of pros and cons and compare them, but when faced with important and complex decisions even this ploy does not help us make better choices. Evaluating alternatives and looking for solutions costs both time and mental energy, so to economize we can ask science for help and try the six methods for making decisions.

The early bird catches the worm

Having to make a decision stresses and decreases our self-control , as shown by various scientific researches. Given that every day we have to face a myriad of choices, albeit small as deciding what to wear, if we add up all the energy we have to spend on them, we will find that in the evening our cognitive resources are scarce.

This means that in the evening we are more inclined to prefer immediate gratification rather than long-term recognition . So, faced with an important decision, we should not wait for the evening, when our energy has already been spent, but to face it in the morning, after a good night of restful sleep. In this way we will have all the cognitive resources that the situation requires, and the decision will be better.

But who tells me it really works?

The validity of this method was proven by the study carried out by researchers from the universities of Texas, Minnesota, San Diego and Florida, and then published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and which demonstrated how making decisions stress and decreases self-control. .

The decision matrix: when mathematics becomes clarifying

At work and in life it is very rare to be faced with well-defined choices, and it is precisely in these cases that making the list of pros and cons is no longer enough. In cases like these, and when we are faced with many good options, we can create a decision matrix .

The decision matrix is ​​a grid in which we list, on one axis, the criteria and, on the other, the available options . By crossing the variables we can visualize the possible results of our decisions in a schematic way. You can also assign a score to each criterion and option (calculated on a personal scale of value). This operation forces us to find the hidden priorities in the decision to be made and also to understand what is the worst scenario we can face and which we can, therefore, avoid.

Once we have found the right value for each row and column of our matrix, it is just a matter of multiplying the numbers within each “intersection”. From here the decision becomes clearer: the criterion with the highest score is the winner.

Pay attention to the advice

Ever heard of the herd effect? It is the drive to conform to the opinions and decisions of the majority. We can get a taste of it when, faced with an important choice, we ask other people for advice, such as friends or relatives, but instead of clarifying our ideas, the chorus of voices makes the choice even more difficult for us. If everyone agrees in advising us on a certain choice, we can feel compelled to conform to their opinion, to the detriment of our own happiness.

The “social” pressure affects our choices more than we like to admit , but it is the truth and has been demonstrated by some researchers at the University of Cambridge. However, we can breathe a sigh of relief, because the results of the study showed that the impact of the herd effect varies according to our personality and situation.

There are two most likely scenarios: the choices of empathic, adventurous and impulsive people are more influenced by the opinions of society because they are more committed to avoiding possible punishment or seeking immediate recognition. While outgoing and self-confident people follow the flock less frequently.

In any case, if we are looking for some external advice, a good idea may be to turn to different types of people and research all the options available to us before listening to their feedback.

The heart is always right (if we have all the information)

What if, after a long search for all possible and imaginable options, our decision should fall on choice A, but our “gut” tells us that we should choose B?

The typical example of a battle between head against heart , reason versus instinct. If we choose the head, our intuition keeps telling us that we are wrong, if we choose the heart, it is the reason for not agreeing. So at this juncture, how can you make an important decision? Listening to your belly, your emotions, is important, but we must be sure that instinctive choices are based on solid foundations of experience and competence, otherwise we could soon regret our choices.

In the study conducted by researchers from three large American universities, it was shown that people who have a good knowledge of a product to buy are able to make quick and intuitive choices more effective.

We will have an interview

Sometimes we fail to make a decision, and we fail to understand well how to behave because we are still a bit immature, inexperienced. In this case a good idea is to do an interview with ourselves, projecting ourselves into the future . With the right questions we can visualize the concrete situation that can derive from our choices, or more generally, what our daily life can be that derives from them.

For example, if we are thinking of accepting a new partnership agreement with a friendly business, we can project ourselves into a hypothetical future in which we have accepted it , and visualize all the changes that this has brought about. So we can ask ourselves some very realistic questions, like “what does your collaboration imply? Are customers happy with this choice or are they perplexed? ” and so on.

We can imagine the best and worst possible scenarios so that we understand how we would feel in those situations . The most important point, therefore, is to observe ourselves as we answer these questions and understand how we react, and how we feel. If we find ourselves faking enthusiasm or answering most of the questions in a negative way, then we know that maybe that’s not the right choice for us.

Put the options on an equal footing

What happens when we are faced with two (or more) good choices? If it is true that we are faced with a choice that in any case will have a positive implication, in any case we will leave something good behind us. Searching for the best alternative can be very stressful , because we know that we will lose something in any case.

In these situations, putting options on the same level can be the keystone . What we need to do is weigh the results of the choices equally and focus on what we could achieve rather than what we would lose by choosing the other option. There is no better alternative than the other, both outwardly are valid, there is only the choice made taking into consideration what we are and what we want to be.

We often forget that facing choices, sometimes difficult, gives us the opportunity to achieve what we really want. If every choice was easy and clear or had a logical answer, we might feel compelled to choose it, leaving behind us creativity, passion and risk. Sometimes, however, it is our passion that leads us towards a life full of satisfaction and happiness, so it is better not to miss the opportunity to embrace, sometimes, even uncertainty.