Choice vs. Decision

Photo by William Krause on Unsplash

Over the weekend my husband and I had a conversation about choice vs. decision as we discussed the attack on the U.S. Capitol this past week as well as moments in our own lives where we made a decision that shaped our lives for years to come. We pondered about whether there was any time we did not have a choice related to a decision we made.

The distinction between choice and decision is somewhat subtle, but important. As I thought about this, I sought out some other resources to help facilitate my own thinking about it. I discovered this article in Forbes Magazine by Svetlana Whitener, which states “Choice connects to the place of desired intention, values and beliefs. Decision connects to the place of behavior, performance and consequences. You might say that choices are connected to reasons and decisions are connected to causes.”

At times we might have an illusion that we have no choice when we are pressed to make an important decision. Certainly it sometimes seems that way, however, except when faced with a life or death situation, it is hard to think of a time when one doesn’t have a choice. Perhaps if someone is hypnotized or doesn’t have control over their brain one could argue there is no choice, but even in the most dire circumstances, there is always a choice of how one might think about the situation they are in, and therefore how they decide to respond.

At other times we might be faced with too many choices, thus paralyzing us as we struggle through how to make the best decision given the circumstances.

So, when faced with a non-life threatening decision, yet an important life decision, how might we make better choices that lead to better decisions? Here are some questions, courtesy of Executive Coach Dr. Chris Johnson to ask yourself:

  • What is important to me?
  • What are my values and beliefs?
  • Why is it important to me?
  • Who is important to me?
  • Why are they important to me?
  • How do I want to live my life?
  • What’s the legacy that I want to leave behind?
  • Will my action be consistent with what I say is important?

Intentional decision making is guided by such self-reflection and that is also guided by a philosophy of “do no harm.” As the wise Dalai Lama once said, “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”