Newsletter #529 – Making Better Decisions

decisive-coverI was impressed when Chip and Dan Heath wrote their first book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. I was more impressed with their second book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Now comes Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. All three volumes are well written, practical, research-based, and filled with engaging, illustrative stories. All three apply well beyond the business audiences for whom they were written.

 Some of this seems like basic psychology but often this gets forgotten in the midst of decision-making. Here are examples:

  • Avoid the confirmation bias, seeking out information that supports what we want and ignoring or dismissing information that points to the opposite direction.
  • Widen your options. Try to avoid either-or decisions. These limit your mental spotlights to two options and cause you to overlook other possibilities. “Until we are forced to dig up new options, we’re likely to stay fixed on the ones we already have.” Always ask the question, “What’s another possibility?”
  • Give yourself some distance before you decide. This lets you back off from short-term emotions or the manipulations of salespeople pushing for a decision.
  • Find others who have faced a similar decision. What was their choice and what can they tell you? Try to find experts or unbiased observers who can broaden your thinking.
  • When possible, try things out before committing. This helps provide more information. Consider the student who works for a while in a hospital before committing to medical school.
  • Don’t rely too much on interviews or on predictions about the future. They are notoriously inaccurate, even coming from experts.
  • Honor your core priorities and values. If you overlook these you risk regretting your decisions later.

I read this book while I was making some potentially long term decisions. The authors’ suggestions guided me in ways that led to conclusions that probably are right.

How have you made good (or not so good) decisions? What would you add to the list or tell to the people you counsel, coach or lead? Please comment.


  1. Good advice, all of it.

    Because of who I am, socially challenged, vocationally unqualified and financially vulnerable, I have had to make major choices based in part on confirmation in the form of an express invitation along with material provision.

    Thus I have served penniless, as a trainer, in more than a score of countries, drawing on a host of unusual experiences that I never could have planned for myself.


  2. In decision making I can’t go past Habakkuk’s “write the vision and make it plain. So that he who reads it may run”.
    Writing down the pros and cons of an issue gives it a certain amount of clarity.
    When you submit your pondering to God, you are asking him to make sense of it for you,
    In asking Him for guidance, be aware that He might lead you into an alternate direction, so you trust (obey) Him knowing that the “Just shall live by Faith”.
    Because God’s very nature is GOOD, therefore eventually the outcome will bring Him honour..That is what we are to live for.


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