Author: Barbara Craven

We know we are the best decision makers. We are certain our decisions are correct and are best suited to the situation we face.

As humans, if we did not believe this, we would become paralyzed into inaction.

But how do we really know if the millions of decisions we make every day, or week, are in fact the “right ones”.

A very simple response to this, is if the decision we make does not hurt ourselves, anyone else or anything else, then it must, by definition be a good one! Is it the right one and could we have made a better decision in the circumstances provides the pinch question.

This is the dilemma of being human. We continually second guess ourselves about decisions we have made in the past, decisions we are considering in the moment and worry about those we need to make in the future.

So how do we make decisions?

Making a decision is one of our foundation cognitive processes, or ways we think. It starts from the moment we are born. It involves how we choose a preferred option – or set of options, from a group of alternatives. We always choose based on certain criteria.

There are three critical elements which contribute to making a decision:

  1.  The decision goals
  2. The group of alternative choices
  3.  The set of selection criteria.

Research* shows we tend to use these three elements in a heuristic way.

All this means is we  tend to make our decisions based on our intuition and how we feel. We may use principles, ethics, judgements and beliefs, what we consider to be “common sense” or on our own assumptions and biases. We then tend to find the facts to back up and support our decision.

Not all decisions are equal, nor are they easy. They are not always right, and they certainly are not always wrong.

We tend to follow a consistent process when making decisions. We tend to keep making the same sorts of decisions over and over again.

One thing is consistent though- and that is whatever decisions we make impact and influence our lives.

Decision making and Mental Health

What makes a “poor” decision?  It is defined as one which has been made before,  but then repeated again and again whilst we  expect a different result.

This is where psychotherapy, particularly strategic psychotherapy or CBT really helps.

During therapy, we  identify which parts of your thinking process supports good decisions. We also help you identify and overcome the consequences of  the “unhelpful” parts of your decision making process behind.

In this way, how you make your decisions – IE how you set your goals, how you decide on the value and accuracy of any alternative choices facing you and then how you choose the selection criteria themselves all work together  to contribute to more effective decision making.

The more effective and well considered the decisions  you make are, the greater the chance of you achieving a more positive outlook in your life for a longer period of time.

What experiences have you had in understanding how you make decisions in your life?


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