The Decision Makeover: An Intentional Approach to Living the Life You Want

by Mike Whitaker

The Decision Makeover is about replacing haphazard decision making with a mindful approach based on advancing our priorities. “Trial and error does not focus upon why each of our options makes sense in the big picture. The question should be: Does this choice best support my personal definition of success? … It takes discipline to ignore the noise and focus on only a few key goals. When we focus, things get done.”

Whitaker says that that we gain success momentum from a series of interdependent decisions. He describes the success formula waterfall: awareness, prime goals, decisions, dividends, momentum, success. “Good decision making allows you to pick up speed and make faster progress.”

Each year we make thousands of minor decisions, dozens of medium decisions, and perhaps one big decision. “Medium decisions are best illustrated as ‘course corrections’—like a boat captain. Since the boat’s destination is one of our big decisions… These medium decisions assure progress toward our success.”

“The most important decisions we ever make in life are choosing our partners.” Whitaker shares an amusing story about the frog and the scorpion: “A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, ‘How do I know you won’t sting me?’ The scorpion says, ‘Because if I do, I will die too.’ The frog is satisfied and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp ‘Why?’ Replies the scorpion: ‘It’s in my nature…’”  The author adds, “There is nothing more accurate than human instincts when sniffing out deceit.”

The author describes three stages of life: The Prep Zone through age 16, The Critical Zone from 16-40, and the Consequence Zone.  If life hits a major snag, we may need to hit the reset button. “In The Big Reset, all our pre-reset years are thrown in the Prep Zone, and the next ten years are the Critical Zone, regardless of our age. We have to stop kicking ourselves over anything concerning our new expanded Prep Zone and simply use those years as support for what’s next—and how we want to remake ourselves and our future.”

“One huge point to understand is, our starting point is where we are today, with all assets and blemishes, and progress will begin here, not from somewhere in our past.”

“The most common failure in decision making is making a choice based upon how we feel instead of why this particular choice gets us closer to what we want in life… The longer you deny the decision failure, the bigger the failure gets.”

“Within decision-making efforts, we experience three types of pain: anxiety, regret, and consequences… Anxiety of the past is turned into regret in the present once the missing ingredient is added: confirmation of failure.”

“Bad decisions revealed put us under stress… ‘Fight or flight’ mental and physical reactions were not designed to also include rational thinking… When dealing with a bad decision, we benefit by remembering to keep a clear mind, listen early to our instincts, and let our intellect work without being corrupted by ego and pride. If we follow this prescription, our body will undergo less stress and we will have a better long-term result.”

“We must work toward reducing our decision-making flaws, not achieving perfection in decision making.”

The author quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”  Whitaker explains, “When bad luck happens, we must realize we put ourselves in position to make that possible. When good luck happens, we should note that we put ourselves in position to benefit from chance. What we should not do is fall prey to believing that luck is due to anything other than randomness or believing we had anything to do with creating luck—other than putting ourselves into position to benefit from it.”

You can’t have everything, but you shouldn’t accept a bad deal. “My friend’s father is a behavioral psychologist. He gave her his advice: For anything important, make a list of the things you want. Make a list of the things you don’t want. You won’t get everything you want. Do not settle for a single item on your list of things you don’t want.”

“Hope and good intentions are not action. Either Fail Fast or Fix Fast and move forward… This isn’t the same error as hurrying on a first decision. This is the second (reactionary) decision about what you are going to do with this specific failure.”

Whitaker writes about learning from failure. “We accumulate wisdom as we learn familiar patterns with ourselves, other people, etc. If we can perform an autopsy on a bad decision and conclude why and how we failed, we will spot the pattern and be in a position to recognize the same damaging path next time—sharpening our decision-making discipline.”

“What makes people ‘successful’ is happiness. Happiness is people feeling good about their dreams and the decisions they make achieving those dreams. When they have both, they tend to be successful. So, regardless of where you and I started, our odds toward success are even greater if we apply this language of decision making to our lives.”

“Be happy for yourself first, and everyone around you will be happier, too. Trust yourself and your new decision-making tools to create momentum toward what you want.”

Whitaker, Mike. The Decision Makeover: An Intentional Approach to Living the Life You Want. Austin, Texas: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2017. Buy from

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