Changing your life with the decisions you make
Our lives are shaped by the countless decision we make every day. Every action we take is a decision to not take another. Every single decision we made before this very moment shaped our life up till now. Right now, the decision to read this or not will shape your thinking one way or the other.
Last night I had to make a decision between attending a workshop where I will meet interesting people vs staying at home to finish up all the work that piled up while I was sick the past few days. It was not an easy choice. My wife will have to take care of our little boy (9.5 months old) alone while I’m away. It’s a 4-5 hours commitment including traveling time. I decided to go anyway..
Even small decisions change our lives
Every day, we make decisions. Big, small, and seemingly insignificant decisions. It’s not always as big as “What degree should I pursue?” or “Should I buy that house?”. These major decisions at different milestones of our life can change the way we live the rest of our lives. But we often ignore the countless “insignificant” decisions we make daily that are slowly nudging us to a different trajectory, either away or closer to the dreams we want to achieve. Like “What should I eat?” OR “What should I do after work?”.
Every action we take is a decision to not take another. Every single decision we made before this very moment shaped our life up till now.
When we decide to watch some TV show, we are deciding to take time away from whatever else we dream of doing. Maybe it’s to start a business, lose weight, or learn a new language. Whatever it is, you are taking time away from that goal when watching TV. Your life could change course if you decide otherwise. Over simplifying things?
Let’s frame it differently. Imagine this:
You are driving home, the phone in your pocket vibrates as a message comes in. Do you decide to check it or not? Maybe if you check, you might lose focus and hit someone or crash into a tree. Maybe if you did not check, you might miss out on the chance of a lifetime, or lose a business deal.
Who knows? Maybe nothing will happen.
So, do we weigh the pros and cons? Risks vs rewards? No. The point is, you never know! When your phone vibrates, you have no basis to decide whether to check or not to check. Doesn’t matter what your current situation is. Even if you are waiting for a potential big client to call back, there’s no guarantee that the message is from him. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong. It could be as dramatic as the situation above or it could be as simple as a message sent to the wrong person, or just a meaningless advertisement.
Live with mental compasses
We make our decisions by the mental compasses we have in our mind. They point us to a certain direction.
If my mental compass is pointing towards life-long learning, I’ll probably catch a documentary instead of the latest drama.
If my mental compass points towards being a Giver, would I be organising a birthday party where all gift will be donated? Probably yes.
These compasses help us make decisions subconsciously. As a life-long learner, you don’t think about not watching drama, you simply switch to the documentary channel without much thoughts.
It’s just like why some ladies wake up 1 hour before they have to and doll themselves up before going to work. While for some, it’s just crazy.. “I’ll rather get an extra hour of sleep. They’ll like me for who I am.”
Some people live their life with a borrowed compass. They either conform to what society ask of them or they are chasing some dreams that they don’t really want.
Imagine 2 young lawyers:
Lawyer A became a lawyer because his parents were lawyers and that’s what they want him to be. And they convinced him the riches and privileges are worth chasing after.
Lawyer B became a lawyer because he witnessed his uncle being wrongly accused and put behind bars. He wants to bring justice to the world and not have another innocent victim.
Lawyer A borrowed his compass from his parents while Lawyer B found his own compass.
One of them has a mental compass of money and luxury, while the other has a mental compass of justice and righteousness. Who do you think is more likely to misrepresent facts so that his client can win the case?
Some people live their life without a mental compass. They are like jellyfish in the ocean, floating to wherever the current brings them. So they end up with whatever compass the environment throws at them. Say, a young banker trying to earn his first million dollar in 5 years. Why a million? Why 5 years? Does he even know why? Perhaps thats the society’s definition of success..
Chances are, this stressful environment would give him a negative compass. Perhaps “Constantly Stressed” or “Busy”. Because that’s how you are supposed to earn your first million in 5 years.. Do you think he will be checking his phone while driving? I think he will. Maybe he will be checking his phone whenever there’s a notification. Maybe even when there are NO notification.
If your compass points towards “Peace” or “Mindfulness”, chances are, you won’t check that phone while driving no matter how many times it vibrates. Maybe you might sign up to be a monk one day..
Some people live their life without a mental compass. They are like jellyfish in the ocean, floating to wherever the current brings them.
Our brain has not caught up with the changes in the modern world
The environment we live in is changing so fast, our evolution could not catch up. Our way of living has changed way more in the past 100 years than it did in the previous 500.
If you put someone from the year 1500s in the 1600s or even 1700s, they will probably still be able to adjust relatively easily. Now, try to imagine someone from 1900s came to our current society (Back to the Future style). They will be shocked by the things we do, eat, play, and use.
Try explaining the Internet, Xbox, smart phones, and Facebook. Heck, try explaining to a 7 year old what the world is like before smart phones appear.
Because evolution has not caught up, our primitive brain is still in the jungle mode where there’s a need to look out for predators and hunt for preys. Your mental compass helps to make the type of decisions your primitive lizard brain normally would disagree. It’s like programming your brain out of the jungle mode into modern mode.
Why would you want to read a bundle of papers full of words written by someone probably dead by now instead of ‘relaxing’ in front of the TV?
Progress! That’s why.
We want progress and that’s how we are wired. Want to have a successful career? Read classic best-selling books like “How to win friends and influence others” and “Think and grow rich”.
Pyramids were made up of insignificant rocks.
No one turns fat overnight. If you choose to eat that extra piece of chocolate today, you won’t be fat tomorrow. If you choose to eat another chocolate tomorrow, you still won’t be fat the day after. But if you choose to eat chocolate day after day after day. It’s hard not to be fat after some time.
Same applies to business, fitness, relationship, wealth, knowledge, etc.. You have to live it. The decisions you make everyday is contributing to your result some day in the future. What will it be? Is it going to turn you fat? Is it going to help you launch a successful business? Who knows?
The majestic pyramids were first pieces of rocks that were insignificant. But when stacked together, they formed a majestic master piece for generations to come. How does your master piece look like?
I attended the workshop and did meet some interesting people, spoke to a founder I admire, got some ideas for this blog, learned a few lessons. Is it worth it? I don’t know. But I can see it contributing to my dreams positively. Maybe not directly. Maybe not any time soon.
We really can’t control how our decisions affect the outcome. What we can control is to stack the odds in our favor. But that’s good enough for me. I’m playing the long game.
P.S. I first wrote this months ago and initially decided not to publish it until my mastermind group pushed me to do it. My boy is already 14 months old when I publish this. Do you like this article?