How to Make Good Decisions
If You’re a ProcrastinatorYour home needs a paint job, and you’ve been talking about it for months. All you have to do is choose the colors. But you’ll do anything to dodge that wall of paint chips at the hardware store.
How to Avoid It:
- Start asking questions. One reason people procrastinate is that they don’t know how to gather the information they need to make an informed choice, says psychologist Baruch Fischhoff, Ph.D. (For instance, when choosing a color, you need to consider the light in the room, the furnishings, and your overall palette.) If you’re unsure of your options or their pros and cons, consult an expert to kick-start your decision making. Ask: What should I be considering? Is there data that I’m missing? Are there alternative choices?
- Set a deadline to resolve or abandon the issue. A time frame will push you either to choose what to do or to choose to do nothing at all. “If you’re secretly content with the status quo, be honest and let yourself off the hook,” says Charles Foster, Ph.D., the director of the Chestnut Hill Institute, in Boston, and the author of What Do I Do Now? Dr. Foster’s 30 Laws of Great Decision Making ($24, amazon.com). “But accept that doing nothing may come at a risk.” Like living even longer with dingy walls.
If You’re OvercautiousYou always go for the safest choice. So when your boss offers you a promotion with more challenging duties, you’re flattered, but the very idea makes you hyperventilate and want to say no.
How to Avoid It:
- Learn to distinguish smart risks from foolish ones by weighing the possible outcomes. “If the worst-case scenario is not devastating and the potential payoffs are substantial, it might be worth the risk,” says Richard Kinnier, Ph.D., a professor of counseling psychology at Arizona State University, in Tempe. “Generally, people’s biggest regrets stem from the dreams they don’t attempt to fulfill.”
- See change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Take small steps to get comfortable with an idea: Choose something offbeat for lunch at your favorite spot, or sign up for volunteer work you’ve never done before.
- Challenge the status quo. How happy, really, does your current job make you? Why not take on this new role? By posing questions, you may realize that staying put has a price. “Think about the hidden security in what looks risky―that a new job may be rewarding,” says Fischhoff. “Then think about the hidden risks in what looks secure―your skills are getting stale. You may change your perspective enough to make a seemingly bold decision.”
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