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ADHD and Decision-Making: Why We Make Bad Decisions

“Your life is a product of your own choices. So if you don’t like your life, it’s time to make better choices.”   

OK, sure. But better decision-making is easier said than done.

If we always made the best decisions, we’d all be Richard Branson, right?

So many of the most consequential decisions in our lives are indeed tough to make, let alone make with 100% confidence. Which house to buy. Whether to change careers. Should I quit my job and start my own company? These, and even “easier,” everyday decisions, fall prey to a set of…

Common Decision-Making Mistakes

Such as…

Narrow Framing: We debate whether to do or buy something, and end up building an argument for it, rather than taking the time to consider arguments against it or coming up with alternatives.

Confirmation Bias: As Chip and Dan Heath write in their bestseller Decisive, “Our normal habit in life is to develop a quick belief about a situation and then seek out information that bolsters our belief.” NOT a good recipe for good decisions.

Overconfidence: We tend to think we know everything we need to know before making decisions. Rarely if ever the case.

On top of those, for us ADHDers in particular, the work required to formulate decisions is fatiguing…Postponing decisions (we’re the champions of this, are we not?) wastes precious time and creates stress...Making the wrong decisions can cost us time and, of course, money (we’re pretty good at that, too, it seems).

But wait!! There’s more!!!

Here’s Where We ADHDers Really Get Slammed in Decision-Making

Impulsivity: Our brains just want to Go! Act! Do! Who needs forethought? We don’t need no stinkin’ forethought!!

Non-Linear Thinking: On a more serious note, we’re not wired to “look ahead five moves”, as a good chess player or project manager is. We may try, but our weak working memory means we can’t “hold the picture” of multiple forward moves or contingencies in our mind’s eye. This makes for short-sighted decisions…and the regrets that go with them.

Emotionality: We are emotional Tilt-a-Whirls. So when we’re giddy, we get extra impulsive. When we’re moody, we might make equally impulsive choices that harm ourselves or others.

Good Ol’ ADHD Brain Fog: We just don’t have certain neurochemicals in sufficient supply to provide clarity of thought when we most need it.

Sorry if all these reminders of your lousy decision-making skills reminds you of a recent blunderous choice.

Don’t feel too bad:  According to the Harvard Business Review, business managers make about three billion decisions each year, and research says that most of them do so poorly. Even non-ADHDers fall prey to those classic  decision-making pitfalls, all of which unfortunately add to our own ADHD issues.

But there’s hope…

Why do ADHDers get slammed in decision-making? Let me count the ways!

First of all, continue to sharpen your awareness of your weaknesses. That’ll help you slow down next time a meaningful decision is before you.

And here’s a simple trick I use regularly: When you’re confronted with a tough medium-size decision — for instance, how to deal with a minor crisis at work; where to go for a weekend getaway; or what anniversary gift to get your spouse this year — don’t just make the decision “on-the-fly.” Set a timer for ten minutes and write down a few alternatives. Stare at them and write additional thoughts until the buzzer sounds.

I guarantee this will result in a clearer picture and smarter decisions every single time.

Do You Have a Smart Process for Decision-Making?

If you really want to get serious about making smarter decisions, there are proven, evidence-based ways to improve your everyday decision-making — which is key in both your job and in your life. I devoted an episode of Crusher™TV to sharing some tools to cut through the brain clutter: 6 Ways to Make Smarter Decisions, every day. My Guest Expert, global strategy consultant Michelle Doss, also shares a couple of deceivingly simple, yet powerful tricks for making better decisions, big and small. The preview of the episode is below…



P.S. You might get a lot out of watching that entire episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 72 , and you can preview that episode here:

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