How to Make Good Decisions
If You Make Snap JudgmentsYou set aside a Saturday afternoon just to check out a few car options. Next thing you know, you’re shaking hands with a dealer, the proud owner of a brand-new coupe.
How to Avoid It:
- Recognize when it’s wise to slow down. “Quick decisions can be good if they’re about familiar things, like where to grab lunch,” says Fischhoff. “You get in trouble when you’re unfamiliar with the situation and some reflection would benefit you.” Hit Pause and ask: Is this decision as simple as I think it is? Or am I overlooking something?
- Allow time to consider the consequences. “If the decision is important, give yourself at least 24 hours to make it,” advises Foster. You’re more likely to regret a spur-of-the-moment choice than one you’ve mulled over.
- Find a sounding board. Buy time by saying, “I’ll get back to you,” then talk through your options with a friend who is a good listener, says Barbara Becker Holstein, Ed.D., a psychologist in Long Branch, New Jersey. “Describe the decision you’re facing and what you’re inclined to do,” says Holstein. Ask your friend if she thinks you’re neglecting any key factors (does a two-door fit your family’s lifestyle?). Articulating your thoughts will help you reach a decision that’s calculated and feels right.
If You Overanalyze InformationAfter looking and looking, you’ve finally found a house you like. You’ve dug into real estate reports, read as much school-district data as you can, and lost count of the websites you’ve searched for facts about the town. But you can’t bring yourself to sign the contract.
How to Avoid It:
- Focus on your goals and values. If you’re clear on what truly matters to you (an affordable, comfortable home in a family-friendly area with good schools), you’ll be more likely to zero in on that and less likely to keep seeking tangential data (what the previous owner paid, how old the sewer system is).
- Recognize when enough is enough. Before pursuing yet another detail, ask: Will it help clarify the issue, or have I reached the point of diminishing returns? Or “imagine going to one more source,” suggests Fischhoff. “If you can predict what you’ll find or how the information will influence your decision, you probably already have everything you need.”
Next: If You’re Overconfident
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