If you want to direct your life, you have to take control of the consistent actions you take. It’s not what you do once in a while that shapes your life. It’s what you do consistently. So we need to find out what comes prior to our actions. What influences the actions we take, and therefore, the life we live?
What’s the answer?
The power of decision.
Everything that’s happened in your life, both the good and the bad, has started with a decision. These moments of decision shape your life. The decisions you’re making every day of your life will determine how you feel today and who you are tomorrow.
We all have decisions that we can look back on and either be thrilled that we made, or wonder “What was I thinking?” There are decisions you could have made differently that would have made your life completely different than it is today. You could have changed careers, or failed to change careers. You could have moved, gotten married, had kids, or purchased a home. Maybe you decided to start a business or start exercising. Maybe you decided to start or stop drinking or smoking. Think about how your decisions have impacted your life.
Success comes from long term focus. Picture the challenges in your personal life. Whether it’s overeating, drinking, smoking, drugs, or spending problems – they come from a short term focus. Success doesn’t just happen. The life experience we call success comes from the small, daily decisions in which you choose to hold yourself to a higher standard and take control instead of having the environment take control of you.
1. Realize how powerful decisions are
Decisions are a tool available to you that can change your entire life. Deciding and taking action creates the momentum necessary to produce drastic changes to your life in the shortest amount of time.
Your life is merely the result of what you’ve done differently than other people that are in the same situation. Your actions have produced different results than your friends, neighbors, and loved ones, but why? Because the actions you take are the starting points needed to move you in a clear direction.
The minute you make a decision, you’ve set your life in a new direction. You literally have the power to change in an instant if you decide to. The next time you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, decide to change it. Don’t just sit there and take it. For you to really make a decision, action must follow.
2. Commit to your decisions
What’s the difference in being curious about something and being committed to it? How many times do we hear people say “I’d like to have a new car,” or “I’d like to make more money,” or “I’d like follow my dreams?” Merely stating goals you’d like to do accomplish isn’t the same as committing to them. Just being interested in something while taking no action is not how progress happens. To achieve you must commit.
You may think “I think I could change, but I don’t know how.” That is fear talking. The fear that you don’t know exactly how to make it happen. The fear that you haven’t researched every possible outcome and planned for every possible scenario. If you listen to this fear you’ll never end up deciding on anything. You’ll never start. What most people don’t realize is that you don’t need to plan out every possible detail to change your life. The reality is that you will find a way.
Here’s a streamlined formula:
1. Decide what you want
2. Take action
3. Notice what’s working or not
4. Change your strategy until you achieve what you want
If you follow these steps you’ll create the momentum necessary to achieve what you want. As soon as you’re completely committed, you will find a way.
Deciding is often much more difficult than committing. Get clear on what you want and decide. Don’t waste too much time analyzing and deliberating. If you’re clear on your values, you’ll be able to decide quickly and change your mind very rarely, if at all. Compare that to people that are usually unsuccessful; they take forever to make decisions and change their mind quickly. A decision is information acted upon.
You can change your life as soon as you’ve decided to fully commit to change; as soon as you stop taking no for answer; as soon as you stop accepting any other outcome.
Making a true decision is cutting off all other possibilities. Making a decision means a complete commitment to achieving a desired result, then burning the boat you sailed in on.
3. Make decisions often
Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situation. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.
Repetition is the mother of skill. So in order to make better decisions, we simply have to make more of them. Make decisions, learn from them, and keep what works. Learning to make better decisions is like any other skill you’ve learned; the more you do it, the better you get. When you get better at making decisions you’ll look forward to making them, embrace them, and will see them as a way to take your life to the next level.
The power of decisions can change your relationships, your career, your physical state, and your emotional state. It can determine whether you’re just reacting to your environment or taking control. It can determine whether you’re excited or miserable. It can determine whether you feel free or enslaved.
The more decisions you make, the better and more comfortable you get making them. Harness the power of decision by deciding on something you’ve been putting off. Often just deciding on something relieves a lot of stress. You’ll be surprised at how energized you feel.
4. Learn from your decisions
To make progress you must decide not only what results you’re committed to achieving, but also who you’re committing to becoming. If you’re familiar with my content, you’ve heard me talk about raising your standards. Your personal standards determine what type of behavior you think is acceptable for both yourself and those around you. Establishing minimum standards for what you’ll accept in your life prevents you from falling back into your old limiting ways. You must raise your standards and stick to them. No matter what hardships and tragedies arise.
When the inevitable happens and you make the wrong decision, don’t beat yourself up. Just ask yourself “What’s positive about this? What can I learn from this? How can I turn this around?” The simple gift of feeling like you failed may be exactly what you need to make better decisions in the future. Don’t focus on the short term. Find the lessons to be learned.
5. Stay committed, but stay flexible
The moment you make a true decision to lose weight, that’s it. You will. Your perception of everything changes. Food becomes fuel and exercise becomes a must. When you get off the fence and commit to a decision, you’ll feel an enormous amount of relief.
This kind of clarity is essential. Clarity gives you the power to produce what you really want in life. Most of us are stretched so thin these days that we never really make committed decisions anymore. We’ve forgotten what it feels like to make a true decision.
Often when I talk to people about their weight loss progress, they’ll describe an extremely rigid plan in which they have to follow. But if you asked these same people to design a diet plan for their friend, they’d never recommend what they’re doing. If weight loss is your goal, then the end is what you’re after, not the means. Don’t lock yourself into an unbending routine in which you feel like you’re slacking if you don’t follow it completely. Chances are you designed this routine after a well-rested weekend anyway. You’re making things much harder on yourself if you close your mind off to alternate routes.
6. Have fun making decisions
Decisions can be a source of both relentless problems and incredible happiness. Decisions can be a source of both amazing opportunity and shocking disappointment.
The greatest thing about the power of decision is that you already have the ability to use it. The power of decision isn’t only for a select few. It’s available to you as soon as you summon the courage to use it. Will today be the day you decide your finished holding yourself back? Will today be the day you decide to put your life on a path consistent with your dreams? Ask yourself “Who am I?” “What do I want out of life?” “What am I going to do?” “What will I let stop me?”
Look forward to making decisions because at any moment you can make one that’ll change your life forever. The next book you read, website you visit, movie you watch, song your listen to, or person you stand next to at the checkout line could be the event that causes something to click. If you really want to enjoy life, you have to expect things to come together for you.
You may be skeptical. You may be thinking “Of course I’d like to change, but I have real problems in my life.” Of course you do, but we all have to start somewhere. What matters is where you’re determined to finish. Ask yourself “What could I do with my life if I was certain I couldn’t fail?”
One of the most beautiful and liberating truths I’ve ever realized is that we all have the power to turn our lives into an inspiring example to others. If you make the right decisions – focusing on the long term and not the environment – you can direct not only who and what is in your life, but who you become.
My challenge to you
Decide to learn a new skill, treat people different, make the call you’ve been avoiding, pursue an education, or change careers. Instead of resisting or making excuses (which is in itself a decision), do you think you could decide to take your life to the next level? Do you think you’d be happier, have more fun, or find peace? Do you think you’d build your confidence and self-esteem? You didn’t have to read this to know the answer is yes!
Featured photo credit: Noelle Buske via flickr.com