How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
When making a big decision, research has shown that it is best to sleep on it or otherwise take a break where you do not think about the factors around the decision.
Sleep is the best method for this. If, however, you are being pressed to decide or feel that you must decide soon, still try to take a break and do something that will take your mind off things for a while.
As appropriate, this may be supported by research or discussion with other people. This is best done before sleeping on it (not instead).
After the break, consider again what the decision should be. Then do a final check of the facts to ensure it still makes sense.
In periods when the mind is distracted or otherwise not consciously thinking about a decision that has to be made, there is an active subconscious process that accurately assesses the balance of pros and cons for and against the decision.
This seems similar to the incubation that is used in creative thinking, where likewise the facts are absorbed before a period of distraction during which an idea spontaneously appears in the conscious mind.
A danger of intuitive decision-making is that the decision may be made based on hope or optimism rather than rational facts. Another danger is that things that are being asserted by others as 'facts' may not turn out to be so.
When a person is emotionally aroused, whether excited or anxious, then their rational decision-making ability is further impeded. A break can let them cool down and reflect more logically on what should be done.
Bos, M.W., Dijksterhuis, A. and Van Baaren, R.B. (2011). The benefits of “sleeping on things”: Unconscious thought leads to automatic weighting. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21, 4-8.
Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M.W., Van der Leij, A., & Van Baaren, R.B. (2009). Predicting soccer matches after unconscious and conscious thought as a function of expertise. Psychological Science, 20(11), 1381-1387.
Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M.W., Nordgren, L.F., & Van Baaren, R.B. (2006). On Making the Right Choice: The deliberation-without-attention effect. Science, 311, 1005–1007.