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Decisive

How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

By Chip and Dan Heath
18-minute read
Audio available
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath

The book identifies the main issues that typically stand in the way of decision making: a narrow view on our problems, short-term emotions, and overconfidence when it comes to predicting the future. It gives knowledgeable insight into how our decisions are formed and how to avoid making bad ones.

  • Anyone interested in the process of decision making
  • Anyone that has to make reliable decisions everyday
  • Anyone who is repeatedly revisiting past decisions

Brothers Dan Heath (Senior Fellow at Duke University, supporting social entrepreneurs) and Chip Heath (Professor in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University) are the authors of international bestsellers Switch and Made to Stick.

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Decisive

How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

By Chip and Dan Heath
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath
Synopsis

The book identifies the main issues that typically stand in the way of decision making: a narrow view on our problems, short-term emotions, and overconfidence when it comes to predicting the future. It gives knowledgeable insight into how our decisions are formed and how to avoid making bad ones.

Key idea 1 of 11

When you get stuck making a decision, don’t artificially limit your choices.

We often think of our decisions as involving a choice between two options. Indeed, we get stuck much of the time trying to settle on whether or not to do a particular thing. But by thinking about decisions as a simple, binary choice, we usually fail to consider other alternatives. 

When you find yourself getting stuck like this, consider the whole array of alternative options available to you.

Consider teenagers. They often get stuck making decisions: Should I smoke cigarettes or not? Should I go to the party or not?

It’s clear that these aren’t decisions that consider alternatives among multiple options. They’re just votes for or against a single option. The decision to go to that party or not, for instance, could be made a lot easier if the teen would consider that they could also go to the movies, or watch a football game.

Another way to help you find your way out of a sticky decision is to consider the “opportunity cost” of your decision. In other words, what will you be giving up by making this choice?

Imagine you’re stuck between buying a fancy stereo for $1000 or a basic, functional one for $700.

To consider the opportunity cost, think about what you’d do with the $300 you’ll save when buying the cheaper one. For example: Would you rather have the one with a nice design and great sound? Or the merely functional one, plus 300$ worth of records?

Strangely, we tend to forget about opportunity costs. One study demonstrated that that when people were given a choice between buying a video that they liked for $14.99 or not buying it at all, only 25% didn’t buy it. But when the wording of the negative choice also stated “Keep the $14.99 for other purchases,” 45% didn’t buy the video.

Since the choice itself remained the same in both cases, this example shows that just the faintest suggestion of another alternative is enough to improve our decision-making.

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