Effective Decision Making: 3 Steps To Be a Better Decision Maker

Effective decision-making is crucial to becoming successful. We must know what decisions to make

Wishy-washy was a term I heard a lot growing up. It refers to the state we often find ourselves in when a decision cannot be made. We constantly are going back and forth between options, never making up our minds.

This is simply not the way to achieve any kind of success. We must choose an option and stick with it. In other words, we must develop better decision making.

What is Decision Making?

We are faced with decisions every day and have been since childhood. The only difference is that now our decisions seem scarier and have a larger impact on our lives.

Decisions can be looked at as choices. We either go with one choice or another. So, decision making is the process of choosing a certain course of action.

Another way to look at decisions is like a road map to our lives.

With each decision we make, another point is plotted on the map. As we continue to make choices the map grows bigger and bigger. The path emerges, and what’s left is the life that unfolds before us.

Since the decisions we make carve out our futures, the goal is to be effective decision-makers. Raising the probability that we will lead the lives we truly desire.

But before getting into what effective decision making looks like, there are two main ways we make decisions which ought to be introduced; intuition and reasoning.


“You know, the decision just felt right.”

Have you ever said this before, or has someone you know said this after making a decision? If so, then intuition was the main driver in the decision-making process.

What is intuition, you ask?

Well, it is the gut feeling we get about things. That intangible “knowing” when something is either right or wrong.

These feelings can be unexplainable, often as if they are magical. They are also quite powerful and must be examined closely. I believe strongly in following your intuition, though it is best to pay attention when we have these feelings to ensure they are aligned with our goals.


As opposed to intuition, reasoning involves quite a bit of thinking. In my experience, this is where the dreaded phenomenon of over-thinking can come into play.

However, this type of decision making can be very helpful if done correctly.

Listing out the pros and cons, examining facts, and thinking about the effects of the decision are all part of reasoning. I’m sure you can see how this can be beneficial.

Hasty and bad decisions can be avoided if proper reasoning has taken place. Though, I must warn you that too much of this can lead to over-thinking, which inhibits decision-making and gets in the way of progress.

For this reason, I believe a combination of intuition and reasoning is the best strategy for making effective decisions.

“As opposed to intuition, reasoning involves quite a bit of thinking. In my experience, this is where the dreaded phenomenon of over-thinking can come into play.”

Effective Decision Making

Learning to become a better decision-maker is centered around the concept of effective decisions. There is little point in learning to make decisions if they are ineffective and are not going to push you closer to your goals.

So, what does effective decision making look like? I believe a good definition of the phrase is this: effective decision making involves selecting between two or more alternatives and then implementing the choice towards achieving a goal.

This definition really sums it up nicely because our ultimate objective would be that all our decisions are helping us effectively reach our goals.

Being an effective decision maker comes with many benefits and is a key to building any kind of success.

Benefits of Effective Decision Making

  • You will make better decisions.
  • It becomes easier to make big decisions.
  • You will save time and money.
  • You will build confidence and trust in yourself.
  • You will accomplish more.

Making effective decisions may seem easy, but there are quite a few roadblocks that can present themselves. Skillsyouneed.com fantastically outlines some of these, you can read their full article here.

5 Obstacles to Effective Decision Making

  1. Lack of Information: Not having the proper amount of information can skew your view of the choices and lead to ineffective decisions. Additional knowledge could have pointed you in a different direction.
  2. Information Overload: The funny part about information is that too much of it can actually inhibit decisions. Paralysis by analysis means having so much information that you cannot properly decide on one choice.
  3. Listening to the Opinion of Others: While I believe input from other people can be of great help in making decisions, relying too much on it can drag you down. Everyone believes they know what the right choice is for another person. However, we are the only ones who truly know what we want best, and therefore we should take the opinions of others lightly in the decision-making process.
  4. Emotional Attachment: Our emotions are so powerful that they can often blind us when making decisions. If we allow these emotions to consume us, an objective view can never be taken and the decision will falter as a result.
  5. Not Caring: Having an opinion and a direction for our own lives is one of the most amazing aspects of life. Giving up this blessing by not caring one way or another is a shame. We should always care about the decisions that come up in our lives because we never know which decisions will ignite our journey to success.

How to Improve Decision Making

As you can see from the sections above, effective decision making is a skill that we must master sooner rather than later. It will help in all areas of life; from athletics to the business world. Being able to quickly make good decisions is invaluable.

But what if you are someone who struggles to make decisions, never being able to decide on one choice or another?

Don’t worry, that is what the rest of this article will cover, a 3 step process to improve anyone’s decision-making skills. Turning you into an effective decision maker!

“Our emotions are so powerful that they can often blind us when making decisions. If we allow these emotions to consume us, an objective view can never be taken and the decision will falter as a result.”

Step #1: Examine Your Options

Alright, so we are faced with the challenge of making a decision.

The first step will be to layout and examine all of our options. This includes gathering as much information as we can.

Do you remember how one of the obstacles to effective decision making is a lack of information? Here we are going to ensure that does not happen.

Depending upon how quickly the decision must be made will determine the amount of time given to the information-gathering phase. But once you know how long you have, be sure to allow the same amount of time to each option.

One key aspect to remember here is that during information gathering and when examining the options, an objective view must be taken. This will help us avoid another common obstacle, letting emotions control the decision.

Step #2: Use Emotions to Your Advantage

I have emphasized how letting our emotions play too large a part in decision making can lead to poor choices. But there is a way to use them to our advantage, and actually make sure they align with our goals.

Our goals should be what we want most. They are the objective we give to the desires that we have. So, it can then be concluded that when making decisions in line with our goals, we should feel good about them.

A technique that can be used to harness our emotions is pretending to make a decision. You want to make yourself believe on every level that you have made a certain decision.

Then, pay attention to how you feel. Are you excited about it, does the choice feel right? Or, are you a little disappointed that you didn’t choose another alternative?

Doing this can provide some insight into how we truly feel about the options. Many times, we already know which choice we want. Though we make up all the other options out of the fear of doing what we actually want.

Next time you are faced with a decision, pretend to pick each choice and then pay close attention to how you feel. It may surprise you that you’ve known what you want all along.

Step #3: Be Decisive & Don’t Look Back

Yeah, I get it, it seems a little counterintuitive to say “be decisive” when someone is trying to improve their decision making. The tough part is, it’s really the only way. If you have followed the previous two steps, then you should be in a great position to make a decision.

Now be decisive!

Trust yourself that you are capable of making good decisions and that the decision you made is in line with your goals. Believe it was right and move on.

At this point, a decision has been made, yay! But the real difficult part has just begun.

After we make a choice, we must not look back. Whatever the decision was, it needs time to work itself out. We cannot continually second guess ourselves and go back and change our minds.

Committing to a decision and seeing it through is a key to succeeding.

I always hear stories about people who achieved great success, and they all have one thing in common…they did not give up.

How can we even have the opportunity to persevere if we are constantly changing our minds and going back on decisions?

Follow the first two steps, make your decision, and follow it through. No looking back!

Final Thoughts

Being an effective decision maker is a valuable attribute. It shows our capability to lead and that we are confident.

Making decisions is not always easy and developing the capability to make good decisions is a difficult skill. But just like anything, I believe decision making is a habit. The more we make effective decisions, the more effective decisions we will make.

Following the three steps I have presented will help you make the initial leap into being a more decisive person.

I want to briefly mention an additional piece to decision making, and that is having a defined purpose. When we have a clear vision of who we are and what we want to accomplish, making decisions become a lot easier.

This is why developing that definiteness of purpose is such an important step to take.

Do you have a clear picture of what you want? Do you have definiteness of purpose? These are important questions to answer.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and please reach out to me with any questions or concerns you have related to decision making or any performance psychology topic.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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