Why making a decision is harder than making a choice

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They might be easier, but making good choices is important, too

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Do you know the difference between making a choice and making a decision? They sound almost identical in meaning, but there is a huge difference.

A decision takes an investment of time and energy, maybe a risk of some type, and real determination. A choice is much simpler.

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You might, for example, decide to enter a new career field. You’ll take needed classes or gain certification.

The payoff is you may get to exit a job you don’t like that much. The bigger payoff might be a larger paycheck and a happier life.

When you make a decision in your life, you may have to make yourself uncomfortable. However, the exciting part is that many times a good decision moves you out of a stressful place you absolutely hate.

On the other hand, a “choice” is not so proactive.

For example, picking out one of the lunch specials on a restaurant menu is a choice. You’re selecting one option out of ideas in front of you.

Making a decision, however, means thinking through what’s possible to do in life. There’s more at stake, and you often have to literally create the decision. Then, you have to act.

Making up your mind to eat 1,200 calories a day is a decision. Choosing to buy a brand-new car instead of a used one is a decision.

A decision can alter the course of your life. It involves a commitment and maybe somewhat of a sacrifice.

“We’re all comprised of the sum total of decisions we’ve ever made,” a career coach we’ll call Ben said. “A decision to finish college, a decision to get married, or a decision to move to a new locale all add up factors in our lives that spell success or failure.”

Deciding who we’ll marry is different than just saying yes or no to a relationship. We might, for instance, have a list of qualities we desire in another person. This is a decision we make before we agree to go out with someone. For example, the decision to date only people we admire and respect is powerful from many standpoints.

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“Good choices, such as selecting more salads when we eat out, matter, too,” Ben said. “But, making the decision that we will do whatever it takes to lose 20 pounds is a guiding force.”

To become the administrator over your life, it pays to review decisions that have worked well. What decisions are you proud of? What decisions would you change?

“Just seeing how a decision affects a big chunk of one’s future is enough to make us pause,” Ben said. “A choice will have consequences, but a decision will usually carve a path. I tell people I coach in their careers to picture having more power in their lives.

“I help them see the future,” he continued. “Making good decisions faster should be a goal for each of us. I work with people a lot who just wait around to see what happens. That’s a dangerous way to live.”

A motivational coach we’ll call Thomas said many of his clients are in a fog. “They’ve moved into a dark and dusty place mentally, and I have to coax them out of that fog.”

He went on to explain: “Once we see the power we gain by pushing for change, most of us are willing to make a decision. Sure, it takes nerve. But, I always ask, ‘What will it cost you, if you don’t make the decision?’”

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Judi Light Hopson is executive director of the stress management website USA Wellness Café at usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.