“Where should we go for dinner?”
“Should I buy that shirt or save my money?”
We make decisions every day of our lives. Decisions come in all shapes and sizes. There are definite means of being prepared for decision-making in a stressful and pressing environment. Make these things part of your regular routine, your decision-making difficulties will have magically disappeared…
When you’re the only one making the decision, try one of these techniques.
- Cost-Benefit Analysis
Before reaching the ultimate decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and the cons to ensure that you’re making the best decision possible. This requires a cost-benefit analysis, in which you examine the outcome to every possible route (both positive and negative). This will help you see the opportunity costs, or the things you miss out on when one decision is preferred over another.
- Narrow Your Options
To simplify the cost-benefit analyzing, limit yourself to fewer options. When more choices are presented to us, the greater the difficulty in making a final decision. More choices can lead to more regret because we consider all of the missed possibilities and worry whether we could have chosen one of the many other routes that were available. As such, narrowing your options will lead to greater peace of mind.
- Evaluate the Significance
How much time should you spend mulling over a potential decision? Ten seconds? Ten minutes? Ten hours or more? It all depends on what’s at stake. To minimize agonizing indecision, determine the significance of a decision (How great of an impact will it have on my life? How much will it cost me?), and set a deadline accordingly.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
If it’s something as simple as deciding where to go for lunch or what to watch on TV, remember to keep things in perspective and keep your timeframe for decisions to a minimum. This is closely tied with evaluating the significance of a decision — if it won’t affect you or others in a significant way, then don’t waste time endlessly debating between your options.
- Do Your Research
This may seem obvious, but when it comes to making major decisions — new cell phone or laptop, car brand, etc. — putting in the time and effort to fully inform yourself about your impending purchase can mean the difference between product satisfaction and relentless frustration.
- Get a Well-Informed Opinion
It’s more than just researching the facts and logistics of a decision — getting a personal opinion can also improve your decision-making by giving you the confidence and reassurance that you’re making the right decision. Whether it’s asking your auto mechanic friend about a car purchase or checking Consumer Reports before buying a new appliance for your kitchen, informed opinions are quite helpful.
Trying to decide with a group? Use one of these tactics.
- Practice Conflict Management
Making decisions with a group seems to complicate decision-making. Multiple parties heightens the chance of conflict, so to prepare yourself for these situations, it’s always useful to practice conflict management. Identify the difference between a win-lose situation (such as compromises where one side gives up what they want to please another) and win-win situations (such as accommodation, when the two parties agree to give up some things in order to agree on other things).
- Plan Ahead
When you have a group decision to make, it’s best to decide the details well in advance in order to avoid conflict amongst group members immediately prior to the event. This could be used for movie nights or dinner parties; while it dampers the spontaneity of plans, it improves the decision-making skills of everyone involved and decreases the likelihood of bickering amongst the group.
- Take Charge!
There’s a time to give in and there’s a time to be assertive. If nobody is taking a firm stance on a decision, take charge Otherwise, you’ll squander precious time trying to decide on something when you could have been out having fun or being productive.
- Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
The greatest impediment to good decision-making is beating up on yourself for past mistakes. Living with post-decision angst and regret hurts your ability to decide on things swiftly and efficiently in the future, so instead of dwelling on errors and failures, make a decision and don’t look back once you’ve followed through.
Whatever type of decision we face; there are biblical principles that can help us make better decisions. For example, when a Christian recognizes a bad habit or faces a moral choice, he or she can apply God’s command to always choose His way. So, where does the Christian decision-making process start?
Direction from God: As Christians, our overall direction in life is determined by our commitment to God, and we must remember to ask Him to direct our lives. How does God direct us? Through the wisdom He gives us in the Bible and through wise biblical counsel from His servants.
All of our decisions are to be in harmony with God’s laws and His plan. We should pray for God’s guidance and study the Bible to see what it says about the decision we are facing. Many helpful principles are presented in the book of Proverbs, for example; it’s a book designed to teach us prudence and understanding and the wisdom to make good decisions (Proverbs 1:1-4). It all starts with understanding how much greater God is than we are.
As we study the Bible, we should act on what we learn. We should discard any choices that we discover would compromise with God’s laws.
Sometimes it is a simple matter to know what decision to make—simply because only one choice would allow us to obey God. But most of our decisions are not that clear-cut. Sometimes there are several good choices, and sometimes none of the choices are morally wrong.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him”