“Choices are at the root of every one of your results. Each choice starts a behavior that over time becomes a habit. Choose poorly, and you just might find yourself back at the drawing board, forced to make new, often harder choices….In essence, you make your choices, and then your choices make you.”
Darren Hardy, author, The Compound Effect
Living a flourishing and thriving life does not come about by luck or accident. Thriving is tied directly to the choices we make. The four fundamental realizations we must make to truly harness the power of choice, are: One – realize our results point to our choices; Two – recognize the influential nature of the compound effect; Three – identify our big ‘Why’; and Four – the importance of implementing a tracking system.
If you don’t like the results you are getting, look closely at the choices you are making, or not making. Perhaps you are several pounds over your ideal weight. Perhaps your relationship is feeling a bit stale or even leaning towards acrimonious. As harsh as it sounds, these situations are a result of a choice of one sort or another you have been consistently making.
I had to swallow the bitter pill of this truth last night. The result in my life I was not happy with was the ABSOLUTE chaos filling my office. It was no longer a soothing place to think or work. In fact, I was feeling pretty jangly just entering the doorway. The choice I had NOT been making – clearly evidenced by the enormous piles of books and papers – was to spend 15 minutes at the end of the work day organizing and filing. Instead, I HAD been making the choice to work until I heard my partner’s car pull into the garage, and then, and only then would I power off the computer, and choose to leave everything lay while I went to greet him and start dinner.
The Compound Effect:
It is the little choices we make every day, which add up, and ultimately determine the extent to which we thrive. The choice to eat a cookie, or two, for an afternoon snack, will not show up instantly on the scale, however, a consistent choice in this direction will certainly increase the numbers. The choice to look for the little things our partner or spouse is doing right, and appreciating them with a heart-felt “Thank You,” versus the consistent attention on the little annoyances, have a way of compounding into a thriving relationship or one that fizzles.
Continuing to use my office as an example; my consistent choice to NOT wrap up my work day by 6:15, which would have left me with time to file projects, organize the myriad of accumulated sticky-notes, and to re-shelve books, compounded into an enormous mess. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit this: it took me 6 hours last night to beat back the disorder. And, truth be told, it will probably take another hour or so this weekend to completely bring everything in line.
The Big “Why”:
Making the choices leaning us more directly towards a thriving life can feel like an enormous challenge some days. Having a big “Why” settling in behind our choices is what can propel us forward even on days when we don’t feel like making the right choice: a scone or a green smoothie; a hug or the cold shoulder; 15 minutes of organization or leaving a mess for the next day.
Our choices are only meaningful when we connect them to our desires and dreams. If we are doing things from a place of “should” well, it likely won’t get done and will require a ton of will-power to accomplish. If eating the apple versus the cookie falls into the “should” category, your healthy-living goal will be a lot harder to maintain. If your choice to eat more healthfully is tied to the desire to your perform at your best in your next marathon, or to keep up, energetically, with your fast-paced kids, you will have a deeper, authentic “Why” to help you stay your hand when the craving for an afternoon pick-me-up begins.
Clearly, in the case of my office scenario, I did not have a big enough “Why” attached to my evening routine. After spending an excruciating 6 hours digging myself out, I am certain I have found it. The realization of how much time I wasted sorting through things that could have been easily managed in 15 minute increments has me feeling annoyed. My big “Why” is recognizing my time is valuable; I don’t want to waste it like that again.
The Tracking system:
A tracking system is a valuable tool in helping build consistency. Even with a big “Why” motivating us, it is easy, at least at first to let things slide. After all, it was just one cookie, just one afternoon. It was just one heated argument with the spouse and the SOB deserved the biting comment. It was just one evening of letting papers pile up.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, building a new habit into our lives requires time and consistency. The choices we make build toward a positive, powerful habit, or a destructive, powerful habit. We get to choose. A tracking system truly allows us to see what our commitment level is to a particular goal. It is sobering to realize you only went running two days instead of five. Or you only wrote one little note of appreciation in a week instead of the four you wanted to. Or you only gulped down one green smoothie in a week instead of three.
I am a fan of the excel spreadsheet method, where for 90 days I track how often I do (or don’t do) something I have set as a goal: the number of times a week I run, lift weights, meditate, drink a green smoothie, or whatever made it to my goal list for those 90 days. I am a little star-chart junkie where I check off what I’ve been up to.
Clearly, the number of days a week I commit to my “end-of-the-day-fifteen-minute-clean-up-effort” needs to be tracked, or else I will be back at square one.
Enough about me.
What about YOU?
What results are you getting that you are not happy about?
What choices have you made up to this point that got you where you are?
What will truly motivate you to make a new choice – your big ‘Why”?
What new choice can you make and make consistently to help you build a new, positive habit?
What actions will you choose to track?
What will be your tracking system?