Healthy Decision Making

~2 minute read

Decision making is tough. Whether it’s a seemingly small decision like whether or not to post something on social media or a potentially big decision like where to go to college, it’s okay to feel a little lost or overwhelmed. If you have a big decision coming up, or you’ve been feeling regret or ambivalence about decisions you’ve been making lately, here are six steps to make healthy, positive decisions: 

Identify the problem you need to solve or the decision you need to make.

Sometimes, the problem we first identify is not the real or most significant problem. Is the problem that you want to do something but you aren’t allowed to do it? Or is the problem that your friends are pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do? Using a different scenario, in which you’re debating dropping a tough class – is the problem that you’re bad at the class, that you aren’t being supported by your teacher, or that you are juggling too many extracurriculars and don’t have time to give the class your full effort? Step back and take stock of all of the factors that are shaping the challenge you are facing and the decision you have to make. 

List the options.

There are almost always more options than you think. List all of the possible options or alternatives on a sheet of paper or in the notes on your phone. Even if a solution or idea seems unlikely or too challenging, write it down. Try to ignore the voice in your head that comes up with a bunch of reasons a solution won’t work – you’re just in the idea gathering phase. Keep going until you can’t think of any more ideas or options. It’s good to have as much information as possible before you make a decision, so ask for suggestions from people you trust. 

Evaluate the options.

What are the pros and cons of each option? What are the short-term and long-term effects of each option? Who will this decision affect?

Consider your values.

Your values influence your decisions and shape how you feel about yourself and the decisions you make. If you’re not sure how to determine your values, think about your beliefs of right and wrong or the types of people you admire and want to be like. Examples of values are honesty, kindness, self-discipline, responsibility, respect of yourself and respect of others, being a supportive teammate or strong leader, etc. 

Decide and act.

Review the options and their consequences, in relation to your values. Decide which option is best for you and the people you care about. Feel confident in your choice by reminding yourself of all of the work you did to come to this conclusion.

Review your choice.

Did your solution work? How did your decision and its results make you feel about yourself? What brought about the problem or tough decision in the first place? Do you feel ownership over your decision? If you felt you made the wrong decision or regret that decision, that’s okay. We all make mistakes. Take responsibility for your decision and reflect on how you could have evaluated your choices differently and how you can improve your decision making in the future. 

The ability to confidently make decisions in your best interest is a crucial life skill. Practicing this skill with both small and big decisions will help you approach more difficult decisions in a healthy way. Give yourself the time and space to make choices that align with your interests and values, and remember that staying open minded can help you refine your decision making skills for the future.

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