71 - Three practices to become a better decision-maker



Here are three simple practices to get you started on the path to better decisions. I’ve distilled them from a wonderful interview of neuroscientist and author Lisa Barrett on The Knowledge Project podcast.

Before I lay out the behaviors, here’s a quick reframing.

How we see things: Good decision-making is all about deciding well in the moment.

Reframing: Good decision-making is about making a bunch of smart decisions before, by way of practicing certain behaviors, such that you improve the likelihood of good outcomes after. Each of these suggestions is a behavior to be practiced, not just a mindset.

1️⃣: Design your living environment thoughtfully.

Your pre-bedtime snack craving plays out like this: You’re ready for bed but you feel peckish and the fridge just happens to be on the way to the bed.

What do you do? You can try harder like millions before you and end up with a tub of ice-cream at midnight OR you can stack up your fridge with healthy snack options. You win even when you lose.

2️⃣: Extend lifestyle design to matters of the ‘heart’.

You may have been told there are different centers for emotion (heart) and cognition (brain). Whether it’s feeling or thinking, the mechanism is the same: ‘Your brain is taking in sense data from the body and from the world and using past experiences to make sense of what that means.’

So if you’ve believed that love is an emotion and you can’t help whom you love, you may be washing your hands off your own decisions. Because you decide where and with whom you spend time. It matters whether you hang at a music festival, go to a poetry reading, or go for a hackathon. You’re more likely to have one type of company than another in each of these settings. Context matters. And you’re in charge of it. So don’t throw your hands up in the air when it comes to matters of the proverbial heart. Set the right context for your life.

3️⃣: Practice perspective-taking.

Why is perspective-taking so much harder for some than it is for others? Because those who’re good at it also happen to practice it a lot. If you think about perspective-taking as a skill, you’ll feel the need to practice it beforehand and get better at it. If you think about it as a talent you’ve just been born with, you’ll believe that you can unfurl it at the exact moment of need.

But that rarely happens. When you’re upset, you tend to put yourself in the center of your universe. No one else matters. So if you don’t make the effort during moments of calm to see the world through another set of eyes, don’t expect to be able to do so when someone cuts us off in an argument.

Better lifestyle design, better company, perspective-taking–these are three simple things to get you started on the path to better decision-making.

What are some practices that help you make better decisions?

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