In my last blog post I discussed the power of choice and how we are constantly making choices in every moment of our life. I mentioned that many people make choices which are not necessarily in their best interest. This week I’d like to discuss a process for making more empowered choices.
The fact is that we can never know what the outcome of our choices are going to be in the moment that we make them. This does not mean that we should take our choices lightly. It is a fact that the choices we make in every moment of our lives will determine the quality of our life.
Let’s look at this in more detail. There are two major components of any decision or choice that we make. The first component is the outcome we are seeking. All choices are made with a specific outcome in mind, whether it is more joy, more love, more peace, more freedom or more financial independence to name a few.
The second component of any decision we make is the path it will lead us down on the journey to the outcome we are seeking. Just because we seek a certain outcome does not necessarily mean that we will make the decision that is more likely to lead us to that path. Why is this? This is because most of the difficult choices that we make will lead us down a path that will involve some degree of discomfort. Let’s discuss this with an example.
Let’s assume that you are obese and want to lose weight. The outcome you are seeking is improved overall health and fitness leading to more overall vitality and energy. I think you would all agree that most people desire this outcome. However, few people are willing to make the difficult choices that need to be made to take them down the path to this outcome.
For example, if you are obese and generally inactive and want to improve your health you will have to start engaging in some sort of movement or exercise. Even if this is as simple as walking, it will involve some discomfort because you will likely have very little stamina in the beginning and will easily become short of breath when you start. Irregardless of the discomfort of starting even a nominal exercise program enduring this discomfort is necessary to reach your final goal.
If your usual nutrition consists of copious sugary foods, processed wheat products and lots of dairy products you will have to make some major changes which may start with some gradual changes. You will have to increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats such as avocado, olive and coconut oils and high quality protein such as wild caught fish and pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free chicken.
So you see that making choices that move us in the direction of our desired goals and outcomes is not always easy. So even though we do not necessarily know what the outcome of our choices is going to be, how can we make the best choices in any given moment? We do this by making the choice that will lead to the greatest personal growth.
For any decision that you are pondering you write down all the various possible choices that could possibly make. You then rate each choice on the likelihood that it is likely to move you in the direction of your desired outcome. You also rate each choice on its level of difficulty or discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being very easy and 10 being the most difficult.
This will be a subjective rating as the same choice could have a different rating for different people. Using the above example, for someone who is morbidly obese to give up all sugary foods, the difficulty rating is likely to be high as opposed to someone who is just a few pounds overweight for whom the difficulty rating would be lower.
Once you have done this for the whole spectrum of choices you could make you then look at both of these aspects of your choices. You divide your choices into those that are unlikely to move you in the direction of your desired outcome, possibly likely, more likely and most likely to move you in that direction.
Once you have identified the choices that are most likely to move you in the direction of your desired outcome, you eliminate all the other choices which are less likely to move you in that direction. You then look at the difficulty rating of these choices. You want to make the choice that will put you in the mid to upper range of difficulty rating, anywhere from 5 to 7. There are many reasons for this.
The first is that the more difficult a choice is the less likely you are to follow through with it which is why you don’t want to make a choice with a difficulty rating of 9 or 10. The second is that in order to grow and evolve you must step out of your comfort zone which, by definition, will involve some degree of discomfort.
Even though there is no guarantee, making a choice with a difficulty rating of 5 to 7 will make it more likely that you will be able to follow through with it as opposed to one with a difficulty rating of 9 or 10. Making a choice with a lower difficulty rating will likely not move the needle much in the direction of your desired outcome. In addition, this degree of difficulty, a level of 5 to 7, will put you far enough outside of your comfort zone that you will experience some degree of personal growth.
This is the why the journey to your goals is as, if not more, important than the destination. It is only through the journey that you learn, grow and evolve. There is an old saying that if you are not growing then you are simply dying.
Your action step for today is to look at the most difficult decision you are facing in your life right now. Apply the above process to this decision to come up with the right choice in this moment. Once you have made this choice then follow the path that it leads you on one step at a time. Even though it may seem challenging in the moment, your life will positively transform in the process.
Happy decision making!
Nauman Naeem MD