Choices vs. Decisions. Any Difference?

Photo by Brandon Lopez on Unsplash

What’s the difference you ask? ‘

There can be quite a difference and I’ll share with you a different perspective on this seemingly simple question.

What are choices?

Choosing is simply a matter of selection … choosing among several options, not all of which may be obvious.

It doesn’t mean you’ve decided to take any action. It could be, for example, that you’re only expressing a preference. You prefer blue over green, for example. A simple choice … but if you had to decide to paint your entire house that color, a firm decision may not be so simple.

What about decisions?

In contrast, a decision implies a process that typically includes analysis. It doesn’t mean you’ve made a good choice, but it means you’ve committed to a course of action.

What matters most is what you do to make your choice real … to make it actionable so your choice actually makes a difference.

In the civilian world, we typically say life is about choices.

I prefer the military’s use of the word “decisions”. For my money, that word has more weight … and more consequences. The problem is that leaders really follow a disciplined process to reach their decisions.

Consider this finding from an article in the Harvard Business Review, A Checklist for Making Faster, Better Decisions:

“In a study of 500 managers and executives, we found that only 2% regularly apply best practices when making decisions, and few companies have systems in place to measure and improve decision making over time.”

Decisiveness is the Most Important Ingredient

One concept that has stuck with me since those painful days in basic training is that indecisiveness is a waste of time. Literally.

An indecisive leader wastes a company’s most precious and irreplaceable asset … time. While you’re taking time to decide, your people are either heading in the wrong direction or standing still.

In my coaching of senior leaders over several decades, I’ve seen a lot of indecisiveness. It’s fascinating that in the vast majority of cases, the decision was the same when it was finally made as when it was first contemplated.

What’s more, the reaction is invariably accompanied by a great sigh of relief and this observation:

Why didn’t I make this decision sooner?

Steve Jobs Commencement Address

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from the 2005 Commencement Address Steve Jobs, who died prematurely at 56, gave at Stanford University. It may be a bit grim, but he shared it as a tool to us make choices:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure … these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”


Make decisions not choices. This term will help drive you forward and move you to take the actions necessary to implement your decision … and promptly.

In the process, never forget that most decisions are reversible. If they’re not, make them carefully. Otherwise, make them.

Measure them.

Monitor them

Change them if they aren’t working, but keep moving.

Indecisiveness is a curse and will scuttle the success of the wisest leader.

Don’t delay.


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