How to avoid making haphazard decisions

We cannot completely control outcomes of our actions, but we can strive to make thoughtful decisions that would maximize our chances for success. A recent study from University of Cincinnati casts light on how we might fall into a pattern of making haphazard decisions, and based on those findings we can figure out ways to improve our decision making.

Chaos vs Order

 For the study, researchers recruited college students to participate in sentence completion tasks. The students were split into two groups, where one group was given 15 minutes to formulate a sentence using unstructured words, like "chaotic, random, chance, and haphazard," and the second group was given words like "systematic, pattern, and order." When given a choice of activities afterward, such as checking email or doing school work, students in the structured second group thought more about their decision than students in the unstructured group.

Researchers then conducted a second experiment in which two groups of college students read stories about trees. One group's story explained trees grow in a patterned and orderly way, while the second group's story said trees grow without any definitive patterns.

After the students read their assigned stories, they were asked to choose a small gift out of six options, such as a keychain, voice recorder, FM tuner pen, quick-release keychain, voice recorder pen, super-bright chip light, or a multi-tool kit; then, they were asked how much thought they put into their selection. The result showed students who read the story about trees growing in a systematic pattern put more thought into their gift than the group that read about trees growing in a randomized pattern.

The insinuation that the world is orderless influences one to believe that deliberating about a decision is useless, which leads to making decisions that aren't well thought through.

Improve your decision making process by putting yourself in a clean, quiet and organized environment. Take a deep breath. Go for a hike. Heck, go hang out at an apple store. We do some of our best thinking while hiking (phones turned off, nothing but just the nature and us), and we maintain minimalistic office with a no-clutter policy.

The very first step to getting yourself motivated is to believe that your actions will affect specific outcomes. Without that belief, why would anyone try? If the world is random, then there is no sense in thinking; just roll the dice. Help yourself getting in the right frame of mind by minimizing chaotic elements in your life.