Published on December 16, 2020

5 Ways to Make Good Choices That Align With Your Life’s Goals

5 Ways to Make Good Choices That Align With Your Life’s Goals

Choice is one of our greatest gifts, as it goes hand in hand with freedom, and we will do almost anything to protect it. The right to choose what we believe, what we say, and how we live is integral to our very being. Therefore, learning to make good choices is key to learning how to live a good life.

Being the “intelligent” species that we are, our learned experiences should continually enhance our ability to make good choices as time passes, so why isn’t it a given?

Does a three year old think about good or bad choices? Every choice is the right one when life is just one big adventure of discovery and excitement. It’s only as we begin to discern, judge, and regret that the importance of making good choices that align with our goals becomes apparent.

There are times when we might make a choice that seems perfectly logical, but a curve ball gets in the way. That’s life, things happen, but what about those times when we choose the same thing time and again expecting the result to be different? Surely it would be crazy to knowingly make bad choices—wouldn’t it?

Here are five ways that will help you to make good choices that align with your life’s goals.

1. Remain Faithful to Your Core Values

Your core values form the glue that binds your choices and your life’s goals together.


To achieve fulfilment it is essential to remain faithful to your values. This will ensure that you make good choices that align with your life’s goals. If you compromise in this area, you will reap what you sow—maybe not immediately, perhaps not even in the short term—but eventually the conflict of values will catch up with you and bite you where it hurts.

You may think that you can compromise and still stay true to yourself, but there will always be a little piece of you that is out of sync. That irritant will have a tendency to grow like a pearl in an oyster shell, but the final outcome won’t be so pretty.

You may justify what you are doing or allowing to happen—be that at work or in your home life—but you will not be fulfilled. However much you convince yourself that the end justifies the means, nagging doubts will affect your peace of mind. This is a reaction to sacrificing your values for the sake of expediency.

For example, you may be on a career path that is progressing nicely, but your line manager has significantly different values in a critical area of the business. Do you go along with them indefinitely in spite of the conflict? Do you make a stand and risk your career? Or do you consciously decide to play ball in the short term as part of your overall life’s goals?

The latter may work as a temporary fix, but only if you are aware of the compromise you are making for the sake of the big picture. If not, it will lead to a hidden grievance since your mind is very adept at burying inconvenient truths for the sake of goals to which you have committed, making it difficult to make good choices.

2. Make Conscious Choices

Spontaneity has its place, but there is a fine line between impulsion and compulsion. Being in the moment is one thing, but it’s only too easy to mistake an intuitive response for a habitual reaction based on years of mental reflexes or even addictions.


Have you ever woken up thinking “Why on earth did I do that?” So let’s go there: Why? Felt like a good idea at the time? Couldn’t help myself? I deserved a reward for all my sacrifices, my hard work, doing stuff I don’t like doing?

There’s “knowing” what’s best for ourselves, and then there’s “doing” it—or not doing it.

Consciousness is a gift permanently available to you should you choose to use it. You might perceive it as restrictive or boring, but in reality it is liberating, as well as working in your own best interests. Consciousness allows another perspective in your thinking as an alternative to the hard-wired version that has developed over the years[1].

Self-reflection will open the door to questions such as:

  • What is the emotional driver for this potential choice?
  • Is it the “right thing” to do? For whose benefit?
  • Am I giving or taking? Am I giving to take?
  • Will it bring me joy? If so, for how long?
  • What are the longer term implications?
  • Does it align with my life’s goals and my core values?
  • Is it a means to an end or an end in itself?

Intuition and inspiration are the life-blood of human creativity. Consciousness, unlike limiting and negative beliefs, lets your ideas flow whilst encouraging awareness. That awareness will help you make good choices and better manage the outcomes.

3. Listen to Your Gut

Since the Age of Enlightenment, mankind has worshipped at the altar of intellectual philosophy. However, we are still animals and, as such, inextricably connected with our organs, which are linked to our emotions and, therefore, to our choices.


Some people resonate more closely with their gut, others with their heart. Make the most of these as opposed to just relying on the mind.

Have you ever, with hindsight, looked back on an event or a decision and thought, “I knew that was the wrong choice,” but you did it anyway, “against my better judgement”? If you want to make good choices, you need to improve your judgement, but rather than just logically weighing pros and cons; facts and figures; precedents and mathematical odds; listen to your body.

Logic is really effective for reasoning. The trouble is, human beings aren’t logical. You have no control over how another human being will react, but you do have within your DNA the capacity to draw on your primeval senses[2]. So even if all of the facts point clearly to one choice, remember to pay heed to your sixth sense, as well.

The key to decision making is balance. Experience will help you learn how best to make use of the feelings in your body. Don’t waste this natural resource.

4. See Choice as an Experiment

Procrastination can be a debilitating experience to the extent that some people describe it as paralyzing. “Too many choices” is a typical complaint or an excuse for delaying a decision, whereas in reality, to have the freedom to make choices is something we ought to be grateful for[3].

Choices fall into several categories, from relatively trivial to life-changing. However, even what may look like a really important choice with significant repercussions is often reversible. If you are inspired to make a change in your life, then rather than perceiving the process as stressful or the cause of anxiety, see it as an experiment.


“Everything of which you have been afraid was based on nothing.” —A Course in Miracles

Try it out; what’s the worst thing that could happen? If it doesn’t work out, you will at least now know that it’s not for you. As Thomas Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”

5. Love Yourself

Committing to make better choices is a fundamental step towards a happier, more joyful, and fulfilled life. Accepting the fact that you create your own reality, taking responsibility for where you are, and owning your role in how you got here is a part of growing up[4].

The next step is easy—provided that you have the clarity of thought and the open-mindedness to embrace it. You get to choose. No one else, just you. And guess what? You are the one who knows best what you need.

Never mind what your family, your peers, your partner, therapist, or coach think; you are the expert when it comes to running your life. There’s just one extra ingredient required: to love yourself enough to do the right thing for you.

Final Thoughts

Connecting with your truth, staying conscious, trusting your instincts, relishing the wealth of possibilities before you, and valuing yourself makes decision making fun rather than a chore. Follow these tips and watch your confidence grow as you reap the results of making good choices based on sound principles.


More on How to Make Good Choices

Featured photo credit: Jose Escobar via


[1] Harvard Business Review: Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It)
[2] Psychology Today: Are Humans Rational?
[3] Association for Psychological Science: Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination
[4] Huff Post: The Truth Behind ‘You Create Your Own Reality

More by this author

Gray Hughes

Life coach (using the motivational 3 c's Model) and writer.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

The Four Quadrants of Change

There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

The four quadrants are:

  1. Internal individual – mindset
  2. External individual – behavior
  3. Internal collective – culture/support system
  4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

First Quadrant — Internal Individual

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.


Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

“Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
I want to swim = I am a swimmer

This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

Second Quadrant — External Individual

This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]


Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

Negative Environmental Design

This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

Positive Environmental Design

This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.


The Inner Ring

These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

The Outer Ring

The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

The same rules apply to companies.

One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).


Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.


You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.


This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.


This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.


This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

Putting It All Together

When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

  1. Internal individual — mindset
  2. External individual — behavior
  3. Internal collective — culture/support system
  4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.


Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via


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