Most of us are pretty good at putting together a plan. Often, come New Years, we scribble down a resolution or two. Even if we don’t write it down, we may have the plan mapped out in our mind. You might decide this year you’ll read a book each month or maybe not snack after 9:00 p.m. Or perhaps you’ve decided to sign up for an online writing course. Maybe it’s to sign up for a certification so you can earn that promotion at work.
We usually know what we want to do and why we want to do it. On a diet, we don’t want to eat a Snickers, but more vegetables. We should work out, walk during lunch. But then a friend at work brings a bag of Snickers for everyone to share, and they sit on the counter staring at you, until you take one…or two. Or maybe a project takes an extra hour and we decide to skip the gym. They are simple, but understandable reasons. Yet, it was still a choice and the plan fell to pieces.
Then there is the series of choices we make all the time, saying “yes” to one thing and “no” to another. Personally, I wake up in the morning and write, rather than do yoga. I go on a run afterwards, instead of working on a current project. I eat breakfast, rather than having a protein shake or skipping breakfast. I ride my bike to work, instead of walking. I have water, instead of coffee. I eat at the Japanese restaurant, rather than the Indian one. All the choices weigh about the same. None of them are life shattering or derailing any plan or resolution. Our days are filled with hundreds of the choices: the music you listen to, when to go to the bathroom, when to check email, to like or not like someone’s post on Facebook. Some of the choices, like having a shower or riding a bike to work are just set on auto pilot and not thought about. Most, in fact, I try to keep on autopilot! It makes my life easier, smoother, fitting a patter and I accomplish more of the work, writing, running and important time with my family that are important to me. It’s predictable. And because it’s automatic, I don’t waste time on it and actually get more out of a day. However, patterns can also bring about a dull routine and a rut and finally stagnation.
That’s why activities such as reading and travel are so important. They help you change parts, shift focus, and open your mind to other choices. Until I went to France, I never realized the importance of salt and butter in cooking and how special they could make my every day food. Florida gave me a new appreciation for the ocean and seeing dolphins off the coast. Japan taught me to cherish personal safety. All these experiences dramatically shifted parts of my awareness, thinking, and actions I took on a daily basis.
But let’s face it, sometimes, on a daily basis, we make some “bad” decisions, like selecting a Snickers, just to mix up our lives just a bit, spicing up our life with a bit of change. To reach more and do more with our lives, it’s important to make good choices, one’s that create patterns, and then to find constructive changes that open our lives to excitement, be it trying an exotic fruit, adding in a new exercise to our morning routine, or sitting in a different seat on the bus. As I said before, life is built upon the choices you make. Even when you decide not to choose, that’s a choice.
The challenge is to strengthen the “choice muscle.” Learn to choose quickly and often. The more you choose, the more selection you have in your life. Often you’ll choose wrong. Often you’ll choose right. When you go into a restaurant, there is rarely a life changing selection being had. Look at the menu once then select quickly and assuredly. If asked by your spouse what you want for dinner, select something. When looking what to wear, quickly choose. Try not to hesitate.
This ability to choose, will help you in executing those dreams and desires. Of course, you’ll often regret a choice. But as the hockey Hall of Famer, Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If you want to succeed and execute on your dreams, you need to choose. Life is built upon the choices we make.
TRY THIS: Take out your Journal and for fifteen minutes, write about all the choices you make. Are there choices that are super simple for you to make? Are there choices that are difficult? What choices are you putting off? Why? What choices are others making that irritate you? Can you control those choices? What choices are you letting others make for you? What choices are you making for others?
List five choices you have been putting off—make a choice.
List five choices you can work to hesitate less on (for me, it was selecting off a menu at a restaurant).
List five choices others are making. How can you take back the control of those choices?
Have fun with this exercise. Often times, people who do this have the most profound understanding into what is happening with their life and find insights on how to take more control of their life and actions.
Choose what you want and plan in subtle changes to the choices on a regular basis to continue growing, learning, and keeping a bit of excitement within your life within the vision you have set.