Have you ever stopped to think about how you got where you are today?
I'm not talking about your mode of transportation. I mean, how did you wind up with your particular life?
How did you end up with your career, the person you married, the home you where you reside, and the experiences you've had? Were you making decisions consciously and thoughtfully?
Perhaps some of your life evolved as a result of the hand you were dealt, but almost everything that's happened to you or that you're doing in your life right now is a result of you making choices.
If you love your current life, that's good news. If you don't, accepting the responsibility for how your life turned out can sting.
It's hard to swallow the truth that our own choices have led to failure, regret, shame, or simply a failure to launch in the direction we really want for ourselves.
Making good choices begins with questions.
However, even if you have been dealt a bad hand in life or have made poor choices in the past, that doesn't mean your future has to be limited.
The great thing about choice is that you always have another one around the corner — and a chance to change the direction of your life. Almost every moment, you are presented with a question:
Every choice we make has a consequence, even the smallest choices. Some of the consequences are positive, but if you make the wrong choices too often, it can lead to a series of bad outcomes.
Our repeated choices become our habits — either good or bad. And these automatic behaviors become who we are. So how do we decide the best choices in the moment without resorting to automatic behaviors, when life is busy and demanding, or we're tired or unmotivated?
How do we move past the “what the hell” voice that pushes us toward a bad choice so that we can hear the higher calling of our best selves?
- Making good choices begins with questions.
- Here are 7 ways to make good choices and reclaim your personal power:
Here are 7 ways to make good choices and reclaim your personal power:
1. Define Your Personal Values
One of the best ways to make choice easier is to measure every choice against your personal values.
If a choice doesn't align with your values, the result will likely cause you some kind of grief in the long run — or even the short term.
For example, if one of your main values is integrity, then making the choice to lie to your spouse will ultimately hurt you and your relationship.
2. Be More Deliberate and Thoughtful
So many of our choices are made unconsciously. We do things and say things without giving it a moment's thought.
But if you knew every choice you made could send you on a trajectory toward success or failure, happiness or misery, confidence, or remorse, wouldn't you take the time to consider your choices more carefully?
The truth is, your choices do put you on a trajectory, even though you might not be able to envision the outcome in the moments before the decision. That's why awareness and thoughtfulness are so essential.
Throughout your day, rather than just going along and saying, “Sure” when the McDonald's server asks, “Do you want to Super Size that?” — remind yourself that your choice has a consequence. Then you'll be able to make healthier choices without just reacting.
Just that pause to reflect is often enough to set you in a different direction. Become fully aware of the power of your choices.
3. Envision the Outcome
Once you've empowered yourself with awareness, give yourself the time and permission to carefully consider the possible outcomes of your choice.
A small choice like whether or not to floss your teeth today may have a negligible outcome for just one day. But ask yourself if you have a history of making the choice to skip it. If so, this repeated choice will create a negative cycle that WILL have a bad outcome.
Some choices, if repeated often enough, add up over time to a positive or negative result. Other choices can have more immediate and profound consequences.
If I choose to buy this car knowing it's beyond my means, I can count on dealing with the pain of debt or a much tighter budget as soon as I spend the money.
Don't throw caution to the wind or let yourself jump forward without time for consideration. Ask yourself, “Where will this choice lead me? Where will the opposite choice lead? What will likely send me in a direction with the best outcome?”
Write out a list of pros and cons if necessary. Sometimes putting things in writing helps you clarify the best choice.
4. Seek Guidance and Feedback
If you have a big choice or decision to make, you might feel overwhelmed with your options or confused about the best course of action. That's when it's smart to phone a friend.
Carefully select two or three trusted friends or advisers whose opinion and judgment you value. Tell them about your choice, show them your list of pros and cons, and ask for their input about your decision.
Someone who is removed from the turmoil of the choice and who has a different perspective can help you see things in a clearer light. A personal coach or counselor also can help you gain clarity around your decision by asking you pointed questions related to your motivations, feelings, and desires.
The point here is not to rely totally on the advice of others but to use it in the mix of the decision-making process.
5. Make Choice Automatic
There are some choices that you want to become habitual. By creating solid habits from your daily choices, you streamline the process so that your behavior doesn't require the same thought process or self-discipline over time.
For example, you might be faced with the decision every day about whether or not to exercise. But if you develop a daily practice of exercising, then you just do it. You don't have to think about it.
There are so many behaviors we know are good for us, and we want to make the choice to do them every day. But, as you've likely experienced, we lose motivation after a few days and then give up.
Then we're not only faced with the choice again after we quit but also we're faced with unpleasant feelings of failure.
If you learn how to create sustainable good behaviors, then you can transform any good choice into a regular habit. It isn't a matter of willpower or character. By starting small with daily commitments to positive behavior, you help your brain to create new neural pathways so your choices become automatic.
6. See Every Day as a New Opportunity
One of the problems with making repeated bad choices and creating a string of bad outcomes is that it makes us feel like we're doomed to failure.
We've received enough negative reinforcement from ourselves and others that we begin to believe we're incapable of change or just not smart enough to make good choices.
It doesn't matter how many poor choices we've made in the past. Today is a blank slate, and we all have the opportunity to start fresh — even if we just fell off the wagon yesterday. Just hop back on and begin again.
7. Simplify Your Choices
Modern life presents us with more choices in a given day than our minds have the capacity to manage. Not only are we faced with a myriad of digital distractions that feel overwhelming, but also we have more options available to us (for just about everything) than any other time in history.
Research confirms that the more options we have, the harder time we have making the choice. We become paralyzed with indecision.
Steve Jobs famously narrowed his wardrobe to black pants and black turtlenecks just to limit his daily choices. But simplifying your wardrobe is just the beginning.
You can simplify your choices by using your core values and life priorities to help you determine the choices you make — or whether or not the choice is worthy of your time and energy in the first place.
Are you ready to make positive choices for your life?
When you use your values as a guide and mindfully approach the choices you face, you have the power to completely overhaul your life.
Yes, there will be times you falter and make a bad choice — either from neglect or intent. That happens to all of us. No one is expecting perfection.
With practice, you can get to the place where you know you're making more good choices than bad, and you'll begin to see a huge shift in your life.
You are in complete control of your destiny through your daily choices, your habits, and your willingness to move past failure and try again. Seize the reins of your life by consciously directing all of the choices you make.