Three tips on making big decisions

Decisions are everywhere.

Do you get up with the alarm or hit snooze a few times? Is it ketchup or mayo with your chips? Or both? Do you accept that university course with a year of study in the USA or go for an apprenticeship instead?

Some decisions will have a greater impact on your life than others. So you need to be in the right frame of mind before making them.

GP and BBC Radio 1 regular Dr Radha Modgil, has three tips on making decisions that are a big deal. As you’ll see in the video below, they involve tough love and a good diet. But first, an intriguing fact about a former US president’s wardrobe.

Barack Obama’s bandwidth

It’s all to do with removing the small choices in life so that your brain can focus on the bigger ones, as Dr Radha explained: “When he was in office, Barack Obama removed one decision from his daily life: what to wear. It was always a grey or blue suit and white shirt, because he knew the science behind decision-making, and that by wearing a kind of uniform, he’d save bandwidth for the really important choices.”

Barack Obama stopped his clothes choices being a choice, to help him focus

Scientists have learned that whether it’s a decision about what pair of socks to put on, or which house to buy, our brains will use the same amount of energy on each choice. Filtering out the smaller decisions helps, but it’s important to keep your brain’s fuel levels at optimum too.

Dr Radha continued: “Your brain needs fuel to think… It’s the most complex and energy-demanding organ we have. If you’re very hungry, neurotransmitters can’t be produced, which results in communication between the brain’s 86 billion neurons breaking down.”

Porridge really is just right

That won’t help your brain make decisions, so keep it fed with the right kind of food. Tasty as biscuits are, they’re not the best fuel - although don’t feel bad about the occasional treat. Good fuel for those big choices are plenty of water and a slow-release carb breakfast such as porridge.

Keep your brain fuelled - but make sure it’s with the right kind of food

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman studied the way people make decisions for a decade. He found that we tend to be afraid of what we will lose through a big life choice rather than what we could gain. It means people often plump for the safest option rather than one which could have a positive impact on them.

You’ve got a friend

To counter safer choices, Dr Radha has this advice - speak to a friend who isn’t afraid to tell you what they really think.

She said: “An objective friend can help you identify the best decision because they’re not weighed down by the fear of what could be lost. In the end, the decision is always yours, but it helps to seek this kind of advice.”

It’s always your call, but next time there is something for you to ponder that’s a pretty big deal, remember those three things. Keep your bandwidth clear, have the right sort of fuel inside you - and never be afraid to phone a friend who wants what’s best for you.

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