by Emilie Lyons
decision makingEvery day you are faced with hundreds of decisions: You decide what to make for breakfast, how to react to coworkers and whether or not to indulge in a slice of chocolate cake. Yet it's not until after the choice has been made that you discover how wrong it was. For example, the stomachache that resulted from saying "yes" to cake is one indication that you may have chosen poorly; another could be the dissatisfaction youfeel when you discover option B had a better outcome in the long run. But just because you've made some wrong picks in the past doesn't mean you are destined to make them for the rest of your life. The next time you're contemplating what to do, stick to the following tips from our decision-making experts, and you can ward off regret for good. Photo credit: Tim Robberts/Getty Images
1. Think about what's most important to you.
We all choose our choices for a variety of reasons, including running out of time, not wanting to consider an alternative or simply following our gut. But Sheena Iyengar, PhD, author of The Art of Choosing and S.T. Lee Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, asserts that when faced with any decision, the crucial thing to consider is what matters most to you-regardless of how insignificant you may think the decision is. "It is unlikely that any one choice in a given day will alter your life," Dr. Iyengar says. However, she adds, all those small choices do add up and will eventually impact you for better or worse. To make sure they fall into the former category rather than the latter, figure out which aspects of your life are most important to you and then take a second to ensure that all of the decisions you make support your life goals. For example, if you can't decide whether to sweat it out at the gym or go out for drinks after work, consider whether your health or friendships play a more vital role in your life. Viewing the options in these terms will make it easier for you to decide which one is right for you.
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2. Keep your emotions in check.
Have you ever splurged on a dress you knew you couldn't afford just because you loved the way it looked on you? Many of us lead with our hearts instead of our heads, but decisions based on emotions often end in regret. (For example, you may feel remorse about purchasing that dress once your credit card bill arrives.) William Helmreich, PhD, author of What Was I Thinking?: The Dumb Things We Do and How to Avoid Them and a professor of Sociology at CUNY Graduate School, advises anyone who finds themselves in an emotional situation to wait five hours before making a final decision. This way, you can calm your emotions to a reasonable level and start thinking clearly about the consequences of each option as well as which decision will support your life goals.
3. Find an alternate plan if you end up making the wrong decision.
Because life can throw you curve balls when you least expect them, even if you do make a nonemotional decision based on what's important to you, there is no guarantee that it will end up being the right one. If your decision goes south, don't waste time wallowing in the "what if." Instead, create an alternate plan that will eradicate the situation as soon as you realize things didn't turn out the way you wanted. As Dr. Iyengar notes, "it is not your job to regret. Your job is to make new choices that will make this choice work." If you're not sure what your next move is, Dr. Helmreich suggests picturing a highway. If there is traffic ahead (i.e. the bad decision you've already made), take the first exit you see and figure out a new way to get to your destination. So, let's say you've decided to take a trip to the Bahamas, but when you get there you find out it's the rainy season and lying on the beach everyday just isn't an option. You could sulk in your hotel room for the remainder of your stay, but a smarter course of action would be to call up the concierge to find out what indoor activities are available on the property as well as on the island.
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4. Evaluate your decision-making process.
Curious to see if your good decisions outweigh the bad ones? Dr. Iyengar recommends keeping a "choice" diary for one month. In it, you should catalogue the decisions you make every day, noting how you made them and how they turned out. As your diary fills up, you're likely to notice patterns in your decision-making process. For example, do you make decisions based on other people's input? Do you choose the path of least resistance? Do your finances play a major factor in your decisions? Figuring out what drives your choices will allow you to see which changes you should make in order to ensure that all of your decisions put you on the right path. Soon, you'll be saying "good-bye" to regret and living a happier life because of it.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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