As adults, we face a daily barrage of tough decisions and arbitrary choices in our work and family lives.
Fast-paced jobs mean thinking on our feet, while the freedom of choice at home can be exhausting.
Finding a house in the right school catchment area, changing jobs to spend more time at home, and making healthy food choices. Even choosing the perfect film to watch on Netflix, with just the right accompanying snacks, can mean a simple night in is suddenly fraught with danger.
And all of this before we get onto your finances and retirement.
Thankfully, it might be possible to train your brain to make better choices.
Here are just five tips to try now.
1. Brainstorm your options
Whether you’re deciding between pension options, candidates for a big promotion, or a comedy versus a horror movie, brainstorming your options can help.
List all your available options and the pros and cons of each. Then revisit your options, look at the long- and short-term effects of your decisions, and the pros and cons too.
You’ll need to think about the choice you’ll be happiest with in the long term, and the options you’ll regret the least if you ditch them.
What would your future self say?
2. Learn from the past
Brainstorming all your big decisions, as they occur, is a great way to get onto paper how you are feeling right now. But that doesn’t mean that you should discount the past.
If you’ve made a similar decision before, what did you decide then, and how did you feel about the decision? Did your views change directly after you made it, or months or years later? Would you still make the same decision again?
We must learn from our experiences and looking for parallels in past choices is a great way to ensure we don’t recreate our mistakes or forget our successes.
3. Be realistic
Back in August 2020 we looked at 5 ways cognitive bias could be damaging your investments and spoke about confirmation bias.
This is the human tendency to seek out and favour information that backs up the beliefs we already hold. It’s the reason why we buy the newspaper that most aligns with our politics.
But when it comes to decision-making, we can use this bias to justify bad choices.
Be sure to take a step back and look at each decision objectively, thinking not only about what decision you are choosing, but why you are choosing it.
4. Seek a second opinion and take opposing opinions onboard
While we might like to think we can step back and think reasonably about the choices we make, sometimes we all need a second opinion.
Loved ones can provide an important sounding board and listening to as many voices as possible can help ensure you have all the available information.
If you find that friends and family have differing opinions, be sure to listen to them.
We’ve already talked about confirmation bias but it bears repeating.
Listening to opinions that differ from yours allows you the chance to see your decision from a different angle. You don’t have to agree with the opinion but understanding that counterarguments exist can be useful for context, placing your decision within a bigger picture.
At the very least, gaining and then dissecting other people’s opinions will slow you down.
5. Wait a day and then decide
It’s important not to rush big decisions. From one-off, large purchases to your retirement options, the choices we make can have far-reaching consequences.
Rather than making a rash decision and regretting it (whether for the time it takes to repaint a garishly coloured wall or the decades of your retirement), take all the time you need at the outset so you don’t regret your choice later.
For a relatively small decision, you might find that sleeping on it gives you a fresh perspective and a clear idea of the correct path.
If your decision is larger, it’s ok to wait a week, or even a month to see if your opinion changes or new information comes to light.
Get in touch
We might not always be on hand with film recommendations or Ofsted reports, but we can help you make the best possible retirement decisions for you. If you’d like help with your retirement choices, or any other aspect of your long-term financial planning, get in touch.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 0787 182.