There are many difficult decisions in life. At such times, we may not know what choice to make or the possibilities may be overbearing. Varying factors such as; stress, being rushed or lack of discipline can cause us to make poor decisions and later regret our actions.
Good decision making can make you stand out from the rest, increase your prosperity and save you time, energy and money. So, how can we improve our decision making?
Firstly, lets identify some bad human behaviorism's. People have tendencies to choose smaller-sooner rewards over large-later rewards if the delay in time is reduced. For example, taking £100 now rather than £110 in 2 weeks time or eating the cake and starting the diet tomorrow, rather than not eating the cake and starting the diet now. This phenomenon is called parabolic discounting and can cause a lapse in willpower, health outcomes, consumption choices and personal finances.
Lets go back to the cake example - an over weight person may realize that they need to improve their health through exercise and a better diet. For the future, they vow to forego all short term temptations in exchange for long term health benefits. However, after their next meal they cannot resist having a chocolate cake for dessert. They focus on the instant pleasure of the dessert and heavily discount the future benefits of better health. After eating the cake they intend to follow the diet again. They believe that next time they will have the willpower to turn down the cake.
Cognitive psychologists found that when making these kinds of decision we use two different parts of our brain. The more executive part of your brain is making the smarter decision for the future while the not-so smart part of your brain is making current decisions. Basically, that means the future you is smarter than present you, as we are using different parts of our brains for decision making.
Why are we like this? Well, our brains were never truly wired to be rational.There is too much information out there and our lifes are much more complex than they were in the cavemen days. We didn't have the certainty of tomorrow - so we evolved choosing immediate sure-thing rewards.
We are impatient-and prefer immediate rewards in the short term. But we’re more patient and wait for better rewards in the long term.
What can we do about it? To help, break down big goals into small manageable chunks. By doing this you can set one large reward and have many small rewards along the way, the reward will be something that is no longer so far off but something more immediate and guaranteed.
Empathize with your future self - It's easy to put things off to future you because you assume that future you will be full of energy, drive and motivation. But, unfortunately the perfect vision of future you is not reality. Before putting things off, think of your future mental state - how tired, sleepy or drained you may be. It helps to evaluate if future you will actually get the job done. Consciously evaluating and making decisions about future you will motivate you to get things done.
In conclusion, acknowledging parabolic discounting will allow you to evaluate trade-offs between now and the future and will help you in your decision making. The future you will be thankful!