Have you ever gotten stuck trying to make a decision? Ever feel like you’re making more poor decisions than you are good ones or not making ones that are leading to you closer to your goals? Decision making is more complicated than we think, but learning how to make better decisions is possible. 

First, let’s acknowledge the steps decision-making requires. You may not recognize it, but decision-making generally follows this framework:  

  1. Identify the decision.
  2. Gather information.
  3. Identify alternatives.
  4. Weigh the evidence.
  5. Choose among alternatives.
  6. Take action.
  7. Review the decision.

See why you might not always make the best decision? At any point along the way, you might circumvent a step or move through it too quickly and land on a less-than-ideal decision. So, here are 3 tips to help you make better decisions. 

Know your strengths

Decision making improves when you know your natural strengths. Knowing your strengths helps you know how you naturally make decisions – fast or slow, with a lot of information or a little, with your gut or with data – and you recognize and use these strengths more intentionally. Gallup reports that employees who report that they get to do what they do best every day are 4x more likely to be satisfied with the speed of decision-making in their organization. When you know the strengths of your team members, you are even more likely to make better decisions because you know who to lean into when decision making is necessary. Whether in work or life, knowing your natural strengths helps you make better decisions. 

Play it backwards and forward

To make better decisions, it’s important to look at the past and the future. Examine your past decisions and outcomes. Consider whether or not you accomplished what you hoped to and make adjustments if necessary. Similarly, play your decision forward by asking “what if” questions. Imagine the scenario if you make one decision versus another and picture the best and worst possible outcomes. Remind yourself that your outcome will likely fall somewhere in the middle. Don’t get stuck looking backwards or forward for too long, but use it in context to help you make better decisions today.

Know your biases and emotions

Each of us brings opinions and feelings to the decision-making process. Knowing what they are will help you set them aside or listen to them in balance. Recognizing that you may have a hard time expressing yourself when you have a strong emotional reaction, for example, or knowing that you are inclined to protect certain beliefs or values is important when making decisions. Sometimes you may have to set aside feelings to make better decisions or you may learn that listening to your gut serves you well. 

If you want to start to make better decisions, know your strengths (consider the CliftonStrengths assessment if you want a closer look at them), look backwards and forward, and know your personal biases and emotions. You may still have to go through the 7-step decision framework to reach your final conclusion, but you will do so more easily and naturally with better outcomes when you know yourself better.