Why do we make ineffective decisions?

We make about 2000 decisions every waking hour! Surprised? Think about it and you’ll realize that pretty much everything is a matter of choice. Some are habitual ones about what to wear, when to eat, and some require a bit of deliberation because the consequences are serious. Our choices affect our health, our safety, our relationships, how we spend our time, and our overall well-being. But, we don’t always make the right decisions. Here is what gets in our way:

  • Emotions. The general advice is, don’t send an email or message when angry. Why? The decisions we make when experiencing strong emotions like frustration, anger, or excitement, don’t always lead to productive consequences. Research conducted by the University of La Verne found that anger leads to a ‘tit for tat’ response, while happiness compromises the quality or longevity of decisions. Sadness on the other hand makes us more impatient. If it’s possible to wait before reacting or taking a final call, that’s the way to go.
  • Distraction. We live in a constant avalanche of information and communication, which leaves our mind hyper-stimulated and always on alert. What does this mean for decision making? Our brain is unable to focus on any particular thing and constantly expends energy in the process. It also loses the ability to focus when switching between tasks. The other factor – a distracted person scores low on trust, satisfaction, and professionalism, which are indicators of the health of relationships. Being low on such behaviors, the decisions s/he makes may not factor in a win-win for the larger team.
  • Fatigue. We have a limited amount of mental energy each day. As mentioned above, we expend a lot of it in multi-tasking. Most of our mental energy is available to us at the beginning of the day. And if we make big, impactful decisions later, chances are they will be driven by exhaustion and emotion. One of the most famous studies on this topic showed that prisoners were more likely to have parole approved if their cases were heard in the morning than in the afternoon.
  • In a typical meeting, an average of three people do 70% of the talking. As author Susan Cain mentions in her book Quiet, many introverts are reluctant to speak in a meeting until they know precisely what they want to say. These members have some of the best ideas to contribute, since they spend much of their time thinking. Including their inputs could change the quality of our decisions.

While this is not an exhaustive list of what stops us from making great decisions, it is a key one. Considering the factors above, what can you do that will help you make better choices?

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