Whether you admit it to yourself or ignore the fact, know this: the choices you make each and every day lead to you either making your life happier. Or not as happy. Yes, my dear, I know reading this out loud sounds overly dramatic. Yet, like with anything in life, awareness is one of the keys to going from a life that’s so-so to one that feels loving and nourishing. So, becoming aware of what decision making strategies are – and how they can help you be happier – is more than just a little helpful.

And darling, that’s an underestimated thing about how to create a life you love: the little pops of awareness can go a long way to an overall happier life.

First: what are decision making strategies and what are the key steps?

Decision making is the process of making choices. There are seven steps when you get down to the bare bones of decision making: identify the decision to be made, gather information, identify alternative choices, make the choice, take action, and then review the decision.

For some folks, these seven steps can be processed in mere moments. Especially if you are used to going with your gut. Others, though, agonize over decisions to the point that they allow fate, or rather the lack of actually making decisions, to take a less-than-mindful approach to life.

What decision making strategies have science behind them?

Research from Swarthmore College analyzed two types of approaches to decision making. They divided them in two categories, calling them either a  “satisficer” or “maximizer”. The so called “satisficers” went for the choice that was “good enough”. Rather than agonize over their decisions, these folks didn’t feel that doing more research was helpful to making a decision that was best for their life.

On the other hand, the “maximizers” were the folks who exhaustively researched all the options before making a decision in hope of making the best possible choice. The sheer volume of time to do this, the nagging doubts they had, and over-analyzing their possible choices led to feeling more stressed. That’s because they wanted to make the “perfect” decision. And nothing, my dear, in life, is perfect.

Can you guess what decision making strategy led to better decisions and happier people?

What was most interesting to me as a coach was that both approaches led to making equally good decisions. However, one approach led to happier decision makers: the satisficers.

That’s because the maximizers, while seeming to be more mindful to following all the steps in a decision making process, the research showed that they would often second guess their choices. Even after the decision was made. Rather than being happier, they were just more stressed out. That didn’t surprise me because all that over analyzing causes more stress.

Meanwhile, satisficers are more likely to be happy and content. They make their decisions, feel good about it, and move on.

This can seem counter-intuitive when you are trying to better understand what decision making strategies were best. And, my darling, more stress certainly doesn’t make anyone I’ve ever met happier.

What does the research on maximizers and satisficers tell me about what decision making strategies are best?

It tells me what I know to be true: if you want to know what decision making strategy leads to being happier, you need to trust your gut.  I know, coming from a logical person like me that loves research might surprise you. But the thing is, each one of us is born with a gut sense aka intuition.

Though it seems is if it’s all woo-woo, our intuition isn’t guiding us away from looking at all our possible options. Rather, it’s the result of the way our brains work. When we get a gut feeling, it’s actually a rapid-fire unconscious associating process that comes from what you already know.  In mere seconds, our brain scans our experiences, knowledge and memories and gives us a gut response to something. It’s like magic!

Basically, this is what satisficers are doing: trusting their gut.

What else do you need to know about what decision making strategies lead to a happier life?

If you are naturally wired to be analytical and look at all your options, it can be hard to listen to your gut. Especially for those who fall under the Myers-Briggs types falls under “The Analysts” (INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, or ENTP). Over analyzing not just your decisions, but all your thoughts just adds to your stress levels. So, rather than falling down the rabbit hole of research, decide if you’d rather be perfect or happy.

That’s the trick, my darling. There is no such thing as a perfect choice. And the key to being happier is learning that if you aren’t happy with a decision, you can go in another direction.

You need to make good decisions in order to have a happy life. But don’t let getting mired down in the decision making process cause you to be frustrated and more stressed out.

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