Why Good People Make Bad Decisions


October 4, 2012   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Should you have chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla?

Should you take the dive into entrepreneurship or keep working for a boss you can’t stand?

Is it time to work on your marriage or get a divorce?

Every day we make countless decisions…big and small.

Sometimes we celebrate our choices with a pat on the back and other times we wonder: what went wrong?

That’s why we need to know why good people sometimes make bad decisions, and how we can use that insight to make better decisions ourselves.

Because the truth is that sometimes seemingly inconsequential decisions really do affect our lives.Here are four reasons why good people make bad decisions and what you can do to ensure you don’t fall prey to these decision-traps yourself.

1. Good Old Unconscious Beliefs

Yup…sometimes we harbor unconscious beliefs that don’t serve us. Maybe deep down inside we believe that we’re unworthy of our success or maybe we believe that we don’t deserve to be loved.

These kinds of destructive, unconscious beliefs will always lead to bad decision-making. They lead to self-sabotage.

Solution: Unconscious beliefs often surface as negative thoughts in our minds. When you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, replace it with more positive, empowering self-talk. Just write the negative belief down along with its more empowering replacement belief. Keep the empowering beliefs in front of you all the time with post-it notes.

Soon, each time the negative belief pops into your head you’ll be able to replace it with the empowering belief, until only the empowering beliefs surface at all!

The end result: fewer negative unconscious beliefs guide your decision-making.

2. Distress Caused by Uncertainty

Some people are really distressed by the uncertainty that having to make a decision causes…so how do they resolve it?

Simple: They just rush into any decision they can. These people will accept the first offer in negotiations, they might accept the first solution to a problem (even if they’re not really sure about it)…just to relieve themselves of the anxiety that having to make a decision or having to solve a ‘problem’ causes.

Solution: Whether the temporary uncertainty of having to make a decision makes you anxious or not, the best thing to always remember when making decisions is this: Everything will work out in your favor, exactly the way it’s supposed to.

There’s no need to rush, ever.

Be rationally optimistic. If you ever find yourself rushing to make a decision, take a few deep breaths and a few steps back.

Remind yourself that you have all the time you need (even if you don’t). Because this relaxed thought-pattern will often lead you to a better decision faster than if you were an anxious or worried in the first place. (Our brains simply aren’t as efficient when under stress).

3. Irrational Fear

Although we humans pride ourselves on being logical, rational creatures…it doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes we zero-in on something that really, really scares us…and that drives our decision instead of logic.

Think about people who don’t fly on airplanes despite the fact that planes are actually safer than cars…this behavior is driven by irrational fear rather than rational logic.

This same irrational behavior can happen any time we’re faced with a decision that contains a potential percentage of fearful risk…we might zero-in on that fearful risk despite the fact that it’s highly unlikely to occur in the first place.

Solution: When making a decision that might contain an element of irrational fear, take a piece of paper (or your laptop) and write down all the pros in one column and all the cons or risks in another (be sure to include the risks’ actual likelihood of happening in percentage form).

Then look at the columns and ask yourself what you would advise someone to do if this weren’t your decision but if it were theirs to make instead. (Note: this doesn’t work for phobias…only for non-clinical, irrational fears).

This exercise will give you a more rational approach to making your decision.

4. Being Way Too Focused on Right Now

Living in the now is great, but too many bad decisions are made due to incredibly short-term thinking. It’s imperative to assess the long-term implications of our daily decisions.

Excessive smoking and drinking are two common examples of short-term thinking.

Although they might provide some immediate relief, the long-term consequences of these choices can be reason not to heavily engage in these (and other) equally temporary, quick-fixes.

Solution: When making daily decisions (big and small) ask yourself what the potential long-term effects of this decision might be.

Make a list of the potential long-term effects if you need to (especially if it’s a more complex and important decision). Then and only then should you decide one way or the other!

What are some decision-making strategies you use? Share in the comments below!

Written on 9/23/2012 Cece Suwal and Mark Brener, coauthors of the national bestseller, A Guide To Your Supreme Power, and cofounders of The One World Initiative, where you can discover your path to money, love, power, success, life purpose, and meaning using their four powerful success secrets. Photo Credit:

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