How Smart People Manage to Make Poor Decisions

Intelligence and good decision-making don’t always go hand in hand. Even the smartest people are capable of making some pretty foolish decisions.

Decision-making is another one of those things that should be taught in schools. It would probably prove to be a more useful skill than precalculus in the typical day of most people. 

It only takes a few poor decisions to derail your life if those decisions are critical enough. Think about the biggest challenges you’ve had in your life. Odds are that a wiser decision upstream could have avoided the whole mess.

Make a list of the worst decisions you’ve ever made. Now imagine being able to go back in time and make a different choice. How much different would your life be now?

Consider these causes for making poor decisions:

  1. Using logic when it isn’t appropriate. Some decisions scream out for logic:
    • What route to take on vacation?
    • What should I feed the 10 guests I’m expecting this weekend?
    • Would it be better to buy brown or black shoes?
    • Other times, logic isn’t appropriate. Choosing a career, buying artwork, deciding to have a baby, or choosing a partner are some examples where it might be better to follow your heart rather than your head. For example, would anyone have a baby if logic were the only consideration?
  1. Relying on intuition when it isn’t appropriate. Sometimes it makes sense to follow your gut. Other times, it’s best to get all the facts you can. For example, trusting someone in a business transaction based on intuition alone isn’t always wise. When the facts matter, gather all the facts you can.
  2. Making decisions based on short-term comfort. Many poor decisions are made in haste in an attempt to relieve stress. Unfortunately, these decisions often lead to far greater pain in the long run.
    • Quitting your job suddenly because you hate your boss is poor long-term thinking.
    • Binge eating donuts is another decision that focuses on short-term pleasure over long-term considerations
  1. Making decisions without sufficient information. In an effort to be expedient, some people make decisions too quickly. Take the time you need to learn everything you need to know in order to make a good choice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from an expert if that would be helpful.
  2. Making too many decisions. You make thousands of decisions every day. You choose the color of socks to wear, a route to work, your words during a conversation, how you spend your time, and so much more. You make a ton of decisions each hour.
    • Too many decisions reduce your ability to make decisions effectively.
  1. Being too distracted. It’s hard to do anything well if your attention is elsewhere. Give your decisions the attention they require. The more important the decisions, the more important it is to focus your attention on the matter at hand.
  2. Taking too long to make a decision. Decisions that are made too late are often worse than poor decisions. Nothing happens until a decision is made. Make a good decision but avoid waiting longer than necessary.
  3. Being in a poor frame of mind. When you’re tired, stressed, annoyed, sad, jealous, hot, cold, or angry, you’re less likely to make a good decision.

A poor decision can create a huge challenge. Good decisions lead to happier, easier, and a more successful life. Understanding how poor decisions are made can make it easier to make good decisions.

Consider these decision-making errors and avoid them when making your next big decision. You’ll be happier with the result.

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