The secret to better decision-making: 7 techniques used by successful people

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Making decisions used to be extremely hard for me.

Even the simplest decision weighed on me like a freight train.

Thankfully I’ve become much better at making decisions and sticking to them, often with great results.

I did it by following these seven secrets to better decision-making that I found after some research.

I’ll share them with you here.

1. Have various good options to choose from

First and foremost, the secret to better decisions is to make sure you actually have options.

Deciding between getting evicted from your apartment or continuing a job that’s physically and mentally destroying you isn’t much of a choice.

Either way you’re screwed.

Think of it this way:

The more decisions you have the more it means you’re succeeding and creating space and options for yourself.

This is the first step to making good decisions: having good things to decide between!

As you work to create the life you want, your decisions will become much more proactive than reactive, which signifies that you are increasing in your authenticity and power.

This is the first rule of decision-making used by successful people: choose proactively and with a forward-looking vision to create the life you want, instead of reactively or only in response to necessity.

2. Be careful with putting too much stock in your emotions

Many of us put a lot of stock in our emotions.

You may hear advice such as to “go with your heart” when making decisions, and it sounds true!

But it’s actually fairly misleading advice.

If you go with your feelings on a big decision you’re very likely to miscalculate or just choose something on the spur of the moment.

I can’t count how many decisions I’ve made like taking a job or moving to a new place just based on the spur of the moment.

Others which I thought about more and had more people involved in suggesting for me turned out much better.

I’d find myself making decisions based on an idealized idea I had of a place or something I’d seen in movies, only to show up and find it completely dead in comparison.

This is the second rule of decision-making used by successful people: your emotions come and go, so don’t make decisions just based on how you are feeling at this moment. That can change!

3. Be careful with over-intellectualizing and overthinking

The next key here is to not get too deep into overthinking either.

What you want to do is pay attention to your thoughts and your emotions about a decision without letting them rule you.

Your decision may have more than two choices. You may be split between four different courses of action, or two different people to date, or three different options of medical treatment for an illness.

Decisions aren’t always binary, that’s certainly true.

But if you overthink and calculate every option too deeply, you run the risk of remaining frozen in place, paralyzed by the multitude of complexities.

Life is short, and eventually you do have to decide something, especially since deciding nothing is also a decision!

This is the third rule of decision-making used by successful people: while you shouldn’t over rely on your feelings and temporary state of being, you also need to ensure that you don’t get caught in overanalysis. Your thoughts matter, but no decision about the future can ever be completely foreknown.

4. Determine a foundational reason for your decisions

The second key to making better decisions is to always have a very strong why behind your decision.

Why do you want to move to this new place?

Why do you want to take this job or turn it down?

Why do you want to retrain to become a paramedic, or are you actually more interested in becoming a firefighter?

Why do you want to marry this person and settle down together? Why not? What makes you sure or unsure?

Why do you want to try this alternative health treatment or this mainstream health treatment or a totally different nutritional program? How does it fit into your overall beliefs and value framework?

Always have a strong why behind decisions that you make.

Many of us decide impulsively or on the spur of the moment, making big decisions when we are having a particularly good or bad day, or when somebody charismatic catches our ear.

Try to avoid this: tie decisions into your overall purpose in life and what you want to achieve.

This is the fourth secret about decision-making used by successful people: always make decisions that have your larger purpose and mission in mind, rather than on the spur of the moment or based on temporary emotional states.

5. Fast forward one year into the future

The next of the secrets of better decision-making used by successful people is to hit the fast forward button on decisions.

They think about themselves in one year if they make a given decision.

It’s not just a mental exercise, this actually means picturing details that you imagine about the future.

Use Google Maps or a similar service to zoom in and walk around the streets of the place you’re moving, or the new job you’re taking.

Think of the appearance of your partner you’re committing to or getting serious with and details of how she or he dresses or looks.

Picture a year into the future being together, being at the new job, being in a new place.

How would you feel? What’s the atmosphere? What type of thoughts and emotions is the future you thinking?

Do you fit into this new story or is it a place that would be better without you in it and contributing your energies and effort somewhere else?

Sit for a good 15 to 20 minutes envisioning this future and see what comes.

This is the fifth rule of decision-making used by successful people: picture yourself one year into the future in various scenarios depending on if you make this decision or a different one, what do you see? Is it meaningful and worthwhile to you?

6. Take advice, but never outsource your decision to others

Advice can be helpful in making decisions, there’s no doubt about it.

Hearing the perspective of those close to us, or even people we don’t know well, can be illuminating.

But let’s face it:

Advice can also be confusing, contradictory and disempowering.

Relying on advice to make tough choices is generally a bad move.

This is a form of dodging responsibility and outsourcing the decision.

But it’s still you who’s going to have to live with the consequences of any choices you make, which is why it should be you and only you who’s ultimately making such choices.

Give advice the respect it deserves, but never let it have the final word.

This is the sixth rule of decision-making used by successful people: any advice you get should never be the deciding factor in what you do. Appreciate and listen to good advice, but never fully outsource a decision to other people. It’s your life!

7. Break your decision into actionable steps

The next of the secrets to better decision making used by successful people is to break any decision into actionable steps.

Committing to a decision and following through on it is great, but you need to have it actually be related to your day to day life.

If you decide to go to medical school, what does that mean for what you’ll do tomorrow or what you might do differently than yesterday?

What about next week, or in a month?

Break these decisions into actionable steps that you can actually do on a day by day basis and where you track progress by small increments, not just one future plateau you’ll reach “one day.”

This is the sixth rule of decision-making used by successful people: break a decision up into steps you can actually do. Make it something that has daily steps you can take, rather than just one big future scenario that allows you to remain passive in the present moment.

Choose the right option

Making the right choices can be difficult.

But if you sit and reflect on your core values and what drives you, you will come to see a path, or various paths, open up in front of you.

The more your decisions become proactive, empowered and voluntary, the more powerful and impactful they will be.

Keep believing in yourself and keep choosing the right.


10 things classy men never do in public

12 things you don’t realize you’re doing because you’re a naturally kind person