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From Thought to Action: the Crucial Difference Between Choices and Decisions

Cognitively (in our minds) there is a difference between making a decision and choosing something.

In general, the terms “decision” and “choice” are often used interchangeably to refer to the act of making a selection between different options. However, there are subtle differences – a nuance that may change your perception and therefore how you move forward.

choice is often more casual or spontaneous, involving the selection of an option. When we make a choice we may rely more on our intuition, personal preferences, or emotional responses to the options at hand. We typically consider the choices we see available in front of us, but perhaps not weighing all information beyond our or current circumstance. Choices are often associated with more everyday decisions, such as what to wear, what to eat, and whether we sit on the couch or engage in a leisure activity.

On the other hand, a decision is typically seen as a more deliberate and thoughtful process, involving careful consideration of all available options and their potential outcomes. When we make a decision, we may weigh the pros and cons of each option, consult with others for their input, and consider how our decision may impact others. Decisions are often associated with things more consequential such as major life changes, career moves, or business strategy. Decision is also what leads us to take a progressive action (the thing that produces results).

Here’s an example this showed up for me recently. Last week my mind was playing tennis – a back and forth game between feeling upbeat and sure about my business growth, and feeling depleted or worried. We’ve all seen that type of week (luckily this week is proving to feel better already).

And during the time my mind was playing games, I continually had to choose whether or not I was going to lean into the positive or negative feelings. And based on which one I chose, I would then decide to take an action based on that feeling.

I could choose to feel into worry and focus on the lack of something, deciding to spend my time chasing down this one lead in front of me who wanted to set up a meeting, who I know I would be able to help, but who keeps de-prioritizing our calls.

Or I could choose to feel open-minded to possibility and excited about opportunity, and then decide to read some articles about topics that benefit my clients, so I could take inspired action, and decide offer a free workshop and help many people who voluntarily show up and prioritize their growth (*see this post for info on the workshop*).

It’s not always that easy though, right? Well that’s because the decision to take action often involves a complex interplay of cognitive, emotional, and motivational factors. Complicated onions we are [insert Yoda speak].

Here are some elements that you’ll want to know about as they may be involved in your decision-making process:

  1. Perceived problem or seen opportunity: This could be something that we have identified as a need, challenge, or goal, or it could be something that has been brought to our attention by others or by external circumstances.
  2. Assessment of options: Once we have identified a problem or opportunity, we may consider various options for addressing it. This could involve generating a list of potential solutions, researching different approaches, seeking advice from others, or evaluating the pros and cons of different courses of action.
  3. Emotional response: Our emotional response to the situation and the available options may also play a role in our decision to take action. For example, we may feel a sense of urgency, excitement, or anxiety about the situation, which could motivate us to take action or make a particular choice (*this is when making a choice is seen as an action*).
  4. Cost-benefit analysis: We may also consider the potential costs and benefits of taking action or making a particular choice. This could involve weighing the short-term and long-term consequences of our actions, as well as considering the impact on ourselves and others.
  5. Personal values and beliefs: Our personal values, beliefs, and priorities may also influence us. We may be motivated by a sense of social responsibility, a desire for personal growth or fulfillment, or a commitment to certain principles or goals.
  6. Self-efficacy: Our belief in our own ability to take action and achieve our goals may also play a role in our decision-making process. If we feel confident in our ability to succeed, we may be more likely to take action, whereas if we doubt our ability, we may be more hesitant or passive.

So much goes into our choices, our decisions, and how we take action. And knowing this, I try to set myself up for success so that during those weeks when my mind is undulating in duplicity, I can make decisions and take progressive action a little more easily.

Once every 3 months (quarterly) I go on “CEO Retreat” with three of my fellow entrepreneurs/friends, and we create growth goals and business plans for the coming quarter.

During this long weekend I can just sit with my “CEO hat” and make decisions about where I am going and what will be done in the next quarter to get there.

It gives me a roadmap to lean on that encourages me toward making decisions, taking action, and driving progress toward goals during those times when I am having to choose “which wolf to feed.”

In summary, I recommend you take two minutes to think about the difference in how you approach choosing and deciding. How you personally may move through a decision-making processes, and how you can set yourself up for a little more ease of progress during those rough weeks.


FUN FACT: organizations that successfully develop and implement a growth strategy increase their profitability by up to 77%. And organizations that revisit their plans each quarter are more successful than those that don’t.

I often facilitate quarterly strategic planning for leadership teams and organizations. It is imperative to have an unbiased expert with a 30,000 foot view to help you uncover opportunities, see past blind spots, affirm that your action plans are realistic and will move you in the right direction. It also allows leadership to actively participate in conversation without having to split their attention between facilitating as well. If you are considering the benefits of having a facilitator for your next planning retreat, reach out through DM on LinkedIn, email me directly, or book an exploratory call and we can determine if it’s the right move for your organization’s success.


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