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3 Types of Choice Decisions

The Choice family of decisions involves decisions with multiple options, but where the decision causes few or no constraints on future decisions.

The basic Choice decision patterns include:

  • Pick One
    Pick One decisions have multiple options, but you can only pick one, e.g.: choosing what entree to order for dinner or picking what session to attend at a conference.
  • Yes/No
    A special case of the Pick One pattern with only two options: Yes & No. Examples include “Would you like fries with that?” and “Should I ask a question in class?”.
  • Pick Multiple
    Pick Multiple decisions have multiple options, and you can pick several options. Options might be limited to a certain number (e.g.: pick 3) or unlimited. Examples include choosing pizza toppings or picking who to network with at an event.

Few Constraints

Choice decisions have few or no constraints, meaning your future decisions have little to no bearing on your choice in this decision (as opposed to Path decisions, where your current decision places limits on your future decisions).

That isn’t to say a choice decision can’t have consequences. Choosing winning lottery numbers can change your life, but there’s no way in advance to determine how the numbers you pick will affect future decisions.

Because of this, Choice decisions can be evaluated independently of future decisions. When making Choice decisions, evaluate options purely on their projected costs and benefits.

Look for Repeated Decisions

Choice decisions often repeat in patterns. Choosing what to eat, what events to attend or which customer to serve next happens repeatedly.Choose a default option when you can, or create decision rules to help you streamline the decision process for these frequent decisions.

But remember to re-evaluate your defaults and rules from time-to-time to ensure they’re still helping you make the best decision.

Use These Techniques

When making Choice decisions, consider these decision techniques:

  • Pro/Con
    Use for Yes/No decisions. Create two columns, one of pros and one of cons. Then count the number of pros and cons you have for each one. If you have more pros than cons, choose Yes; if you have more cons than pros, choose No.
  • Weighed Pro/Con
    Use for Yes/No decisions. Create a pro/con list, then next to each pro and con, write a number from 1-10. Add up the numbers for each column. If the sum of your Pro weights is greater than the sum of your Con weights, choose Yes; if it’ the other way around, choose No.
  • Paired Comparison
    Use for Pick One and Pick Multiple decisions to rank options from high to low. Paired comparison involves comparing two options at a time and choosing one. It results in weights for each option that you can sort by to choose the top option(s).
  • Analytical Hierarchy Process
    Use for Pick One and Pick Multiple decisions where the options share a common set of attributes. It results in weights for each option that you can sort by to choose the top option(s).

Future Posts

Choice decisions are the simplest decision patterns to understand, since they occur so frequently in life.

In future posts, we’ll explore how to limit your options, rank your options, and decide when you need to do deep analysis vs going with your gut.

What choice decisions do you make frequently?


  1. An excellent post! The philosophy of decisions is really a complex one. Every choice leads to another decision making thought and so on and so forth.

  2. Limiting options is pretty important. We are easily overwhelmed by too many choices, and our regret machine prevents us from being happy with what we choose. Have you read the Paradox of Choice, by Schwartz? His ideas resonate with me and apparently with many others, too.

    • I haven’t read the Paradox of Choice yet, but am familiar with its premise. It’s on my reading list.

      Limiting your options definitely can help with some decisions, particularly those where all options meet your minimum needs. In other situations, such as a job search, it’s often better to expand your options first before limiting them, especially if the first set of jobs you find don’t meet your needs.

      One thing that I’m trying to re-train myself to do is be satisfied when an option is good enough, and not necessary spend extra time looking for a better or optimal option. Most decisions don’t require a thorough search of all the available options before making a choice. It’s one of the disciplines I’m adopting to limit my options.

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