According to research at Cornell, we make on average 3,000 decisions a day. While some decisions are born out of habit, others get right up in our face, intimidating, confusing and unsettling us. Making sound decisions helps us navigate through life with more confidence, while also reducing the pain of having to deal with mistakes. When I consider the decisions I've made in my life so far, and what factors have helped shape, govern and guide me, I find four actionable and behavioral parameters that have led me to make some great decisions, and reduce the amount of bad decisions I've made. The four principles I’ve identified below will help you fine tune the small, almost meaningless, decisions we all make every day, and heighten your sense of direction and purpose with the more demanding and scary decisions each of us face as we journey through life.
1. Keep good company
I have realized over time that a big shift in my decision-making has come down to the company I keep. The people with whom you spend time really is a reflection of who you are and what you want to become. I don't know about you, but I want to be around people who bring out the best in me, nurturing and encouraging me. But we also need to surround ourselves with those who will challenge us in love over our bad decisions or tough situations in which we find ourselves.
We need some people in our circle who will tell us what we need to hear and not just what we want to hear. When I look at my circle of influence and the people I allow to speak into my life, they are all conscious and self-aware, doing what’s right over what is easy. They see the bigger picture and count the cost of decisions. Being around such people helps me have confidence in following my own intuition. Reflect on the company you’re keeping to determine if your decisions are sound or, perhaps, questionable. Finding people who see the big picture and weigh the costs in life are the kind of people worth being around.
2. Let your passion lead you
Any good decision I’ve ever made has always been in line with my own passion. Throwing yourself into opportunities that excite you is paramount to owning the decisions you make, and often results in multiple doors of opportunity flinging wide in the pursuit of all you desire. There’s no point in ever committing to anything for which you don’t have a heart. Each of us is unique with our own motivations and things we love. We are each beautifully different. We each only get one shot at this life on earth. Don’t make decisions based on guilt or fear. Instead, let your decisions come from the heart and your excitement about opportunities. When a decision is morally sound, throw yourself into it with full gusto, and let your passion lead you.
3. Go where the action is
What I do in my life often is governed by three questions I ask myself: “Am I good at this? Does this excite me? Will this take me to where I want to go?” If the answer to all three of these is “yes,” then I throw myself into it. This philosophy hasn’t failed me yet. I don't know about you, but I love playing soccer- I’ve played since the age of six! Even now, at 35, I enjoy running out onto that football field on a Saturday morning and getting stuck in during the match trying to win the ball and pass it forward to the strikers. I like to be where the action is, and that’s why I love playing defense.
Sport is a great metaphor for sound decision-making. Often, in a game, my decisions are based on being in the middle of something purposeful and exciting. I like to test myself and my abilities, and, most of all, I love to contribute to the team’s success. If the decisions I make keep me in the shadows or on the sideline, I’m not going to enjoy myself, and the experience won’t fan the flame of my desire to grow and win. Make sure your decisions serve you and create opportunities for you to win.
4. Get enough sleep
We all need to come from a place of rest. We know from experience and research that not having enough sleep results in poor decision-making. We need to have clarity of mind to make sound decisions that serve us and those around us. When we’re tired, we lack patience and temperance. I rarely function well on limited sleep, and neither does anyone else. When I reflect back on the bad decisions I’ve made, I notice they often have come from periods of exhaustion, where I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, or taking on too much resulting in my sleep being compromised.
Sleep is your friend. It’s good for you, heals you and gives you clarity. It’s important to honestly evaluate how much you sleep. Even if you add only an extra 30 minutes to the amount of sleep you've been getting, it will have a positive impact on your decision-making ability (and other areas of your life too).