Making Decisions Pt. I
Decisions Vs. Affirmations
Let me set the stage. There’s part of the decision making process that you probably aren’t aware of, and it’s working against you. Even right now. But, if you work out the understanding for yourself, you’ll be operating from a place of conviction that you may have only experienced fleetingly. Part one of this series aims to show the inefficiencies with the default model of decision making, and introduces an alternative. If by the end of this article you don’t fully understand the concept, don’t worry. I don’t expect you to. However, whatever bits of understanding you get from this article will only serve to be more helpful to you than what you’re currently experiencing. Are you ready?
Okay, before we get into the nitty gritty, notice how I asked if you were ready? Well, are you? You may say, “Yes”. And that’s a decision. Or at least it seems like a decision. You see, there’s a difference between affirming something and making a decision to go for a goal. For instance, you could affirm your intention to read this article, but not actually read it. But when you make a decision in the way that I’m showing you, you will read the article.
Have you ever noticed that while you’re in the process of going for a goal, you may be pulled away from that goal in some capacity? For instance, you may have a goal to read this article, but something in the background, either in your sight or on your mind, is pulling you away from accomplishing this. And instead of addressing the root cause of the distraction[s], you try to work with/through them, which typically doesn’t turn out well. What’s really going on?
The ability to make decisions most effectively is simple, but not obvious. It took me the better part of 27 years to figure this out, and it wasn’t without help. But before I tell you how, I’ll tell you one of the most practical consequences that will come from utilizing this strategy.
All of your current focus will be applied to the goal at hand, and you'll be far better prepared to achieve that goal.
This is critical, because at any given time, the amount of focus you have is finite. By default, you’re always focused on something rather than something else. And, if you want your current level of focus to be used only on the goal at hand (which is optimal), this is the way to achieve that end.
With that being said, here’s how you’re going to want to frame decision making. It’s subtle, and deliberate. It’s active, not passive.
The key is to NOT be thinking about whether you want to, or should be going for a goal WHILE you’re going for the goal.
In other words, choosing to make a decision should be a step taken BEFORE you actually go for a goal, not while you’re in the doing of the goal. I know it sounds obvious, but in practice, most people don’t act this way.
Here are a few symptoms that prove you’re operating in the default model of decision making.
- You’re struggling between whether or not you made the right decision during the time you’re trying to “make it work”.
- During the time that you’re “going for the goal”, you’re also being pulled in other directions by vying goals in your mind.
- You have a difficult time focusing on the goal at hand.
- While you’re “going for the goal”, you’re not seeking to understand how to achieve the goal, but instead are seeking of ways to confirm that you do or don’t want to go for the goal anymore.
Let's use this article as an example.
Earlier I asked if you were ready to read this article. And if you kept reading, the implication is that you were ready. Some of you were distracted (overtly and/or covertly) by things that had nothing to do with this article. Distractions like:
- Kids wanting attention
- The food you’re eating
- The people around you and what they’re doing
- How comfortable you feel sitting, lying, or standing
- The things that were on your mind immediately before reading this article, etc.
Also, you may have read a few sentences, and formed an idea of what I’m talking about. And the rest of the time, you were looking to confirm if the article met your expectation, rather than seeking to understand what I actually talked about.
Each of these things, individually and cumulatively, are taking bits or chunks of your current focus away from whatever you’re trying to prioritize at the moment, which in this scenario is understanding the article. Some of them can be enough to remove your focus completely. There are times when that is necessary. For instance, if your goal is to read this article with complete focus and attention, and you notice your house burning, clearly you would want to drop the goal of reading this article, and prioritize your burning house. But beyond this type of proper boundary, most other things are going against your goal of understanding this article.
Sun Tzu, the famous ancient Chinese military strategist and author of The Art of War said,
“Victorious warriors win first, and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
In order for you to get the results you seek most efficiently, you’re going to have to “win first” at the decision making level. What do I mean?
Read the following statements:
- I'm going to lose ten pounds, start exercising, and get healthy.
- I’m going to be a billionaire.
- I’m going to read this article.
What do they all have in common? They are NOT decisions. They are affirmations. The logical question following these affirmations starts to tug on what a decision actually is: How? And that's what we'll be discussing in part two.