Boiled down to its simplicity, life is about choices. Every day, we must make an endless number of choices about all sorts of things – when to wake up, what to wear, what to eat, what to spend our time on, who to associate with. The list goes on and on. The best part is that we are in control of these choices. While some have limited scope, others can influence what path our life takes, whether we succeed or fail, and in extreme cases, whether we live or die.
Once we are aware that we control our choices, life becomes easier to navigate. However, for some strange reason, most of us aren’t aware that what we do is under our control. Here are some of my favorite examples of how we are unaware of the choices we make.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I ask someone to do something and they reply, “I didn’t have time to do it.” I didn’t have time is an excuse. It’s not the reason that someone didn’t do something. What they’ve done is made a choice to do something else rather than what I have asked them to do. Or to put it more simply, not having enough time is a choice about what we prioritize.
There is always enough time to do the things we prioritize and choose to do. Always. In fact, the amount of time we have to spend on things we prioritize is seemingly infinite. That’s why what we choose not to do is just as important as what we choose to do.
When we choose not to do something, it allows us more time to focus on what we choose to do. I’d call it the dilemma of one vs. many – there’s always to do one thing, but never enough time to do many things. So if you want to be more effective in your day, choose one thing that you want to get done, and finish it. Then move onto the next, and then the next.
So the next time someone says to you, “I didn’t have time to do that.” Don’t accept their answer at face value, ask them what they choose to do instead. It’s also something you should ask yourself if you find yourself using that excuse often.
Food and Fitness
Deciding what we put into our body is a choice we make multiple times a day. Whether we eat fast food, junk food, or naturally grown vegetables is a choice we make between convenience and eating healthy. Sure, the potato chips are way easier to consume and taste better than eating some fruit and nuts, but it comes at the expense of our health. The best way to improve what you eat is to choose to eat better – don’t fall into the trap of convenience.
Likewise, staying fit is a choice we make. Yes, it’s challenging to make time to walk, jog, or lift weights on a regular basis. And yes, something else will have to give. As I said above, if you want to get in shape, you need to prioritize it and choose to make time for it and not do something else. In my case, I choose to make time in the morning for my workouts. For you, the time might be over lunch or in the evening, but if you want to do it, then make it a priority.
As with your time, developing a healthier lifestyle is a choice. A tough one, but a choice nonetheless.
Whether we are in a good mood or a bad mood is also a choice that we make all day long. It is up to us as individuals to decide what our attitude is. When we get into a bad mood, it is because we have made the choice to let some outside influence, be it a person or event, influence us. Granted, it’s tough to not let some events, people, or circumstance affect our attitude, but it’s our choice as to how we let it affect us and for how long.
In other words, every day we can choose to have a good attitude and positive outlook on life, or we can choose to have a bad attitude and negative outlook on life. It’s difficult to keep our attitude in check (and it’s something I’ll admit I struggle with at times), but I’ve found that being positive is a much healthier and better way to make it through life than the alternative.
Choosing your words carefully
In order to start making better choices, one of the first things you can address is word choice. Just doing something as simple as saying “I don’t” versus “I can’t” can make a huge difference in our decisions as this article on health and fitness titled, “I Don’t vs I Can’t – How Using the Right Words Will Help You Reach Your Goals.”
It’s a great article that talks about the power of language, and one of my favorite pieces of the article talks about the power of “I Don’t” as a way to internalize your choices:
If we feel we are in control of the situation and we see success through those decisions, we are more likely to stick with our goals. When we see things as not under our control (eg. saying I can’t) we are less likely achieve our goals.
In other words, instead if saying “I can’t have dessert”, say “I don’t eat dessert”. Instead of “I can’t miss my workout”, say “I don’t miss workouts”. Use empowering language that shows you are in control of a situation rather than words that imply we are following conditions and rules dictated by some outside influence.
Before you knock it, try it. You may be surprised at how well it works.
Take control, be accountable, accept responsibility
Making choices is about taking control of circumstances, holding yourself accountable for your decisions, and accepting responsibility for your actions. In order to learn and grow, you have to quit blaming people and events for the choices you make. Outside people and events don’t make choices for you, you do.
It’s a tough lesson to learn, and one that we all struggle with – me included. However, as you recognize and realize that you control your choices, and the more you practice consciously making choices, the better you will get at making the right ones.