Vanilla or chocolate? Call or text? We all have the ability to make choices quickly and automatic, becoming reliant on the mental shortcuts our brains have developed over the years in guiding us towards our preferred course of action. Those are the simple, easy decisions we make daily. But what about those choices which require more thought and energy? Like starting a business, committing to the gym more, or who we should date? These kinds of choices often require us to short circuit our brain and unlearn current behaviour patterns to make a decision.
When making a decision, there are many stages to process. We need to identify the options, gather relevant information, consider the consequences etc. But all that seems quite overwhelming when we’re contemplating our commitment and figuring out a plan to keep us on track towards the outcome we desire. Suppose we double down on the first couple of days of making a good decision. In that case, we can set ourselves up for success by applying the correct behaviours where they become habits. The flow on effect results in tiny gains each day to reach what we have decided to act on consistently.
Day One: Making a Decision
When it comes to the first day of any journey, it is often the most challenging. Our mind and body are put through the paces, well and truly outside our comfort zone. We question ourselves, not enjoying our true answers. We play a constant back and forth, weighing up in our head our commitment to make a good decision. What can also be demanding is returning after weeks or months of procrastination on a previously made decision. Nevertheless, the first day is not about taking action but making an excellent decision to act on an improved change in our life.
Change is difficult, and procrastination is easy. On the first day of making a good decision, procrastination will attempt to make its way in. If we let it, then we start to say things like “I’ll start tomorrow”. Unfortunately for us, there’s no reward in procrastination. The most challenging part is not just ‘deciding’ but also deciding to change a reality. When we align our intellectual and emotional decisions together, we act correctly on the changes we look to make in our lives.
Intellectual Vs. Emotional Decisions
Our educated decisions are those of what we think we ‘should’ do. For example, there have been times where I haven’t been content with my output and the decisions I’ve made. Intellectually, I want to make changes.
I should go to the gym.
I should write more.
I should eat healthier.
At some point in time, we understand when we’re watching too much TV, exercising too little, procrastinating too much, or working too often. The problem isn’t our ability to distinguish the need for change, but to adapt our need for emotional improvement. When we connect the necessity of our intelligent decisions with our emotional decisions, we start to turn our ‘shoulds’ into ‘musts’. To achieve this, we’re required to associate our current circumstance of pain and connect the outcome of action with enough pleasure. No decision is real until there is a ‘must’ associated. It’s at this point where we gain leverage and become compelled to take action.
I must go to the gym
I must write more
I must eat healthier
The first day of making a good decision is not about taking action, but more about realising what’s required of us to make a change. It’s the difference between being committed to the action as opposed to being committed to the idea.
Day Two: Create The Environment
Once we have the leverage of action, we can create the right environment for our efforts. This process can be exhilarating because we are now fully committed, where motivation becomes the beneficiary. When setting ourselves up, we must audit our current environment by reviewing our triggers and what causes us to implement a particular behaviour. One of the most effective methods is using choice architecture, a common business practice used to give customers the right to choose, but nudging consumers to make a particular choice. By implementing this method, we allow ourselves the opportunity to perform the required actions consistently. Here are some examples:
Eating healthy: Being mindful of what food is in the kitchen. Avoid mindless eating by controlling what foods are accessible to consume.
Reading more: Place a book by the bedside table as a reminder to read before you go to bed each night.
Removing distractions: Turn off all non-essential notifications on the computer or phone, or put your phone in ‘do not disturb mode.
Spending less money: Setting up different bank accounts for expenses, spendings, and savings.
We tend to forget, the behaviours we must adopt are considerably simple yet the most effective in overall success. When it comes to making good decisions, we need to seize control of the environment we surround ourselves in. We have the ability to actively shape our surroundings and continue making small, daily gains on the decisions we make in life.
Let What You Value Drive Your Decisions
It’s regulation for us to be hard on ourselves when we make bad life choices. But nearly every problem we face is temporary, where we let the results drive our choices and actions. We are all faced with moments personally and professionally, requiring us to choose with uncertainty. The common assumption is believing we need more knowledge before converting what we should do into what we must do. But more often than not, we just need to understand what we value in our life. If you have hit the crossroads in connecting your intellectual thoughts with your emotional choices, reflect on what it is you appreciate. This will allow yourself to have trust in the direction you’re telling yourself to move forward with and to make good decisions in your life.