The Science of Bad Decisions and How You Can Avoid Making Them Arielle | April 6th, 2016
If you’ve recently made a bad decision (or a baker’s dozen of them), you are not alone. Not a single person is immune from making bad decisions.
Humans make mistakes. Let’s face it, even though we often deny it, we have inherently imperfect judgement. Anxiety, stress and fear can easily distort our choices. In fact, in the competitive and strenuous world of small businesses and startups, it’s much too easy to make bad decisions. Often, we don’t even know whether the decision we are making is good or bad. This is because the aggregate total of the decisions we make throughout the day impacts our ability to clearly see the upsides and downsides of some of the decisions we must make. Plainly put: the more decisions we must make, the more likely we’ll make bad decisions.
Realistically, not all bad decisions end up being detrimental and crazy, but it is in our best interest to make smarter decisions. After all, we don’t always learn from our mistakes.
With such high stakes, why aren’t people more careful and make smarter decisions?
A recent study, Decision Fatigue Exhausts Self-Regulatory Resources — But So Does Accommodating to Unchosen Alternatives, highlights the importance of being selective when making decisions.
In five studies, participants who made a series of choices regarding consumer products, college courses, or course materials subsequently showed poorer self-regulation (measured in terms of task persistence, task performance, and pain tolerance), as compared to people who viewed or rated similar options without making choices.
Essentially, the researchers confirmed that the more choices, or decisions people had to make in a short amount of time, the worse their future decision-making and general productivity became.
In fact, you may be surprised just how much small daily decisions impact the willpower you have for important choices. And most importantly, it turns out there are simple choices you can make that will help you master your willpower and make better decisions on a more consistent basis.
Clear uses the analogy of willpower in decision making to be similar to a muscle – too much use and it will become very tired and have difficulty recovering, but too little use and it will be rusty and out of shape. He suggests that when the decision-making muscle gets tired, we are more likely to make bad decisions, just as a fatigued muscle is more prone to injury than a healthily worked one.
Importantly, the art of avoiding a bad decision lies in the art of avoiding decision fatigue.
But how can you avoid decision fatigue?
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to avoid decision fatigue, just as there are ways to prepare your muscles and train them to not become fatigued as quickly.