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Don’t Let Problems Drive Your Decisions, Let Your Values Do So

Don’t Let Problems Drive Your Decisions, Let Your Values Do So

Nearly every problem you face is temporary.

But these temporary problems cause immediate pain. And we often let this pain drive our choices and actions.

For example…

  • An employee suffering from the pain of not feeling important enough or powerful enough might take a terrible job with a fancy title.
  • An individual suffering from the pain of feeling unloved or unappreciated or misunderstood might try to resolve that pain by cheating on their spouse.
  • An entrepreneur suffering from the pain of a faltering small business might resort to using questionable marketing tactics to try to drive more sales.

…and so on.

This is how you make choices you wouldn’t normally make. When you let the problem drive your decisions, you make exceptions and “just this once” choices to resolve the pain, annoyance, or uncertainty that you’re feeling in the moment.

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How can we avoid this pitfall and make better long-term choices while still resolving short-term pain?

Here’s an approach I’ve been trying recently. See if it works for you…

Let Your Values Drive Your Choices

One of the solutions I’ve been trying out is to let my values drive my choices. That doesn’t mean I ignore other aspects of my decision making process. I simply add my values into the mix.

For example, if I’m working on a problem in my business, rather than just asking, “Will this make money?”

I can ask, “Is this in alignment with my values?” And then, “Will this make money?”

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If I say no to either, then I look for another option.

The idea behind this method is that if we live and work in alignment with our values, then we’re more likely to live a life we are proud of rather than one we regret.

The Power of a Constraint You Believe In

Every decision is made within some type of constraint. Maybe it’s how much knowledge you have. Maybe it’s how much money you have. Maybe it’s how many resources you have. Why not what values you have?

Making better choices is often a matter of choosing better constraints. By limiting your options to those that fit your values, you are taking an important step to ensuring that your behavior matches your beliefs. (Plus, constraints will boost your creativity.)

Know your principles and you can choose your methods.

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How to Put This Into Practice

Most people never take the time to think about their values, write them down, and clarify them. Maybe it sounds too simple or unnecessary.

For what it’s worth, my 2014 Integrity Report was the first time that I sat down to clarify my values and tie them directly to my work.

You are welcome to use that report as a template for discovering your own values and aligning them with your work and life.

The Bottom Line

He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.
—Aesop

If you never sit down to think about your values, then you’ll be more likely to make decisions based on whatever information is in front of you at the time. That can be a recipe for regret down the road.

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Life is complex and we are all faced with moments in our personal and professional lives that require us to make a choice without as much information as we need. The default assumption is that we need more knowledge or research in these situations, but often we just need a clear understanding of our values.

If you don’t know what you stand for and where you’re headed, then it’s far too easy to get off course, to waste your time doing something you don’t need to be doing, or to make an exception (“just this once”) that leads you down a dangerous path. There are brilliant men and women with decent hearts and families they care dearly about spending a long time in jail right now because they made business decisions that were based on the pain they felt and not the values they believed in.

Let your values drive your decisions.

Featured photo credit: Lauren Macdonald via flickr.com

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James Clear

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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