Decisions vs. Choices: Is There a Distinction?


Does it matter if there is a difference between decision and choice? It may.

The line between what constitutes a decision versus a choice may be slight. Let’s look at the definitions in Dictionary.com:

Decision:  the act of or need for making up one’s mind.

Choice:  the right, power, or opportunity to choose.

When you dive in deeper, the origins of the two words are interesting. Decision comes from “cutting off” while choice comes from “to perceive.” Taking the origins and definitions together, we may gain some clarity.

With decision, it is more of a process orientation, meaning we are going through analysis and steps to eliminate (or, cut off) options.

With choice, it is more of a mindset approach, meaning we have a perception of what the right or wrong choice may be.

Does this all matter? I believe it does.

We can easily setup processes to enable the best decisions possible. The decisions can range in scope from being low impact to high impact, and we can build in checks and balances along the way in reaching a decision. It can be a thoughtful, thorough approach.

With choices, we face opportunities – large and small – to select or choose an option. Although we may put thought into the larger choices we make, the smaller ones may be more instinctively made.

We make choices based on our values, beliefs, and perceptions of where a selected one may take us. One of life’s responsibilities is centered here in that we need to spend time building our choice senses and systems.

Choices are more difficult. At times, we cannot collect all the data, analyze the options, and reach a sound conclusion. Time escapes us to “cut off” certain options because life choices fit a different model. Choices involve our life more in which path we select and the direction – intended or unintended – it then takes us.

Here is the kicker. We may make many decisions during a day, week, or month, but how many life or leadership choices do we really make?

We can go through our life making decisions on where to live, work, and play, but do we make the choice of how to best live or lead?

We should take the time to make more proactive choices in setting a life and leadership direction.

We can spend our lifetime making all sorts of decisions, yet we spend little, if any, time making distinctive life choices.

I believe we may need to focus more on making choices than making decisions. We need to make real and necessary choices on how to lead our life in the most purposeful way possible.

Three key points:

  1. Life choices set a direction, so spend the time to develop a mindset on how to build a meaningful future.
  2. Choose how to lead. How we lead our teams and our work demands a thoughtful approach, meaning we need to define the presence we want through our actions and interactions.
  3. Decisions still matter, so use a process to prune out the bad options and select the best ones possible.

Make life and leadership choices. Live inspired choices.

What distinction would you make between choice and decision? Where do you spend more of your time?

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