Make a better decision

If you ever judge a book by its cover, this is the one.


My friend Julie had a Magic 8 Ball in our teen years that we used to decide whether to go bowling or putt-putting after church on Sunday nights (and similar difficult decisions). So I had to smile when I saw a holographic Magic 8 Ball on the cover of Decisive, a book about making better decisions. (Read what the designer says about the cover.)

But not to worry, the Magic 8 Ball is NOT recommended here for making decisions.

Instead, authors Chip and Dan Heath lay out a logical approach to making decisions using their WRAP process. I prayed through it recently to decide about going to Guatemala in September (I decided yes—I’d appreciate your prayers!)


Here’s how it works (and how it worked for me).

W – Widen your options

Consider other alternatives before you make a final decision. Don’t box yourself in with narrow choices. Oddly, weighing many options (within limits) might help you decide even quicker. When possible, aim for “this AND that” rather than “this OR that.”

For my mission trip decision, I considered other trips I could take instead, and of other ways I could use the money here if I didn’t go there.

R – Reality-test your assumptions

Dip a toe in first, if you can. Take a trial run. Also ask yourself: “What would have to be true for this option to be the right answer?” Or set a tripwire, a set of conditions that must occur first: “If X happens, I’ll do this.” Talk to experts who’ve been there, done that. Consider the opposite viewpoint as well (don’t just gather information to support your own bias).

I couldn’t take a trial-run to Guatemala, so I did more research on the previous trips my group had taken, read what they did, and asked what they thought after they got back. I also looked for both closed and open doors.

A – Attain distance before deciding

Use 10/10/10 to get a broader perspective. (I explain it here.) How will you feel about this decision in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years? Identify your core priorities and see which decision fits best. Or ask yourself: “What advice would I give a friend about this?”

For me, 10 minutes after making a decision about Guatemala, I’d be relieved either way, just to have the decision made. In 10 months, if I decided no, I’d probably be regretting it (that happened last year). And if I decided yes, I’d probably be glad, regardless of how it turned out (it would be over, after all). In 10 years, if I didn’t go, I’d probably have forgotten altogether about the opportunity. But if I did go, I imagine the memories would have stuck and hopefully changed me for the better and led to even more things. If a friend were trying to decide, I’d almost certainly say, “Do it!” And for my core priorities of love God/love others, saying yes definitely fits (although I don’t have to travel anywhere to do that!).

P – Prepare to be wrong

The authors called this “bookending the future,” thinking about a wide range of outcomes from very bad to very good.  Consider what could go wrong—how likely it is and how severe the consequences could be. Then consider what could go right—because sometimes we’re unprepared for success.

What could go wrong in Guatemala? Um, lots of things! (I’m good at imagining the bad, unfortunately.) Some could be prepared for; some couldn’t. What could go right? Also lots of things!

As you now see, this WRAP process is extensive and time-consuming, so you wouldn’t want to use it fully for every decision you make.

But when you have something important or confusing to decide, it’s a great tool. I believe God walked with me through it to decide about Guatemala, leaving me with peace (although I’ll still be a tad nervous, just sayin’). But now I can just plan on showing up; the rest is on him! It’s all about trust from here on out.

It sure beats using a Magic 8 Ball.

* * *

Visit the Heath Brothers website to find out more about this book as well as these great ones Switch and Made to Stick (all 5-star books to me!). You can also register to get helpful resources, including a one-page download of the WRAP process.

Do you have a major decisions ahead? Or have you made one lately? What helps you decide? I’d love to hear.

Related: 5 scriptures for making decisions

17 thoughts on “Make a better decision

  1. Linda@Creekside

    Since so many of our decisions seem to be made in the heat of the moment or out of fear or some other wayward emotion, that whole attaining distance piece sure sounds like a good plan …

    Thanks, Lisa.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it’s wise when we can step out of the moment and think of long-term implications as well as short-term. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s a goal. 🙂

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Interesting concept – though I think a bit cumbersome, and , as with most strategies, too easily influenced by emotion.

    My most important decision-making tool is to discipline myself never to second guess a decision, once it’s made. Make the choice, and make the best of it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Actually this approach strikes me as minimizing emotions in the decision-making process. It doesn’t exclude them entirely–that wouldn’t be healthy anyway–but it doesn’t let them rule the day. I like a balanced approach.

      I agree it is a bit cumbersome though–that’s why I wouldn’t suggest anyone use it frequently. But for big things, it can be helpful. Or in pieces, it’s also useful.

      I try to live by your philosophy too of not seconding guessing myself. I might look back to reflect on what might work better next time, but once a decision is made, move forward. Thanks for sharing, Andrew.

  3. floyd

    “It is decidedly so.” Yeah, I remember them too! It told lies… answered the same question different ways too much for me.

    I like this approach, I also like the reminder of the “10-10-10”. That seems to put things into a broader and long term perspective. Wise counsel, sister! Thanks!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. I’m glad you remember the Magic 8 Ball too. I agree it was never quite reliable. 🙂 But we had a lot of laughs with it back in the day, deciding which boy we would marry, etc. Just minor things like that.

  4. Tracy

    Hi Lisa
    I love how they present this. I am a practical person and their WRAP system seems totally logical to me. Great way to go about making decisions. I want to thank you too for your encouraging words over at my blog. I do really appreciate them. 🙂
    God bless

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I like practical advice, too, Tracy, and this book presented such practical tips. These authors always do, which is one reason I wanted to read this book, expecting the same.

      I’m glad I can be an encouragement to you. I do pray for the struggles you are going through as you continue to step out in faith and do hard things. I also appreciate you hosting us so regularly each week.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m really not sure what all to expect from the trip (well, who ever can know what to expect from ANY trip?), but I know God will be present. That’s where I want to keep my trust.

  5. Lynn Severance

    Lisa – I really appreciated this posting and its message.
    I am in the process ( and do have time within it ) of having to make a huge decision which will take much discernment. It becomes overwhelming at times and I always have to come back to trusting God to guide me. However, humanly each of us does have to make the decisions puts before us in the opportunities that come.
    When they are large decisions – life changing – it truly needs to include some practical input such as is suggested in this WRAP processing.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hope these tips will be able to help you at least in a small way as you form your decision, Lynn. Big decisions are always difficult, even when we are trusting the Lord. Can’t imagine doing it without him! If I think I lack courage now, who knows how cowardly I’d be totally on my own. Praying for you, friend! I know God will lead you to make a wise decision.

  6. Beverley

    I can see how it could work if you had a big decision to make, but for me prayer comes first and second and last. I have learnt over the years that God answers and when he does you know it for sure and therefore whatever the decision it is always right.

    Guatemala sounds like a very big decision to make, i hope you at peace with the decision whatever it is.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, without prayer, what’s the worth of any other deliberation? Right now I am at peace about Guatemala. I hope I maintain it. 🙂 Only by God’s grace….

  7. Jean Wise

    I work with many people in spiritual direction with discernment and this is a good summary. I liked the health brothers web site too. lots of good resources. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you found their resource site helpful, Jean. I think they’re quite generous with giving away much of their material for free like that. Their way of thinking/writing/summarizing has been so helpful to me through the years.

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