How do you make decisions? Impulsively, maybe, if you have ADHD.
In a way, everyone is bad at making decisions. Life is complicated. In both small and large decisions, there are so many possible factors to weigh that it’s easy to focus on the wrong thing, or to think the future will turn out one way when it turns out another way instead.
ADHD throws some additional hurdles into the mix, though. Those would include the tendency to make impulsive decisions without thinking situations through, to rush into new undertakings, and to instinctively prioritize short-term rewards.
To be fair, those qualities can work in our favor, too. As I’ve written before, I’m a believer that being able to follow your intuition is a useful skill for coping with ADHD. Sometimes the decision that’s most logical on paper isn’t the right decision for you as a person. Sometimes the intuitive, impulsive part of your brain is able to grasp something about what needs to be done in a certain situation that a more reasoned approach can’t.
That can be true whether or not the situation you’re deciding about is something everyday like whether to say something or hold your tongue, or something major like whether to switch to a new job.
At the same time, “following your intuition” can become a justification for impulsive behavior. So how do you tell the difference between following your intuition in a way that improves your life and deciding on impulse in a way that damages your life?
The short answer is that you can only tell in retrospect. Only by looking back do you know whether a decision made your life better or worse – and sometimes, even then, you can only guess!
That’s why a key part of making better decisions in the future is looking back at the decisions you made in the past. By observing your past decisions, you can find patterns in what types of decisions you tend to make that work out well, and what types backfire.
One way to facilitate this is by actually keeping a written list. When you find yourself making a small day-to-day decision or a big life decision (or when you discover you’ve actually just made such a decision without even stopping to realize it), write it down as a reminder to check back later and see how it panned out.
Over time, you’ll start to notice patterns: when I make such-and-such decisions in such-and-such situations, I usually have good results, but when I make such-and-such other decisions in different situations, I often underestimate the potential for such-and-such to happen.
The “such-and-such” decisions could be trivial, like whether to stick with an old favorite or order a new dish at a restaurant you frequent. Or they could be substantial, like whether to make a big financial investment or whether to keep certain people in your life.
Either way, the point is to be aware of your decision-making history so that when history repeats itself, it does so more in good ways than self-destructive ones!
Image: Flickr/Siaron James