Life often seems like an endless series of decisions to be made. Chai latte or decaf Americano? Take a walk or sit at the computer? Plant roses or zinnias? Start a business now or wait until you get fired?

Given the fact that we are called upon to make decision after decision everyday, it would seem reasonable to assume that most of us would have given thought to how we make decisions. We’d have our own decision-making tools that we could employ when needed.

If we l lack such tools, too many decisions are simply based on habit. (Chai latte yesterday, chai latte today, chai latte tomorrow.) That’s not the road to living a creative and inspired life.

Self-doubt—simply not trusting ourselves—is behind much of the indecision we encounter. The sheer abundance of options can make it even more difficult, but living decisively is necessary if we’re to have the richest experience possible.

It may also contribute to our health. According to George Crane, “It is uncertainty or indecision that wears people down and promotes peptic ulcers, high blood pressure and nervous breakdowns.”

Since the decisions we make determine the kind of life that we have, how can we improve our ability to make wise decisions? It may be easier than you think.

My starting point is based on this observation from Stewart Emery: “Nothing in the universe is neutral. It either costs or it contributes.”

That bit of wisdom has simplified decision-making for me ever since I heard it. However, it’s fairly useless without a sense of priority. You need to be clear about what matters most to you and be determined to set up your life to support that.

If being physically healthy is a high priority, every food choice either costs or it contributes. If finishing your book in the next 90 days is a priority, every time choice you make either costs or it contributes. It all comes down to bringing your activities and actions into alignment with your personal goals.

Some decisions require gathering information in advance, of course. Wise leaders in all walks of life have sounding boards, people whose opinions they trust. The trick for us, whether we’re the leader of the free world or not, is to exercise wisdom in choosing the voices we listen to.

Often that means getting advice from strangers, not from those nearest and dearest to us. Then thoughtfully weighing that advice while keeping in mind your ideal outcome, can make the process smoother.

The more familiar you are with your own intuitive voice, the easier it will be to rely on it when it’s time to make a decision—especially a big important one. Even if that’s not your usual method of deciding, here’s an exercise that can be helpful providing you pay attention while you’re doing it.

How can you tell if you really want to do something? Toss a coin. Literally. It works—not because it settles the question for you, but, as the Danish poet and mathematician Piet Hein said, “While the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you’re hoping for.”

Success, prosperity, all the good things in life only come to us after we’ve decided to let them in. Minute by minute and hour by hour, decide in favor of your dreams.

Steve Merritt grew up in Iowa dreaming of a life of social activism. When he told his high school counselor that he wanted to find a solution to world hunger, the counselor scoffed and said he needed a more practical career plan.

Following that advice, he ended up in the cable television industry earning lots of money and little personal satisfaction.

Eventually Merritt turned his growing discontent into a life-changing event and today he happily heads up a community garden project in California.

Merritt’s story is a great reminder of the dangers of well-meaning advice.

Here are some things to consider when receiving advice so you can sort the wheat from the chaff.

Rule #1: Consider the Source

The most important thing about receiving advice is that you know your source and trust them. I was once reading a newsletter written by a woman I have watched build a lovely business.

One of the articles really struck me as special and I e-mailed her suggesting that she send it to some other publications. (Okay, I confess that violates my own policy of giving unsolicited advice.)

She wrote back saying that she had thought about submitting some of her newsletter material to other markets, but someone had told her that she couldn’t do that since it was already published.

I was flabbergasted. Who would have given her that erroneous advice?

If it was a professional writer giving the advice, they would have known about resubmitting material. If it wasn’t a professional writer who told her this, why would she have listened?

This isn’t an isolated incident. We’ve all probably allowed inaccurate advice to influence us.

Sometimes it happens because the advice-giver sounds authoritative and so we look no further. At other times, maybe out of laziness, we accept negative or discouraging words as an excuse for not giving something a try.

And sometimes we just don’t know if the advice is accurate. (This is a particularly new and thorny problem caused by the Internet where advice is posted but not edited or verified.)

Rule #2 : Get a Second Opinion

While too many opinions or too much advice can serve to confuse us, if you’re exploring unknown territory, some serious research is in order before setting out.

Get advice from people who know what they’re talking about—and then get a back-up opinion or two.

I once got e-mail from a woman who said that all of her life she’d wanted to be a professional caricaturist, but everyone told her she couldn’t make her living doing that.

I asked her if she was getting advice from other caricaturists.

Having numerous opinions from uninformed sources doesn’t make the information accurate. Having several opinions from experienced sources is another matter altogether.

Rule #3: Make the Most of It

When you ask the advice of another person, your initial role is to be a quiet listener or to ask clarifying questions. Whether or not you act upon the advice is a matter for a later time.

When you’re trying to make a decision or need information so you can proceed with a decision you’ve already made, seeking outside input is just part of the information-gathering process. Sifting comes after you’ve got all the information collected.

When you are the recipient of advice, whether you use it or not, don’t forget to say thank you. I mention that only because I’m stunned by the number of people who don’t bother with this courtesy.

The world is full of teachers, experts and amateur advisors—with varying qualifications. Jess Lair once said, “When I’m working on my life, I want the very best teachers I can find.”

Finding the right ones to help you learn what you need to know so you can move forward in your own life is not to be taken lightly. The experience of others can save us time, add deeper insights, prevent us from making costly mistakes.

Ask those who can help, not hinder, your success.