Bad decisions are something we all make from time to time, perhaps we learn from them and perhaps we don’t. The issue however is that avoiding bad decisions and consistently doing the right thing can substantially improve your life.

“Decision making is the mental process that results in the selection of a course of action towards one of a number of alternative scenarios”.

Bad decisions are more likely to happen when this decision process goes wrong, what this article is about is looking at the ways that the process of decision making goes wrong and why bad decisions are made.

1. Poor Training.

By having a decision making method that works you can consistently make better decisions and avoid bad decisions, methods can be learned, and its easy to train yourself to be better this article will help you understand what you are doing wrong.

2. Snap Decisions are bad decisions.

Snap decisions are bad decisions made for the wrong reasons typically made when you are stressed, reacting on emotion, time pressure, lack of information and when you don’t really understand the problem. The key to avoiding snap decisions is to avoid making decisions in an un-resourceful state or when you are under pressure or stressed.
It is also important to be able to differentiate between ‘snap decisions’ and ‘gut instinct’, it’s far to easy to make a snap decision in haste rather than taking the time to listen to our unconscious intuition and gut instinct.

3. Waiting for Perfection. 

Some people put off making a decision until they can see a perfect outcome, perfection probably never happens for most of us. Bad decisions can be made when people aim at perfection instead of making the most of the most likely event. Perhaps the key is to make a decision that takes you nearer you perfect outcome, remember perfection is a process not an outcome and “You are more likely to hit the bullseye when you are nearer the target”.

4. Decision Paralysis.

Decision paralysis can easily lead to bad decisions, an old surgeon once told me “the decision of indecision is usually the wrong decision”.
To take opportunity we often need to make decisions even if they are right or wrong, perhaps the key message is to be proactive and not miss opportunity when it comes our way, there are times when we need to make decisions otherwise we will miss the boat.

5. Concentrating on what you don’t want. 

Bad decisions are made when you are being non-objective, or when you are deciding what to do based on a fear of failure or the on the worst possible outcome, the key is to concentrate on the most likely outcome when making a decision, this is what is most likely to happen and therefore this is objectively where we need to direct our mental efforts.

6. Influenced by other people.

Too many times bad decisions are made that are just compromises to keep people happy, and are not decisions made by focussing on a desired objective outcomes, these decisions keep people happy and when you fail, blame is shared, in the end this type of organisation will be slow to act, indecisive, poorly focussed on goals and will eventually fail.
The key is to realise that other people make their decisions acting on their information (this may be poor), rapport, trust, politics and what other people may think of them.

True leaders have the self confidence to make decisions without looking for validation from others.

7. Rushed Decisions are bad decisions.

Rushed decisions are typically bad decisions, don’t put yourself under pressure, and avoid jumping in with both feet and acting on limited information. So take some time to analyse the problem before the deadline, work through the decision making process, look at your alternatives, and ask someone who has experience of sorting out similar problems.
If in doubt “sleep on it”.

8. Incongruity.

People make bad decisions when they are inconsistent and when they fail to see if that decision fits with the bigger picture, typically people fail to look at their ‘ecology’ i.e. the implications around them of making that decision.
A bad decision may conflict with your own values or that of our organisation, people fail to see the real cost of their actions to themselves and to others around them.

Imagine how you would feel about making that decision in the future having made it, do you feel relief or regret, and perhaps can you look at yourself in the mirror?

9. Get overloaded.

Bad decisions are made when people get overloaded, it’s therefore important to analyse the problem, look at what’s important, look at what fits, work out your objectives and spend your time looking at the most likely outcome and not searching for infinite numbers of other outcomes. Taking time to analyse key problems before you make a decision, and deciding on a clear specific objective is the key to not getting overloaded.

10. Poor Planning. 

Your bad decisions may not be that bad, it may be that before you made your decision you spent no time ‘decision planning’.
Decision planning looks at what you will do after making a decision to take a course of action. It looks at how you will organise your resources, whether you need to develop further skills and how you will practically take the opportunity by taking the time to formulate a plan of action.

You might be on the right track but if you don’t keep moving you will get run over.

11. Talking yourself into bad decisions.

After bad decisions are made we typically find reasons to hang onto the wrong decision, this is called confirmation bios which is defined specifically as looking for evidence to confirm that the decision we have made is correct.
To stop doing this we need to remain objective, look at the bigger picture then sweat the details, the worst thing we can do is talk ourselves into doing something that we intuitively know is wrong.

12. Being too stubborn. 

We all make bad decisions, however when bad decisions have been made we need to be able to recognise this has happened, swallow our pride, back track and do the right thing. People persistently are on a mission to prove themselves right, too proud to back track, and fail to react when they need to. Perhaps the key is to develop a sense of self awareness, having a ‘plan B’ that you can fall back on.

Get into the habit of reflecting on the reasons for your previous mistakes and ask yourself ‘what can I learn from this?’.


Bad decisions are all too easy to make, but can be minimised by a better decision making process and by reflecting on the reasons why you have made bad decisions in the past, a colleague once told me that;

“experience doesn’t make you any better, it just stops you making bad decisions”.