7 Strategies For Smarter Decision-Making, According to Science

 / 

,
decision making

A new study reveals why we act against our own best interests — and how to get ourselves back on track and make better decisions. Here’re strategies for smarter decision making and achieving your goals.

Self-control is a virtue we strive for but can feel out of reach. “There are arguably more temptations today than ever before in history,” Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and best-selling author of Grit, shares with Thrive. “It is easier and cheaper to eat food that is bad for you, harder to find work that keeps you physically active, and almost effortless to spend your entire day on social media and binge-watching videos that don’t make you happy in the long run.”

self-control
7 Strategies For Smarter Decision-Making, According To Science

So why is it as hard for us to exercise self-control as it is to, well, exercise? Why is it so hard to turn our “should do”s into “done”? And how can we get ourselves back on track to achieving our goals?

Her new study, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, offers some valuable guidance. She and her co-authors survey a body of existing research that suggests that willpower, as we know it, is a misguided, and even counterproductive, way to think about self-control. She and her co-authors set the record straight on why we stray from our best intentions and offer tangible, research-backed strategies for smarter decision making that leads to meaningful results.

Related: The 90-Second Rule That Builds Self Control

So how can we get ahold of ourselves and take the reins when temptation strikes? “Not [by] more willpower,” Duckworth tells Thrive. “Instead, I recommend we use what we know about self-control to make doing what’s best for us easier, not harder.”

This starts by understanding that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for smarter decision making and stronger self-control. There are many different strategies and approaches to choose from.

Take a minute to visualize yourself in that moment of temptation:

What else is going on?
What happened along the way that put you in this position?
What had you been thinking about that led to this juncture?
Are there aspects of your environment that are working in your favor, or against you?
Are these things you can change yourself, or that you need others’ help with?

This will help you better understand the dynamics and factors at play that lead to your lapses in decision making and guide you toward the strategies that will help you in smarter decision making and set you up for success.

Here are some science-backed approaches Duckworth proposes in the study that we can apply to our own lives. Some are cognitive, involving shifts in mindset. Others are environmental: simple changes to your home or workplace that can help keep you on track. Some are changes you can make for yourself, and some involve bringing others on board to help hold you accountable. Which will you try?

7 Strategies For Smarter Decision Making, According to Science

1. Break down big, lofty goals into smaller, more attainable Microsteps

At Thrive Global we call these Microsteps, too-small-to-fail mini-goals that research shows are more digestible and more attainable than the vague and unrealistic ideals we tend to set for ourselves. So instead of “get more sleep,” choose a specific, actionable component to adhere to, like the Thrive Microstep: “Go to bed just a few minutes earlier than you usually do.”

Related: How To Set SMART Goals for Lifestyle Change

2. Create your own commitment device

A commitment device is an easy way to get yourself to identify a goal and stick to it. Name a benchmark that you want to meet, and add some sort of penalty or deterrent that will take effect if you miss the mark.

It could be as simple as giving yourself a deadline accompanied by a penalty for being late, as psychologist Dan Ariely, Ph.D., found in one study. The penalty here is subjective, so choose something that you personally dislike and will try your best to avoid.

3. Make small environmental changes for a big impact

Sometimes all it takes is a little rearranging of your immediate domain to keep you on track, like moving enticements out of sight and out of mind or putting positive obstacles in your way. If the sight of a candy jar on the counter is too delicious to resist, try putting a bowl of fruit in front of it, or tuck it away inside a cabinet.

4. Create a contingency plan

This step, which the researchers call implementation intention, involves a little bit of planning that can go a long way. A 2010 study from NYU found the simple process of articulating “if, then” scenarios provide a game plan of sorts, a lasting association in your mind that reduces the likelihood of forgetfulness or procrastination and improves your perseverance toward your desired outcome.

better decision making and achieving goals
7 Strategies For Smarter Decision-Making, According To Science

5. Make a decision in advance — and stick to it

We know from research that declaring a decision in advance is a great way to help you stick to your word when it comes time to act. A recent field study found that employees who placed their lunch orders in the morning made meal choices that were five percent less caloric than their co-workers who ordered at the cafeteria and didn’t plan ahead.

6. Be mindful of your indulgences

This strategy could be particularly powerful for mindless indulgences, or cravings you don’t really notice until you’ve already satisfied them. 

Mindfulness practices, like meditation, or just actively taking note of how frequently you check Facebook, for instance, can provide the reality check you need and a burst of motivation to rein in your self-control.

Related: 3 Powerful Methods To Help Create The Results You Want And Succeed Faster

7. Grab an accountability buddy

Why go at it alone when you can invite a companion along on your journey? Ask someone you trust to hold you accountable for your intentions with gentle nudges and reminders, congratulations whenever you’ve made the smart choice instead of the indulgent one, and have them check in periodically to see how you’ve been doing.

Please share this article with anyone who you may think will find it valuable and helpful.


Written by Mallory Stratton
Originally appeared on Thrive Global
Republished with permission.
Strategies Smarter Decision Making pin
7 Strategies For Smarter Decision Making, According To Science
Strategies For Smarter Decision Making pin
7 Strategies For Smarter Decision Making, According To Science
Strategies For Smarter Decision-Making pin
7 Strategies For Smarter Decision-Making, According To Science
Strategies For Smarter Decision-Making pinex
7 Strategies For Smarter Decision-Making, According To Science

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply



Up Next

5 Ways Biodiversity Affects Mental Health: Nature’s Therapy!

How Biodiversity Affects Mental Health? Interesting Ways

Did you know that a rich ecosystem can be not only good for your health but your mind as well? Let us understand how biodiversity affects mental health so that you have a healthy mind, body, and, soul!

Close your eyes and visualize yourself walking through a green field. Next, think about being in an area where birds are chirping, rivers are rushing and waterfalls are falling. You see colorful flowers and breathtaking beauty, which leads you to wonder about the amazing plants and animals around you.

Which scenario makes you feel more calm? The initial one is serene but the latter fills you with awe, optimism, delight, and interest.

This next scenario demonstrates how biodiversity affects mental health. Different forms of life maintain not only the equilibrium of the earth but als



Up Next

10 Inherited Traits From Your Parents That Make You Unique

Interesting Inherited Traits That Come From Parents

Have you ever blamed your forgetfulness on your dad or your mom for your sleep habits? Well, there’s some science behind that. From physical attributes to personality quirks, there are a ton of inherited traits our parents pass down.

Maybe you have your father’s wide smile or your mother’s talent for languages. But while it’s fascinating to see our parents in ourselves, there are many other personality traits inherited from parents.

From memory lapses and sleep struggles — today we’re



Up Next

Women In Science: 7 Famous Female Scientists Who Redefine History

Famous Female Scientists Who Redefine History

Throughout history, women have been overshadowed by men. But behind the breakthroughs and innovations, there is a group of incredible and famous female scientists that has left their mark on the scientific world.

When was the last time you were asked to name a great scientist? Chances are, the likes of Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein popped into your head and for good reason — they made groundbreaking discoveries.

But if you’re like most people, men are probably all that comes to mind when thinking of great scientists. That’s because many famous women scientists have been left o



Up Next

Neuro-Ninja Training: 10 Indoor Brain Strengthening Games For A Sharp Mind

Powerful Brain Strengthening Games For A Sharp Mind

Do you want to exercise your brain in the most fun, interesting, and most importantly, enjoyable way possible? Then you have come to the right place! Keeping your mind sharp and your brain alert is one of the most powerful things you can do. That’s why, we have compiled a list of brain strengthening games for you to try.

These brain strengthening games will boost your brain, keep you entertained and also increase your intellect. No more of those boring games to improve memory and concentration, because these are designed to be fun and exciting.

So, ready to explore how you can train your brain with games? Le



Up Next

Music And Plant Growth: Exploring The Magical Effect Of Music On Plant Growth

Science Behind the Effect of Music on Plant Growth

Music lies at the heart of nature. Whether it’s the chirping of birds, the trickle of water, or the gush of wind. No wonder plants have a penchant for music! Yup, you heard that right! Plants not only enjoy music but it even helps them grow. Let’s take a look at the effect of music on plant growth.

Music may soothe that savage beast, but it can also make



Up Next

How Do Some People ‘Hear’ Colors And ‘See’ Sounds? — A Look Into Synesthesia

What Is Synesthesia? Interesting Types Of Synesthesia?

What does the color red sound like? Only those with the power of synesthesia can truly “hear” it. It is a secret power that about 4% of people have – their senses make unexpected connections.

Researchers are now diving into this new world to understand more about these sensory experiences where one is hearing colors and seeing sounds. So let’s dive in and learn what is synesthesia actually.

What Is Synesthesia?



Up Next

The Eternalism Philosophy Of Time: Is Our Future Already Fixed?

Eternalism Philosophy Of Time: Is Future Fixed? Five Criticisms

Are you intrigued by the nature of time and reality? If so, the concept of eternalism philosophy may fascinate you. This controversial view of time challenges our traditional understanding of past, present, and future, and offers a new perspective on the nature of reality.

The philosophy of time and space

What is time? Time is a concept that has fascinated and perplexed humans for centuries. We experience time every day, yet it remains an elusive and mysterious concept. 

Time seems simple at first glance but raises complex questions. Philosophers have grappled with the nature of time for centuries, and there are