How a Small Decision Can Turn Your Life Around

Consider the difference between a decision and a choice

If you know me, then you know that I "bristle" slightly every time someone uses the word "decision" in a sentence. Here's why: I don't believe in making decisions. I do, however, believe in making Choices.

"What's the difference?" you might ask. Let me explain.

Years ago I attended a seminar that helped me look at the Latin and Greek roots of words we use in language today. It turns out that "de-cide", has two; the first "de" comes from the Latin prefix meaning "negation of" or "removal from". The second "cide" comes from the Latin "cis" which means "to kill" or "to cut".

Pretty negative in my way of thinking: Killing off or removing alternate possibilities we might be facing?

It's not such a bad thing if we're talking about say, the possibility of running out of gas at 3 a.m. on a lonely, dark road or the possibility of a winning a $5 scratch-off ticket at the gas station. I mean, most people weigh the options and would choose to put that extra fiver in the gas tank, than risk running out of gas if they were faced with these two possibilities. So the thought process might go something like this:

Hmmm…I haven't purchased a scratch-off in a while, I might win something.

But I'm on "E" and I've got 40 miles to go before I'm home.

But I could win $5, so it would be a wash…

But I could also lose and then I'd be out the $5.

What if I got stranded because I wasted the $5?

What if I lost out on the $100K jackpot because I didn't take a chance?

Maybe I should buy a coffee instead…

The thoughts are endless, and as they are occuring, there is an internal process that checks "yes" or "no" next to each thought: good point? "yes", check; bad consequence? yes…better not do it, okay…"no", check. And so it goes as we slowly remove or eliminate (kill off) the alternative options of using the $5 for fuel in the car to get home safely.

But what if the alternatives are similar? How do we make a decision then? What if the decision is to take a new job in a new city and we get a similar offer from a comparable company in a different city?

Here's the scenario:

San Diego position: $80K, relocation package, company car, good benefits


Chicago position: $80K, relocation package, company car, good benefits

The companies offering the jobs are virtually the same; you don't care about climate differences; you're not a sports fan, and you don't know anyone in either location. How do you reach a decision that could possibly impact the rest of your life and career? The "killing off" of your options A or B doesn't work because they are virtually the same, except for the location of the cities (I'm not going to debate the pros and cons of these two cities before you argue my generalizations).

My point is: ice cream.

Wait…what?? Yup, you read that correctly, ice cream; imagine three delicious flavors: coffee, strawberry swirl, and chocolate:

You see, if you use the "decision" process when your alternatives are all good, it will take forever, and your ice cream will have melted by the time you've made up your mind.

If however, you make a choice instead, for instance choosing strawberry swirl (or San Diego), then you get strawberry swirl, you get San Diego living. You get what you choose…isn't that great??!!

Let me say it one more time: You get what you choose. 

Life is a series of choices and events, and choices about those events, and choices about what to do about those events, and so on. Each choice leads to another. You see, we don't always choose what may happen to us in life, but when we are presented with the gift of Choice, we rarely see it as a gift. Instead, we see each alternative, as a problem to be solved…"Hmmm, which option should I eliminate?" "How am I ever going to decide?" We start to stress out about things, even things that should be bringing us joy.

What would life be like for you if you asked instead, "What are my choices? What do I get if I choose <Chicago>? What do I get if I choose <Sylvia> for a girl's name? What do I get if I choose to start eating healthier food and exercising? What do I get if I choose to quit smoking?"

So, my friends, Make Choices.

Categories: Human Resources