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Are you making decisions or choices?

In his new book Discipline Strategy my friend Timothy L. Commer, PhD covers the process of true decision making, which is a powerful topic.

What is a decision, really?

The Latin root of the word decision is decidere which literally means “to cut off”. If you are making a true decision you are “cutting off” choices, alternatives, or some other course of action.

Often times, we incorrectly use choice and decision interchangeably. A choice is trying something or the action of selecting. Everyday choices are normalized by habit, easy, inconsequential.

You may make a choice such as ‘I’m going to cut down on my caffeine intake’. While the outcome could be positive and choosing this sounds good, it really is vague. Without a specific goal and path to success, it may be easy to get close to the goal when things are going right but you’ll most likely get derailed when things go wrong – and yes, things will go wrong along the way. As an example, you may start by saying, “today, I’m only going to have two cups of coffee.” If you accomplish that today, you will feel good about your progress. What happens if you slog through the afternoon and end up having three or four cups total? You may think “It’s not that big of a deal. There is always tomorrow.” You did not cut off all other paths, and therefore went down a path that did not get you closer to your desired goal.

The problem is even with big goals we can attempt to be strategic, we can plan, write down timelines, create a thematic rally cry for your team, put a vision board on the wall, make promises to yourself and loved ones, whatever you think will work, but we fail. Why? The ideas are exciting, the outcome is attractive and we think we have made a decision to pursue that goal, but most times we have made a choice to pursue a goal or a dream, not a decision. In other words, we give ourselves an out. Maybe because we are scared to really pursue it. Perhaps we want to avoid embarrassment if we don’t achieve it. Our ego gets in the way.

As leaders, we love big ideas and striving for high-level goals. We believe we can do things like:

Increase retention!

Do an Ironman!

Double our revenue!

Spend more time with my family!

Cut down on or quit drinking!

Sometimes we hit our goals, sometimes we do not. When we don’t, we typically find excuses.

Client experience took a back seat this year due to other initiatives

We moved this year and I just could not find the time

The economy really hit our market

It is an essential part of networking

Taking an honest look

In self-evaluating this concept, I can look at past successes and failures, and the times I have hit my goals, I have made a decision – not a choice – to do what I set out to do. I cut all other paths.

Have a look at your current goals, dreams, and desires today. Have you truly made a decision to run down that path to succeed or is it a choice to try but you are still giving yourself an out?

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