It seems that in our common verbiage choice and decision are used interchangeably. Other than the obvious spelling differences is there any deeper difference? At first an analysis it would appear not, as was mentioned above we use the two words interchangeably to mean the same thing. When talking to a friend about a choice or decision you recently made you could use either two in your description and the meaning remains pretty much the same.
There are multiple articles, published on a plethora of online publications, blogs, personal development websites, and religious websites that go into detail on what the difference is. You might agree or disagree with what has been written. This is because the difference will be subjective. Everyone will have differing connotations to a word, normally triggered by emotional responses. For instance, the word kitten will have vastly different emotional connotations for a cat lover compared with someone allergic to cats. Choice and decision will be no different.
That doesn’t mean that finding different meaning in both choice and decision is a pointless task. By thinking of whether there is a difference you begin to engage with your knowledge of firstly, the language you speak and, secondly, who you are and your place in your own life as well as the lives of others. That being said, I will look at the dictionary definitions of the two words then three differing viewpoints on the differences in meaning to illustrate how emotional connotations differ from individual to individual.
What the Dictionary Says
The Oxford English Dictionary defines choice as:
“ Noun.1An act of choosing between two or more possibilities.
‘the choice between good and evil’
1.1mass noun The right or ability to choose.
‘I had to do it, I had no choice’
1.2 A range of possibilities from which one or more may be chosen.
‘you can have a sofa made in a choice of forty fabrics’
1.3 A thing or person which is chosen.
‘this disk drive is the perfect choice for your computer’
Adjective.1(especially of food) of very good quality.
‘he picked some choice early plums’
2(of words or language) rude and abusive.
‘he had a few choice words at his command’” (Oxford English Dictionary)
While a decision in the same dictionary is defined as:
“Noun.1 A conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.
‘I’ll make the decision on my own’
‘the editor’s decision is final’
1.1mass noun The action or process of deciding something or of resolving a question.
‘the information was used as the basis for decision’
1.2mass noun The ability or tendency to make decisions quickly; decisiveness.
‘she was a woman of decision’” (Oxford English Dictionary)
From the above dictionary definitions, it can be concluded that choice can be seen as empowering, while decision concerns more of a need to decide and eliminate other options under consideration. Thus, a difference, although slight, does exist between the two words.
The first opinion I would like to share is that of Jon Mertz, who applies a similar meaning to the two words in question as to their respective dictionary meanings. For Mertz, decisions are reached using processes that can be set up and applied multiple times to similar decisions that need to be made, while choices are made based on our personal beliefs and value systems (Mertz 2012). He goes on to say that choices are more difficult to make as they often determine the life path we are on, thus successful choices result in a life led with purpose (Mertz 2012). Central to Mertz distinction between the two is how they should be applied by people in leadership positions. Those in leadership positions cannot rely on purely decision-making processes as often they need to make choices that are value based and not only affect them but his team. Thus, choices must be the best for not only the leader but the team. Choices then can be either right or wrong.
The second opinion is that of Walter Mendenhall, who like Mertz believes choices are empowering and influence life paths. He provides the analogy of choices been forks in the road of your life and these need to be made carefully (Medenhall 2017). He places a purely negative definition onto decision, based on the past tense of the word decide. He looks solely at the suffix –cide in how it is used in other words such as genocide, homicide, and suicide (Medenhall 2017). The suffix –cide literally means killer as taken from Latin (Dictionary.com 2017). Thus he gives the word decide its original Latin meaning of to cut off all other options. Mendenhall goes further to say that decisions which lead you on a bad life path cut off possible good choices. Decisions like fighting and taking drugs literally cut off the ability to make good life choices.
The third and final opinion is that of Sherry Anshara. For her decision is based on a belief system, and fundamentally a belief system you have inherited whether religious or otherwise. Thus, when making decisions you are not making or engaging with them as an individual but rather following the dictates. Hence they are also inflexible, dogmatic, and emotional (Anshara 2012). Choices are, therefore, in contrast, empowering and dependent on facts. Thus we engage with choices rationally and as an individual rather than following a predetermined belief system. For Anshara we either make decisions or choices and that is completely up to us whether to make a decision based on belief or a choice based on reason.
In concluding you have seen three differing opinions on what makes up the difference between choices and decisions. You may agree with some or disagree with all. However, the important thing you have done is by engaging and thinking about the difference you have engaged with how you make decisions or choices. By reading, and hopefully questioning, what you have read you have come to a better understanding of yourself. That can only be of benefit for future decisions or choices you are to make.