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Own your choices

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Own your choices

Scott Miker

All of us are presented each day with millions of choices. On any day we can usually decide if we go to work or skip work, spend time with our family, work on a pet project, attend an important meeting at work etc.

We also choose things that seem minor and we don’t even think about them. We can turn our car right at the stop sign instead of left, we can brush our teeth in the morning before work or not, we can exercise or not, we can take the stairs or the elevator, we can find ways to stay focused at work or let our mind wonder, etc.

But with all of these choices, most people assume they don’t have any control. I have a coworker who I see frequently in the break room when I first arrive at work. I ask how he is doing and his response is almost always, “Terrible. I’m here aren’t I? I’d rather be sleeping.”

Obviously in his mind, he is forced to wake up early to go to work. But it isn’t just him. Most of us feel the same way. We feel we HAVE to go to work. It isn’t a choice. We have responsibility. We have bills to pay. We have to make meals to provide for our family. Not going to work because we would rather sleep in isn’t an option.

But the reality is that it IS an option. And we do have more than one option. We can quit our job. We can stop showing up. We can call off sick.

Or we can make other changes so that this choice is easier to make. We can go to bed earlier at night. We can start exercising in the morning. We can do something to help us wake up and feel energized.

With something that has so many options, why do we tend to feel forced into one option? The reason is simple. We only see one logical option. We dismiss all of the other options and focus on the one that we feel is the correct choice for us.

Then we make the same choice over and over again. Each time we make that choice it gets reinforced. It starts to become habit. Then the habit gains momentum and runs on autopilot. We slowly shift from consciously making the choice every day to feeling it is forced because we make the choice automatically.

But there is a better way. Instead of feeling controlled by previous choices we made, we can start to craft our life in the way that we choose.

This doesn’t mean we can quit our jobs and suddenly become rich and travel the world. The choice is usually not between a horrible option and a great option. Usually it is between a bunch of bad options. So figure out a way to choose options that slowly improve your standing in life.

Change your mindset from being controlled to being in control. Own your choices. Own your responses. Realize that everything that you are in life is due to the choices you make.

While it may not be ideal to wake up early and head in to work after staying up late to watch a close basketball game, realize that you made numerous choices and continue to make them to be in this situation.

While this may seem like it will guilt you into depression, often it has the exact opposite impact. As we start to see that WE made the decisions we start to realize that it is up to us to determine what we do.

This empowers us. It helps us realize that we do have options and that the options aren’t usually between a horrible choice and a perfect choice. Usually we have several choices that all have some good and some bad in them.

So take control of your life by taking control of your daily choices. Focus on the fact that you crafted the current structure and you made the decisions to get you to where you are – good and bad. That means it is up to you to determine what tomorrow looks like, not someone else.