Remember the Gilmore Girls episode where Rory made an extensive pros and cons list to help her decide which college to go to? My decision-wary heart really connected with her character during this episode because I also tend to be incredibly careful about the choices I make in life, both big and small. Sometimes, though, this can feel pretty paralyzing, especially if I’m trying to decide something as trivial as what ice cream flavor I want to sample next. If you can relate, take some solace in the fact that learning how to feel confident making decisions can be as simple as following a few easy, expert recommended tips.
Professor Elena Reutskaja, an associate professor of marketing at IESE Business School, has studied decision making for 20 years, and has plenty of advice for getting over an indecision hump if you aren’t feeling particularly confident about going in one direction or another.
And BTW, you don’t have to save these tips for when you have a life-changing choice to make, like buying a house or changing career fields. Reutskaja’s suggestions can help guide you on something as small as determining what present to buy your BFF for her birthday, or which adorable dog sweater to dress your fur baby in for your next IG post. Here are a few of her tips to use whenever indecision strikes.
Do your research
If you aren’t clear on the differences between your options, you probably won’t be able to make an informed choice, explains Reutskaja. "For example, if you want to choose the best wine or coffee and be confident about the choice," she tells Elite Daily in an email, "you need to learn about wine and coffee and about how to make the best decisions in these domains."
For a situation like that, consider it a perfectly good excuse to treat yourself to a bunch of different delicious foods or drinks. Hey, it’s all part of the decision making process, right?
Ask for advice
Of course, you don’t always have the time to become an expert on every single topic that warrants your decision making, so it doesn’t hurt to look for a little extra guidance from people you trust.
However, Reutskaja says it’s important to keep an open mind when asking for advice on a decision you have to make, and to look for a variety of perspectives, especially if the decision is an important one, like whether to accept a job offer, or sign a lease on a new apartment.
"Seeking different opinions on the decision is also important, especially from those who do not agree with us," she explains. "We should not seek for confirmations of our decision; we should seek disconfirmations. This will help us to see the ‘other’ side of the story and make our decisions better."
Weigh the potential results
If, ahead of time, you have a pretty good idea of what the possible outcomes of your decision might be, that can help you prepare yourself mentally to definitively land on something, says Reutskaja. "There are ways to learn ‘how to make good decisions’ and how to develop a good decision making process," she tells Elite Daily.
For example, if you don’t know whether you should sign up for a gym membership, make sure you not only know about all of the options available to you (i.e. standard gym memberships, things like ClassPass, online fitness classes, etc.), but that you also consider how joining the gym will affect your free time, your budget, and your fitness goals. If staying frugal is the most important factor for you, then you can make sure to only look at gyms or fitness classes that fit solidly within your budget, instead of trying to narrow down your choices from every option available in your city.
Prioritize what’s important to you
Not every factor in a decision might hold the same meaning to you, says Reutskaja. For example, if you’re trying to decide on a dress to buy for an event, think about how important the color, length, cut, and style is. Is it more important to wear black than it is to wear something calf-length or knee-length? Do you care most about whether the dress is fitted or flowy? Prioritizing what matters most to you will help you let go of some of the factors that don’t mean as much.
Remember, there’s not always a "wrong" decision
While you may occasionally be faced with a choice that has very serious consequences, Reutskaja says it’s important to remember that, most of the time, there really is no “right” or “wrong” answer.
"It is not necessary to be hard on yourself if, overall, there is not anything that is objectively the ‘best,’" she tells Elite Daily.
Embrace the process
While the goal of decision making is actually making a decision, Reutskaja says the outcome shouldn’t be your only focus. Pay attention to the process of choosing something, she suggests, and be open to learning from that process.
And remember, even if you end up regretting the decision you make, what really matters in the end is that you tried your best to take the right path. Sometimes, the results are just out of your hands, and that’s totally OK.
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