Chip and Dan Heath: Making Important Decisions in Life

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Decisive" by Chip and Dan Heath. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Is a big decision on the horizon for you? What are some things you should consider when making important decisions in life?

Your decisions chart the trajectory of your life. When faced with a big decision, it’s important to push yourself beyond the current situation and consider how you’ll feel about your decision at various points in the future.

Here’s how to make high-stakes decisions, according to Chip and Dan Heath.

Look Far Into the Future

According to Chip and Dan Heath, the authors of Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, we make better decisions when we give additional weight to our future feelings. When we consider how we’ll feel in the future, we’re more likely to welcome a change in the status quo.

One technique the authors recommend for making important decisions in life is the “10/10/10 test,” created by business writer Suzy Welch. First, select one of your options. Then, ask yourself, “If I chose this option, how would I feel about my decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years after I made it?” If you determine that you’d feel positively about that option at all three points in the future, it’s a strong option.

Is it Possible to Accurately Predict Future Feelings?

Experts have differing opinions about how accurately we can predict our future feelings. In Stumbling On Happiness, psychologist Daniel Gilbert argues that it’s futile to do this because your present emotions determine how you think you’ll feel in the future. He’d likely claim that a test like the 10/10/10 test will only reflect your current state of mind, rather than tell you something new about your future state of mind.

However, whether or not it’s possible to accurately predict future feelings, Annie Duke, author of Thinking in Bets, argues that imagining the future can still positively impact decision-making. She claims that by remembering past decisions and imagining future outcomes, we better manage our emotions and make more rational decisions. She calls this strategy “mental time travel.” 
Chip and Dan Heath: Making Important Decisions in Life

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  • Why our minds are wired to make bad decisions
  • How biases and cognitive flaws distort your thinking
  • A four-step process to improve your decision-making

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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