A recent study found that a “big picture” style of thinking led to better decision-making. (“Better” decisions were defined as those resulting in maximum benefits.)
If you took the Myers-Briggs (a personality assessment), and fell on the “Intuition” side of the spectrum (like me!), it’s likely you’re already a “big picture” thinker. If you’re on the “Sensing” side, you’re more apt to examine individual facts before considering the sum of all parts.
“Big picture” thinking is a practical and balanced method of reasoning. It suggests taking a step back (zoom out!)… and looking to see how all pieces fit together for more effective decision-making.
The following strategies promote “big picture” thinking for better decision-making:
1. Get a good night’s rest
Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that sleep is essential for “relational memory” (or the ability to make inferences, i.e. “big picture” thinking).
Before making a tough decision, sleep on it; you’ll wake up with a new perspective! In addition to healthy sleep hygiene, the following strategies have been found to improve sleep:
- Participate in a fun or relaxing activity before bed (especially when you’ve had a rough day)
- Mindfulness meditation
- Cultivate meaning in life
- Maintain a daily routine
2. Don’t deliberate for long
Research indicates that when weighing out options, it’s ideal to take small breaks. For more effective decision-making, don’t deliberate for long periods of time or you’ll start to lose focus. If things become fuzzy, you won’t see the big picture.
3. Bay day = bad decision
One study found that a positive mood is related to a “big picture” thinking style. Good moods are associated with broader and more flexible thinking. A positive mood enables someone to step back emotionally, psychologically distancing themselves from the decision at hand.
If you’re feeling salty, hold off on making that decision. Instead, try one (or all!) of the following research-based techniques for boosting your mood:
- Treat yourself to a “good mood” food like chocolate or blueberries
- Spend time with a close friend
- Perform a random act of kindness
- Take a walk in the park
4. Get a second opinion
Ask around to learn how others’ view your situation. Every perspective you collect is another piece of the “big picture” puzzle.
Seek opinions from those you trust (only those who have your best interests in mind). Make sure you ask a variety of people (especially those with whom you typically disagree). The end result is a broader and more comprehensive awareness of what you’re facing.
Employ all four strategies to optimize your thinking style and decision-making skills!
Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
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