The Surprising Truth Behind Rash Decisions


It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: Making rash decisions when you’re stressed may make you too optimistic. Hard to believe, right?

An article published last month in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, shows that people weigh risk and reward differently when they’re stressed.

What Happens When You’re Stressed
Oddly, when you’re stressed, rather than skew to the negative, you’re more likely to anticipate a positive outcome.

While that seems like a good thing, it means missing the whole picture—and potentially discounting important negative criticisms, which you need to make a balanced decision.

If you’re stressed about money, for example, you might be more apt to accept a job that’s not the best fit.

How Rash Decision Undermine Your Goals
Similarly, making rash decisions can undermine your long-term goals, even if you have the best intentions.

Maybe you’re amped up about starting a new healthy diet or exercise program. That’s great—but if you only look on the bright side without considering potential pitfalls, you could end up failing at your plan.

In an experiment led by researchers at the University of Illinois, people were shown a series of words (either action words like “start” and “active” or inaction words like “stop” and “rest”) and then faced a test of their self-control. People who viewed action words had poorer impulse control than those who saw terms suggesting inaction.

Sleep On It
Of course, that’s not to suggest that you should stay stagnant. Instead, keep in mind that the best decisions usually involve some serious forethought. Give yourself time to process information and don’t rush.

It never hurts to relax before making a big choice, so practice stress reduction techniques before you make that big decision.

Jessica Cerretani is a Boston-based freelance writer. Visit her