Although it might appear that the words “choice” and “decision” are just synonyms for the same thing, there is actually a difference between the two.
From psychological investigations, we know that the difference stems from the concepts of freedom and determinism, where freedom is the place of choice and determinism is the point of decision. A little confusing? I’ll explain.
Determinism is the doctrine that, in its absolute form, all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Thus, we can’t really choose anything. All has been pre-determined.
Freedom, on the other hand, if absolute, means just what you think it does: the ability to choose among different alternatives unfettered by other considerations and restraints. Nothing has been pre-determined.
So are the determinists right that all is pre-determined? Probably not, although we have to admit that decisions are usually influenced by outside factors. Similarly, absolute freedom is rare — constraint, in some form or another, is the norm.
Don’t rush to the point of decision. Reconnect to the place of choice first.
Effective decision making can only flow from a place of choice. You must make a conscious effort to free yourself from fear and perceived limitations to get there. You must open your mind to all possibilities, without feeling restricted. When you are there, nothing seems like an insurmountable problem. Instead, there are only opportunities for growth and discovery. Nothing can stop you.
The place of choice is the crossroads between feeling fulfilled and aligning with your own values. Only after you have identified the place of choice can you move on to the point of decision, which is where you finally consider all options and decide what to do.
To illustrate, let’s use a TV remote as an example. With your remote, you have the freedom to choose from an endless list of shows and channels. You could choose a simple sitcom, a TED talk on physics, or a golf tournament. You are at the place of choice.
But, you don’t make decisions in a void. Your decisions are influenced by a myriad of factors, both external and internal, such as habit, culture, education, goals, etc. It’s when you start taking these factors into consideration that you move to the point of decision.
Thus, if you’re watching TV just to relax, then a simple sitcom or reality show might be just fine. However, if you want to be able to participate in office small talk the next day, you should probably choose a program you know your co-workers will be talking about.
We don’t think about this decision-making process. We just automatically do it. However, I am suggesting that you will achieve better results if you slow down and analyze the process, not just in choosing which TV show to watch, but with the important decisions in your life.
Another example: You are about to hire a new employee and have several suitable candidates. At the place of choice, you can choose among any of them. One is just as good as another. However, we need to take into account the company’s needs, each candidate’s skills, experiences, etc. This is the place of decision — where we have limited our possible choices by all relevant factors.
This is the core distinction between choice and decision. 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.
Understanding the difference between the place of choice and the point of decision helps you practice identifying your feelings, whether positive or negative, so you can make inspired choices and clear, robust decisions. By visiting the place of choice first, you can obtain the confidence needed to stay motivated and take bold, life-changing actions.
By understanding the difference between choosing and deciding, you can avoid having regrets about what you have done or not done in life. Utilize your full human potential and be the best version of yourself. Understand and appreciate the difference between choosing and deciding.
This article originally was published in Forbes.
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