How to Choose Between Two Things

Two Methods:Analyzing Pros and ConsUsing Your Intuition

Sometimes, when faced with a choice between two options, the better of the two is obvious. These are easy situations to deal with: one simply chooses the option that will be the most beneficial (or least harmful, as the case may be). But what about situations in which the right decision is less obvious? In these circumstances making a decision can be difficult, sometimes so difficult that we are paralyzed by indecision and allow unwanted outcomes to befall us.[1] These instructions will provide some strategies for making these types of difficult decisions.

Method 1
Analyzing Pros and Cons

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    Collect information. Confronted with a situation in which there are truly only two decisions and you are unsure which is best, the rational approach is to try to select the best choice after weighing the pros and cons of each. To do this effectively, you'll need some information about your options.
    • Information such as the features and ratings of two different car models can be useful, for example, in trying to avoid purchasing a poor quality car.[2] Take some time to gather whatever information you can about the qualities and consequences of each option.
    • Talking to trusted friends can be a good way to gather information. Your friends may know things about the situation which you do not, or may present alternative perspectives that lead you to think about the situation in an entirely different way.[3]
    • This can also help you overcome your personal biases, and may be particularly effective if the friend you talk to has encountered a similar situation in their own life.[4]
    • Too many perspectives can muddy the waters, however. Seek out the council of a few trusted friends, but don't call everyone you know for advice.[5]
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    List pros and cons. Once you feel well informed about the situation, take some time to brainstorm the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Come up with as many different pros and cons as you can for each.[6]
    • Try to consider both the long and short-term consequences of your decision when generating your list. Both types of consequences matter, but long-term effects are sometimes less obvious.[7]
    • This type of thinking helps you try out different ideas and think things through.[8]
    • You can write this list down on a piece of paper, or use one of the many digital apps or websites that can help organize your thoughts.
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    Prioritize the pros and cons. Once you've got a comprehensive list of the pros and cons, decide which types of considerations are most important to you.[9]
    • For example, if you are trying to choose between two job offers, you might consider whether location or pay is more important to you. If pay is more important, and one of the jobs offers a higher salary, that's a strong argument for that choice, even if you prefer the location of the other job.
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    Analyze and decide. After determining which considerations are most important, analyze your lists and determine which option provides the best outcomes in terms of the most important considerations.
    • Try not to over-think this. Too much analysis can lead to more confusion than clarification.[10]
    • Try to think rationally about your options, rather than letting emotions cloud your judgment. Be open-minded and receptive to useful information, even if it makes you uncomfortable.[11]

Method 2
Using Your Intuition

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    Envision each choice. Some decisions are too complicated or difficult to be made using the rational approach. Sometimes, neither option can be said to be "objectively" the best.[12] In such cases, a more abstract and intuitive approach is required. A good first step in such cases is try to envision each outcome in your mind, picturing as many of the details as you can conjure up, to see which one feels right. Think about whether or not you really want or want to do one or the other, if your wants are acceptable in the situation.[13]
    • When doing this, try to focus more on the positive potential outcomes of each choice than the negative. Most people are better at envisioning worst-case scenarios than their more appealing alternatives.[14]
    • For example, if you are trying to decide between going to a concert with one group of friends or a movie with another group, try to envision yourself in both situations, and with both groups of people. If one of them feels better, that may well be the best choice.
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    Let your gut guide you. Oftentimes, when decisions are too complicated or difficult to make in an entirely rational way, the best outcome may come from trusting your intuition. Don't confuse this with being impulsive. What your intuition tells you is often important to take note of.[15]
    • In fact, some research suggests that while having information is important to avoiding bad outcomes, in complex situations, trusting your feelings can lead to better decisions.[16]
    • If you are having a hard time sorting out what your gut is telling you (perhaps because you've already confused yourself with too much thinking), try flipping a coin to decide. If you toss a coin and feel satisfied with the outcome, that may be your intuition telling you that's the right decision. On the other hand, if your first reaction is "let's flip again... best two out of three," then chances are you should choose the other option.
    • Sleeping on it for a night can help, too. But don't use this as an excuse to delay the definition indefinitely.[17]
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    Create another choice. In some cases, it may be that you are having a hard time choosing because neither option is right for you. In such situations, it's worth contemplating whether there really are only two choices.[18]
    • For example, maybe the two choices can be combined in some way. If you are trying to decide which friends to spend an evening with, maybe you could opt to see one group of friends earlier and another group later, or perhaps there's some activity they could all enjoy together.
    • Alternatively, perhaps neither choice is right for you. If you love living in the country and only have job offers in New York City and Los Angeles, maybe the best choice is to reject both offers and keep looking for a job that suits your lifestyle better. If that's a possibility you can afford, it's at least worth considering.
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    Let your true self decide. If there is no choice that is objectively best, your best option may be to make the choice that is most true to yourself, or that helps you become the person you want to be.[19]
    • If you are trying to choose between a career as a banker or teacher, for example, it is easy to examine the two options and see that the banking job will probably pay better. But more important to your long-term happiness is the question of which of these careers fits with your values.
    • Following this example, if you find the world of banking and finance exciting, then this, in combination with the higher pay, should make the choice of banking obvious. On the other hand, if you love children and have a passion for sharing knowledge, then the teaching job is probably right for you, even if the pay is not nearly as good.


  • If the decision isn't really that important in the grand scheme of things, you may want to actually choose by flipping a coin. Again though, if you are unhappy with the results of the coin toss, that may be your intuition trying to guide you.
  • Whichever method you use to make a decision, its important to make your choice in the right frame of mind. If you are feeling stressed or upset about something else in your life, try to resolve that matter, or at least set it aside for a while, before making any important decisions. These outside factors may cloud your thinking.[20]
  • Similarly, don't let other people pressure you into a bad choice. It's good to seek the insight of others, but don't allow pushy people to make your decision for you.
  • Be proactive and choose something. If you procrastinate too long, you may lose the opportunity to make a decision. If the result of waiting ends up not being the best outcome, you might be stuck with it.[21]


  • Sometimes there are no good options. Other times, you might find that even though you made a decision with careful consideration, it was the wrong one, or that there were consequences you did not foresee. If this happens, try not to blame yourself. One cannot anticipate every possible outcome.[22]

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