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How To Tackle Uncertainty to Make Better Decisions

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

Uncertainty and risk. These are our two enemies when making decisions. These are the two little figures on our shoulders, whispering with moist breath in our ears: “Are you sure?”, “What if something goes wrong?”, “What if you regret it?”, “What if everything goes wrong?”.

How can you be decisive with these torments oozing into your thoughts?

We crave control. Yet, uncertainty is inescapable. We try to eliminate it as much as possible because uncertain decisions demand more effort to quiet the doubts.

When dealing with the effects of a once-in-a-lifetime event, how do we predict the future of our decisions?


Firstly, good decision making fluctuates. One person is not the best at it all the time. Remember this.

But there are some ways to put yourself in the best possible position to tackle those decisions with confidence. 


The Basis

Identify the decisions you don’t realise you are making. Mindlessly doom-scrolling, stress-eating, and impulse buys are habitual bad decisions you need to notice you make. Reflect on where you usually go wrong. And ask why? This is the forgotten step that gets to the root of the problem. Knowing yourself is the basis to make better decisions. Acknowledging weaknesses means you can work on them, so you know when to trust the voices in your head.

Decision fatigue means the more decisions we have to make, the worse our judgement will be. So, prioritise the hard decisions for the times when you have a higher tolerance for decisions, i.e., in the morning.

Identify your core values. If these are consistent, and your decisions are aligned with them, you will minimize the chance of regret. What is most important to you? What could you not live without? What do you want? It is easier to evaluate a decision from a certain set of criteria. 

Biases are human. But discovering your own can steer you away from irrelevant factors when deciding. The brain creates shortcuts based on information readily available. So, if you mainly focus on information from one source, you will only believe that information. We misjudge our ability to meet deadlines. And we would prefer not to lose something than gain something of equal value. But loss is a lot less painful than we think it will be. 

Question the decision you have to make. If a question has a negative wording, you are more likely to worry about risks rather than benefits. Do not limit yourself to ‘either/or’ questions. Changing your perspective will open other choices that may be more suited to you. Instead of ‘which module do I choose’, think ‘what if I didn’t choose a module?’ ‘what other options are there?’ ‘what if someone else chose for me?’ ‘what if I changed course?’ The possibilities are endless.


Reduce Uncertainty

Research. Gather as much information as you can to reduce the uncertainty gap.

Play the devil’s advocate. Listen to people with opposing opinions and understand the merits of each. Challenge yourself to find the positive in what you think will be a negative effect.

Ask for advice. Your decision is not a new one. Insider opinions from people who have faced the same dilemma is the best attempt we can make at predicting the future. Yet, remember this is research to get the most information. Blindly following their advice would ignore your own opinion.

Do not just write a list of pros and cons. It is harder to compare things that are not calculable, as a few important factors should sway you more than lots of smaller factors. Rank pros and cons by giving just weight to each.



Depressive realism suggests depressed people have a more accurate, realistic view of the world. This would also suggest non-depressed people have a positive bias. Less surprisingly, anger has been found to encourage more risk-taking. It is sometimes easier to ignore and repress our emotions than to confront and accept them. But being aware of your emotions gives you more information and reduces uncertainty. Pretending you are advising a friend can help you think more rationally.

Pretend you have chosen one option. What happens now? What is it like? Visualise what it will be like. And monitor your emotions when you have chosen. Notice which one you like best.

Or stop pretending and find a way you can try out a few options before committing. 


Crunch Time

High-stress clouds judgment. Don’t forget about deadlines so you avoid making last-minute decisions. 

Don’t decide. Non-conscious thinking is insightful. Studies have found simple decisions are better decided with considered thought, but people make better complex decisions unconsciously.

Reduce your options. Previous challenges to assumptions created more options. This is good because you may realise these new ideas are much more appealing. But if you are still stuck, you will be happier when you decide from fewer options.

Get moving to get unstuck. It is fine to just pick one at random and learn from it. Right or wrong choices do not exist. If you can learn something later, it is still a valuable risk to take, and your time is more valuable now.



We underestimate our resilience in dealing with challenges and we overestimate the impact of decisions.  

When you question yourself, get outside information, question your assumptions, and learn about biases, you open yourself up to more perspectives. You can be sure you have the best information possible to execute your decision and be satisfied you did the best you could with what you had. So, you can brush off those devils on your shoulders and free up your mind for more important things.

Lastly, no decision is forever, and it is ok to be unsure and jump in anyway.

Elizabeth Marshall

Nottingham '22

Jess Smith

Nottingham '21

2020/2021 Editor-in-Chief for HerCampus Nottingham. Aspiring Journalist, with a lot of love for all things bookish. Final Year Sociology student, with a primary interest in Gender Studies, Film Analysis & Mental Health!