Decisions feature hugely in our lives – and optimal decisions are invaluable. At this very moment, your life is the product of every decision you’ve made along the way – both big ones and small ones.

Since you navigate life by the choices you make, you can substantially improve your outcomes by making more optimal decisions. Here are twenty proven ways to enhance your decision making.

  1. Take appropriate ownership. Recognize that some decisions that are not yours to make. Life flows more smoothly when you accept responsibility for your own decisions and give others the freedom to accept responsibility for theirs.
  2. Avoid oversimplicity. Making an optimal decision is a process of selecting from among various alternatives; it is not just choosing between right and wrong. Avoid over-simplistic black and white thinking, and you will find many additional options in between.
  3. Use the OAR approach in your decision-making. Consider the Objectives you desire; the Alternatives that are available and the Risks of every alternative you are considering.
  4. Do your research. Learn how others have addressed similar issues, expand your awareness of options and open your mind to possibilities you may not have not considered.
  5. Take time to be thorough. Consider all the alternatives and write down the pros and cons of every line of action. It clarifies your thinking and makes for a better decision.
  6. Avoid snap decisions. Move fast on reversible choices and slowly on irreversible decisions.
  7. Respect the value of timing. Choosing the right alternative at the wrong time is no better than the wrong alternative at the right time, so an optimal decision will ideally happen while you still have time to refine it.
  8. Never let decisions accumulate. Make step-by-step decisions as you go along – a backlog of many little decisions can bog you down mentally and lead to overwhelm.
  9. Take time to ponder. Review all the facts as soon as you are aware of a decision to be made, then set it aside. Let the options incubate in your subconscious until it is time to make the actual decision.
  10. Avoid decisions based on fear. Base your decisions on positive values and goals that are important to you, not on people or circumstances you want to avoid.
  11. Consider others. Your decisions may have a huge impact on other people, even though you are ultimately responsible for those decisions. Whenever feasible, ask for input from people who may be affected before you make your decision.
  12. Don’t wait for guarantees. Often, it is impossible to have 100% certainty that your decision is correct because the implementation and outcomes are still in the future. It is enough to do due diligence and make a choice now; you can fine-tune your decision later.
  13. Avoid analysis paralysis. Remember that not making a decision is actually a decision not to take action!
  14. Keep an open mind. Every decision is a learning opportunity: you have the right to make poor decisions as well as excellent ones, and you have an opportunity to learn from them all.
  15. Keep perspective. Don’t waste your time making decisions that do not have to be made – focus on essential decisions instead, and the others will fall into place.
  16. Consider practical factors. As part of your decision-making process, always consider how you would implement your choice.
  17. Assess the risk. Before implementing what appears to be the best choice, assess the risk by asking “What can I think of that might go wrong with this alternative?”
  18. Don’t waffle. Once you’ve made an optimal decision, don’t look back! Accept that you made the most appropriate choice given the information and options you had to work with and focus instead on your next move.
  19. Commit to your decision. Once you’ve made a decision, banish doubt from your mind; instead, commit yourself to making your choice an optimal decision.
  20. Celebrate optimal decisions. Commend yourself for the optimal decisions you have made, and you have more confidence the next time you are faced with a choice.

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