How to Make Smarter Decisions When You’re Uncertain

Professional poker players live, breathe, and work through uncertainty all the time. We can learn to do the same when we're feeling uncertain in our professional or personal lives. Find out how.

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Poker players make a living with uncertainty. They continually make in-the-moment decisions based on incomplete facts of the cards and people they’re playing with. By embracing the uncertainty, professional players like Annie Duke, Daniel Negreanu, and Doyle Brunson have to rely on their life and poker experiences to guess how their opponents would play the cards they had. 

Just like poker, life is pretty unpredictable and uncertain too. We make hundreds of decisions without knowing the full picture of a situation. Yet before this year, we probably never gave it much thought. With seemingly the whole world uncertain right now, we’ve become more aware of it and how difficult it can be to make a simple decision. 

If you’re struggling to decide on anything right now, here are a few strategies you can use. Try them out to see which helps you overcome your uncertainty and achieve better outcomes.

Look for Stability

As the world changes around you, try to identify and focus on the things that will remain the same, both at work and home. For instance, look to your company’s mission, your pursuit of a customer-first business culture, and your goal of delivering value to your customers is always the same. At home, you’ll want to support your family and take care of your health and well-being.

Those things will always be there no matter what goes on around you. They’ll offer you a little peace and normalcy in an ever-changing world. 

Stay Flexible

When you’re uncertain, you may fear deciding because it’ll cost you too much to reverse course in the future. Instead, prioritize decisions that won’t cost you more later, such as smaller decisions that change something today, but won’t be harder to change in the future. You’ll still be working towards your goals while being flexible in a changing world, both of which are essential today. 

Trust Your Instincts

Uncertainty leads to doubt for most people. It can cause us to wait for all the information before making a decision. That indecision delays our decision-making, leading to more uncertainty. It becomes a vicious circle of uncertainty. 

By trusting our instincts, we ARE using information to make a decision. It’s information gained by our past experience and knowledge of similar situations and is still useful. Leaning on instinct can help us move forward and reduce uncertainty and doubt.

Reach Out to Others

It’s easy to retreat inwards when we’re stressed, or life is uncertain. Business leaders start to have more closed-door meetings, and we withdraw from family and friends. This isolation can make things seem more uncertain because we start to live in an echo chamber of our own making. There’s no one else to contradict us, offer an outside opinion, or give useful information to make a more meaningful decision. 

When things get uncertain for you, reach out to your colleagues, leadership team, friends, and family. Listen to their thoughts and perspectives to encourage debate, open a broader discussion, and help you identify the biases that are sabotaging your ability to make a clear decision. 

Set Clear Goals

Finally, you’ll want to set clear goals that you can aim for with every decision you make. Without knowing the endpoint, it’s hard to figure out which way to go. This applies to both your professional and personal lives and can bring some balance to your life. Try using the SMART goal setting technique, where goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

 If you find yourself moving away from your goals, change course, and make different decisions. 

Some people like to have all the information possible before making a decision. Others dive into new situations based on their instincts and make decisions based on what happens next. That can work out spectacularly if you’re the poker player who accurately guesses when someone’s bluffing. Or you can fail miserably as many entrepreneurs do with their first business ideas. There will always be uncertainty out there. How you deal with it determines whether you’ll reach your goals and decides your outlook on life. These tips can help you make better decisions, no matter how uncertain you are.

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