5 Concepts That Will Help You Avoid Making Bad Decisions In Life

The life you currently live is basically the sum total of all the decisions you’ve made through the course of your existence. Some choices are long forgotten, others, however, may still echo around you and make you feel miserable. Like the time when you were a teenager and you decided that tattooing a ninja turtle on your forehead is a good idea.

Getting some ink on your skin is surely something that falls under the “bad life choices” category. In probably 60% of the cases, people regret doing a tattoo, in the other 40%, people simply don’t admit that they’ve made a bad decision.1

Besides covering your body with motivational slogans and action figures, there are other life choices that can ruin your life even though they are not so clearly visible: your choice of a partner, career, even leaving your phone on your desk might not be one of your wisest decisions.

Decision-making is a skill. And like any skill, you can practice it, study it and get better at it.

Why Decision-Making is Important?

Like a pebble dropped into a lake, our life choices ripple out into the world around us. Each ripple influences our world in a way.

For instance, each day you choose what to eat. No one is forcing you to eat burgers, burritos, or omelets with fries.2 The more you choose a fatty meal, the more cholesterol you’ll consume, thus the more weight you’ll gain. And we all know what happens when the radius of our belly and butt increases: we start moving slower, we need new clothes; we get tired faster, we have health problems, we share fewer images of ourselves on Instagram #sad.

Contrary to what we mentioned above, if we choose to eat salads and exercise regularly, we’re surely going to improve our well-being and afford having more pictures of ourselves circling around the social media universe.

If you despise, you don’t like part of your current life, the reason is that somewhere along the way you’ve made a bad choice. You were either too drunk to consider all the options, blinded by the beauty of the person talking next to you, or convinced by some sort of ad that this lotion will really help you grow hair back on your scalp. Whatever it is, you were facing some sort of decision and you’ve made a wrong choice.

Some decisions are irreversible, others can be improved. The important thing is to be mindful, to actually take a moment and consider your options before you go to the church and say “yes” to a person who says he loves you.

So, before you make an appointment with the local art director (a.k.a. tattooist), or schedule a wedding, make sure to read the tips below:

5 Concepts That Will Help You Avoid Making Bad Decisions In Life

1. Not Making A Decision is A Decision

Not making a decision is a decision and it’s the most common reason people are making bad decisions.

When we’re facing a problem or when we’re standing at a crossroad, we often decide to stay where we are and not move an inch. Like a stubborn donkey we conclude, that’s best to stay where we are and not change anything.

Not making a decision is a decision on its own – you decide to do nothing.

Often this lack of saying “yes” or “no” is followed by some sort of addiction.

One of the reasons people drink too much is because they are trying to avoid something. A lot of times this is their wretched life, other times this is because they want to avoid the headache of choosing A instead of B route.

You might be in a toxic relationship, you might even realize this. However, you might postpone a breakup conversation with your partner because you’re too afraid of how he/she will react or of the fact that you’ll be single, again.

In the above example, you’re simply deciding to stay in the relationship by not having the guts to end it, which is probably the worst decision for you.

You see, if you don’t make a choice, if you avoid having a difficult conversation with people, they are going to make the choice for you. This means that the outcomes of these decisions will be much worse than what you can decide for yourself because other people are genuinely interested in them, not in you.

  • Not sharing what bothers you in your husband’s behavior, the way he treats you, will mean that you’re OK with everything he does;
  • Not asking for a raise will mean that you’re OK with your salary;
  • Not focusing your efforts towards mastering a specific life skill, or towards getting a certain job will mean that you’ll do whatever work is available – in most of the cases something you don’t enjoy – in order to have food on your table;
  • Not clearly defining what tattoo you want – a.k.a going drunk to the studio – will mean that the tattooist can experiment on your body.

So, don’t get upset with your boss for not paying you what you deserve, or at least what you think you deserve, it’s surely your problem that you decided not to ask.

2. Why You Shouldn’t Do it

No matter how evolved we are as a species, our motivations are strongly influenced by the animal hidden deep inside of us.

Most of our desires are coming from our strong survival instinct. The main task of the body and the mind is to survive in the world. Everything else is secondary. The eyes see food, the mind whispers eat. Eating equals survival. It’s a simple process. It’s not computer science.

When facing a difficult decision, or decision in general, the first thing you should consider is why you shouldn’t do it.

“Yes” shouldn’t be your default answer. First, consider saying “no.”

Eating, or not eating, chocolate cake is something we all struggle with. We see a piece and our eyes start to glow. Our mouth starts watering and our belly makes a cute sound that says “eat it.”

Our primitive instincts will force us to eat the cake. For them, this means more fat. More strength. More time on this planet. 10,000 years ago people would have killed for a piece of juicy chocolate cake.

Now, things are different.

If you say “yes” every time you see tasty food you’ll soon start to face making more difficult decisions than whether or not to eat a piece of cake. Or in other words, your inability to stay disciplined will soon turn into another set of problems – health problems.

Since we can’t trust our initial instincts and let them control our behavior on a lot of occasions, thinking first about why you shouldn’t do something is the preferred option.

You maybe want to get married and start a family? Good for you. A lot of people are actually looking forward to the day they’ll say “Yes” to someone. That’s because weddings solve two major problems in our lives:

  1. Not being alone in the world;
  2. The opportunity to have a family.

The above two are also long desired from our primitive brains. After all, replicating and continuing the species is our primary objective as mammals.

Still, you don’t marry the first person you kiss, right?

You say “no” a couple of times, or more, before you find The One.

3. Considering Multiple Perspectives

This is how I imagine myself when I’m facing a problem or when I need to make a decision:3

considering multiple perspectives when making life choices
The white area is what I know about the problem. The dark side is what I don’t know. The more experience someone has, the bigger the white area.

And this is how I imagine things when I ask for advice:

How our perspective changes when we ask for advice
Each additional opinion or advice may reveal parts of the problem we haven’t considered before.

Each additional advice, opinion, the experience I gain through my life, expand the borders of my knowledge and reveal more of the problem. I get to see additional sides of the issue, such that were previously hidden, which helps me make a better decision.

If you don’t have a lot of experience in a certain field, you’ll surely see a lot less of the problem. That’s why you turn to friends, colleagues, YouTube, for advice. You do this to clear the mist out of the problem and make the best possible decision.

Even though asking your mom or Google for help, is the go-to way when you don’t know how to ask a guy to go on a date with you, there’s another way to widen your perspective: reading.

How our perspective change when we read books
Reading books on the subject, and not only, will help you see the problem from different angles.

If you don’t have a lot of experience in a field the usual path will be through trial and error. You try to fix your car alone with the intention to save a few bucks but you actually make things worse.

Books, good books, distillate the essentials on a specific topic. In order for an author to write a book, he needs to understand the topic, experience things on his own, to curate the vast amount of information into something easily digestible. That’s why all successful people put reading on a pedestal.

They know that reading is worth their time.

Different books give you a different perspective and your knowledge expands. Eventually, your knowledge in the field you’re studying will get bigger and bigger and the chances for a better decision in the future will increase.

Basically, asking a friend for advice is the short-term solution. You’re patching the issue. You don’t clearly understand the issue, you simply take the advice of your friend for granted.

Reading, gaining more knowledge on a specific subject, on the other hand, is the long-term solution. When you experience something at firsthand, you know the root cause of the problem, thus you can decide on your own without having to wake up your friend in the middle of the night so he can tell you what to do when you have a flat tire.

So, if you really want to make fewer dumb choices, consider reading a book.4

4. Speed in Making Decision Matter

Besides considering all available options when you need to make a decision, you also need to forecast the possible outcomes.

At this moment your brain uses the if-then logic:5

  • If it is raining, then I am going to get wet.
  • If I get wet, I might get sick.

Conclusion: take an umbrella.

Still, this needs to happen very fast.

You can’t sit and consider all the options forever. This will lead to point 1: not making a decision.

On a lot of occasions, we don’t have a lot of time to evaluate all the possible options. We don’t have access to Google, our best friend who is super smart is away and we’re left alone with our own mediocre brain to decide what we need to do. You might be thinking: “Jeez, if I only read books when I was younger!”

A technique that it’s quite popular is the 5 Whys. 6 This simple process will allow you to question things and help you get to the bottom of the issue faster.

Here’s an example:

  • 1) Why I’m out of money?
  • I’ve spent my whole salary before my next paycheck?
  • 2) Why I’ve spent my whole salary before my next paycheck?
  • I’ve purchased a lot of things.
  • 3) Why I purchased a lot of these things?
  • There was a sale I didn’t keep track of how much money I spend.
  • 4) Why I didn’t keep track of my spendings?
  • I don’t have a system to track my spendings.
  • 5) Why I don’t have a system?
  • I don’t know how to make one.

Conclusion: Search online for a way to track how much money I’m spending each month.

5. Don’t Go Crazy When Things Don’t Go As Planned

I’m a control freak. I get slightly crazy when things don’t turn out the way I imagined. It’s an issue for me and I try to work it out.

Even if we do our best to win in a marathon, get hired for a certain position, there are certain things that are outside of our scope of influence.

We can’t control the weather, how other people think and react, but we can control ourselves.

If you’re invited to an interview for a new position and you’re not hired for whatever reason, you can act in two possible ways:

  1. Get crazy and blame the person who interviewed you;
  2. Consider the option that you’re not the best candidate for the position. Probably you lack some skills, probably you said, or did something, that wasn’t appropriate in the interview.

Whenever things don’t go as planned, staying calm and thinking about what you can do to make things better in the future is the preferable option than sending all around you to hell.

Some Closing Thoughts

Keep in mind that we’re not always going to make the right decision. A lot of times we’ll make stupid choices that’ll later regret. We’ll put ink on our bodies, say things we don’t actually mean, do stuff we didn’t have to do. But that’s part of living.

Not everything can be perfect and that’s OK. The sooner you realize this fact of life the better.

The important thing is to learn from your mistakes – the bad decisions you’ve made – and strive not to repeat them in the future.

So, what’s your process when facing difficult life choices?

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  1. OK, I don’t have the exact numbers to back this statement but I’m positive that at some point you’ll get tired of your tattoos.
  2. Unless you’re in prison and the cook is a former McDonald’s employee.
  3. The picture below is in 2D. In life, of course, most of the problems are 3D. Meaning, the light area is smaller.
  4. If you don’t have time, you can check my actionable book summaries.
  5. If-then-else logic is used in a lot of computer programs. Since it’s too complicated for me to explain, you can see the following article: LINK.
  6. In short, the 5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.
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