Goals and Choices

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Every single action you take, and every single action you don’t take, is a choice. So when you get down to it, the process of achieving your goals is just a series of choices.

We often think that we don’t have choices about certain things that are out of our control. Well, sure we do. We can choose how to react. We can choose how the situation is going to make us feel. We can choose to be the victim, or we can choose to learn and become stronger.

Take a look at your goals all the way from top to bottom: from the moment of achievement to where you are right now. And right now, based on the time line you’ve set for yourself, based on the intermediate goals and the sometimes mundane and boring-as-hell things you have to do along the way, realize that you have choices. You can choose a happy, enthusiastic attitude that makes even boring, repetitive tasks enjoyable. Or, you can choose to view them as drudgery. Which attitude is going to move you toward your goal? You can choose to do the things that make you shake in your boots with fear. Or, you can choose to take the easy route and give up. These are obvious choices.

But keep in mind, we do a lot of things by habit. They’re the actions (or thoughts!) that we’ve done or thought a zillion times. They’re so much a part of us that we don’t use any conscious thought at all and we still manage to get them done, the same way as always, while our brain is engaged with other things. Seriously – think about how you towel off when you get out of the shower. It’s exactly the same order of body parts, every time! Or when you sit down to work: you have a little ritual, and you probably don’t even know it. Do you start working without checking your email? Can you start working without that hot cup of coffee in front of you? When you think about something that worries you, your thoughts also follow very predictable, tried-and-true patterns. The thing is, even though these actions and thoughts are so habitual they’re subconscious now, they are still choices.

So it’s a good idea to examine just how you do things, and how you think, for a day or two. You may find that certain habits are actually counterproductive. And even though you do them without even thinking about them, you have the choice to take control and do things (or think) according to the best interests of your goals! Try towelling off a totally different way tomorrow. Try mixing up the order in which you do things at work. Bring awareness to what you do.

If you *have* to check your email before you start work, tell yourself, “I’ll check my email in one hour.” And then dive in and get to work. One hour isn’t critical, in the grand scheme of things and you can accomplish a LOT if you focus for an hour. Of course if your goal requires time-sensitive actions based on critical information you receive via email, then this example doesn’t apply to you – unless you also spend time on personal emails while you could be working on your goal!

One great trick to become aware of how you do things is pretend you’re observing yourself – as if you are an alien beamed down here from a far-away galaxy – and become fascinated with what this strange creature (you) is doing. The observer you (the alien) might say, “Wow, he always sips his coffee three times before he puts the cup down! How interesting that she always puts her left shoe on first! I wonder why he has to completely organize his desk every single day – what’s he looking for so urgently, every single morning? Why does she always do the easy stuff first and leave the hard stuff for later in the day when she’s tired?” I know, this seems like a silly game, but the more aware you are of your habits, the more you can change them if they interfere with your goal-achieving.

You have a choice – as with everything. The blue socks, or the black socks? The 10-minute phone call to a potential client, or 10 minutes on Facebook? The cheesecake or the sorbet? Ask yourself if your choices are getting you to where you want to go.

Inspired by a blog by Frank Purdy at www.goal-setting-for-success.com.

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