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You are what you choose

You are what you choose

Always making fully conscious choices is the key to a positive life

Living your life consciously isn’t a once-and-for-all action. It’s a way of being that will make everything you do more vibrant, more alive, and more fun.

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Destiny is made of choices. Most of what will happen to you depends on the choices you make and their consequences in the future. Careful, conscious choices produce positive outcomes; hurried, poor choices lead to regrets. Some people make poor choices about continuing in education and find themselves blocked from worthwhile jobs. Others choose to give up instead of persevering with difficulties and live to regret it.

Choices offer options to respond differently than you have in the past and try new things. Knee-jerk reactions almost always block your opportunities to learn and grow. Making conscious choices restores your freedom to choose your own way.

The interaction of your choices with events around you produces your future. Choice is the ultimate human freedom, but your automatic habits usually block it. Remember these key points and you won’t be blocked again:

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  • Every choice is a priceless opportunity to seek out new possibilities and change your life for the better. Even ordinary choices may conceal options that will transform your future. Never allow yourself to make choices without thinking them through.
  • Other people sometimes give poor advice. Don’t be the kind of person who’s easily lead. Thank people for their views and help, but always make up your own mind.
  • Don’t allow habits to rule your life. If you do, you’ll miss crucial new experiences. All you’ll do is what you’ve done before—again, and again, and again.
  • To be able to learn from your experience, you must make sure you’re fully conscious of what you’re doing and why. If you can trace the patterns of cause and effect, you’ll know how to repeat what you’ve learned when you need it again. If it goes wrong, you’ll have some ideas about where to look to find out why.

Always look for alternatives
One of the many oddities about the human race is our reluctance to deal with options. People don’t like having too many choices. It makes them anxious.

Every alternative means more complexity, harder decisions, and more opportunities for messing things up. That’s why many of folk are more concerned about not being wrong than they are about being right. They’re always looking for the one, right answer—which makes them oh so vulnerable to manipulation by con-artists; and, when they don’t find it, they let their habits narrow down their alternatives to one or two familiar ones. It’s much less stressful.

If you want to transform your life, re-establish conscious choice in place of all those automatic, habitual decisions. This will give you back your ability to find fresh options to replace worn out habits; permanently increase your opportunities to learn; and free you from repeating past mistakes.

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Think about what you’re doing about your future. What alternatives have you been ignoring? Which ones have you skipped over? Write them down. You don’t have to follow them, but thinking about them sure beats rushing ahead blindly.

Stay in charge of your life
You nearly always have more good options than you think. Whenever something happens, you have a choice about how to respond. That’s your choice. No one can take it away.

Let’s look at some areas where simple choices can transform your day:

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  • Try choosing to listen longer before giving a response. Most of us are too keen to talk and not willing to listen carefully enough before we do so. Better listening will save you from many screw-ups.
  • Try never to take action when you’re feeling emotional. Step back and wait until you’ve calmed down. Anger, frustration, jealousy, fear, or revenge make poor advisers.
  • Try seeing things from the other person’s point of view. It might look very different.
  • Try to avoid making snap judgments. We’re all too eager to rush into deciding who’s right and who’s wrong. Do you like people making such judgments about you? No? So why do it to them?
  • Don’t tell yourself what you can’t do. As soon as you do this, it’ll be true. Try telling yourself it’s okay to try it and find out.
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously! Mistakes aren’t the end of the world. They’re so common, anyone can make them. Just remember the person who never made a mistake, never made anything else
  • Don’t be a wimp! Don’t be afraid to be bold, try new things, take a few risks. That’s the only way to create a life worth living.

Revisit your unused options
Many people find it really helpful to take an objective look at themselves and their past choices from time to time. It may seem silly to think about what you haven’t done as a source of things that might help you transform your life in the future, but it’s not.

You may be surprised to notice how many of those unvisited and unused options are either still available, or suggest ideas for solving your current issues. The good news is that maybe the majority of poor choices can be undone or reversed. All it takes is to stay aware of what you did, why you did it, and what the outcome was.

There’s really no point in making mistakes unless you learn from them; and no point in learning unless you do something differently as a result.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. Recent articles there on related topics include Why procrastination is sometimes the very best course of action and Chickens, eggs, and happiness. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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