Decision: The ultimate tool for personal growth
Everything we do is a decision. We must decide between choices before us, even choosing not to decide is a choice.
Many of these choices are easy and we do not even consider them to be decisions, breathing for example. You could decide to hold your breath and not breathe, but eventually, your body would take away the choice and you would either gasp for air or pass out and start breathing again.
More commonly we think of decisions along the lines of what type of car to buy, what clothes to wear, what to order for lunch, what career to pursue, and so on.
Then we have what many would consider as important life decisions. These include whether to get married, have children, move to another country, and buying a house.
Yet, there are other decisions we are faced with many times each day we ignore, or “take the easy route”. These are the decisions that are the most important when creating significant personal change and growth.
Behavior Changing Decisions
It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. – Tony Robbins fn
Our decisions are arguably the single most important factor in personal growth. Each and every day we are presented choices. The decision we make will either further our current situation or it will propel us forward on the path of personal growth.
Seems simple, doesn’t it? It is. It is very simple, but it is not easy.
These types of decision are based on our personality. They are reflexive in nature. They are a product of who we are and our environment.
Our behavior instinctively chooses for us in these critical decision-making situations. Many times we do not recognize we even had a choice.
Detach and Identify
Behavioral choices are most often caused by emotional responses to our environment, an angry spouse, donuts at work, or invitation to happy hour when we should be working.
In order to overcome the emotional response to these environmental influences, we need to be able to recognize them before we act. To do this, we need to be able to detach from the situation and identify the influence.
In the case of an angry spouse, in that split second before we act, if we are able to detach and identify the influence that would normally cause us to have an emotional response, we put ourselves in a situation where we are able to make a better choice. We can choose to be calm and not emotionally engage in the situation, which would likely lead to a fight.
When faced with a craving for donuts at work that would sabotage our diet, by recognizing the influence we can choose to make the choice to stay true to our goal and avoid sugary foods.
The key is to recognize the behavioral influence before we have made the emotional choice.
This may seem difficult since these influences can happen without warning and our emotions are quick to react. This is why it is important to identify behavioral influences before we actually encounter them.
With our spouse, we have likely already been in the situation that leads to an argument or fight. By consciously thinking about these past situations and understanding how they lead to an argument, we are able to identify the influence when it happens and now we have that moment of detachment necessary to help us make the non-emotional decision and avoid the fight.
The same is true with food cravings. We can identify within ourselves those situations where we are most likely to have our behavior influenced before we are actually faced with the choice. This creates the detachment giving us the time to make the better decision.
Simple, but not easy
This technique of detachment and identification is simple. Once we understand the environmental influences that cause us to make emotional choices we give ourselves the time to detach from the situation, identify the influence, and decide to make the better choice. It is simple.
The struggle is the battle with our emotional response. This is our behavior. In the case of an angry spouse, our behavior may be to “win” the argument, usually at a high price. It can take a tremendous amount of self-discipline to be able to overcome our emotional behavior and make the better choice.
To share a personal example, I love beer. It is delicious. I would consume about a case of beer a week on average. Yes, 24 beers a week.
I also had been on a perpetual diet for the last couple of years, wanting to lose about 30 pounds. I knew the beer was not helping me with my diet, but I would justify having a beer here and there. It might be a tough day at work or a social event.
When I finally detached and identified my craving for a beer the influence hindering my weight loss efforts I was able to recognize how the beer was not adding value.
When I would find myself in a situation where I wanted a beer, I now had the brief moment of time to detach and identify the influence, and that is when I made the better decision. In a few weeks of this detaching and identifying, I was able to see significant progress toward my weight loss goal, quickly reaching it and then some.
I write about this more here
Make it conscious and consistent
The key to success is making the effort conscious and consistent. A conscious act to detach, identify, and decide requires pre-planning. As we discussed earlier, it is important to identify the influences you struggle with before you are faced with them again. Write them down. This makes them tangible. Review them from time to time.
Consistency is also vital to success in changing our behavioral responses into better decisions. As we encounter these influences, our consistent use of the detach, identify, and decide technique will help us become better at making the better decision.
Everyone has made decisions they regret. We did not make the better decision. Some of the most painfully regretful decisions are those where we allowed our emotions to dictate our behavior. We often wish we had the opportunity to go back and make the better decision.
Personal growth and happiness come from making the better decision.
By detaching and identifying those environmental influences where we make emotional decisions, we give ourselves the opportunity to make the better decision.
I would love to get your feedback on areas in your life where you are faced with influences that cause an emotional response that you would like to change to a better decision.
I would also like to hear how applying the detach, identify, and decide technique has helped you overcome the emotional response and has enabled you to make the better decision.
If you feel this might be helpful to someone else in your life, please share. The whole purpose of this blog is the share ideas, techniques, and experiences in an effort to help others become better.
Lastly, ponder times when you have gotten upset about something completely out of your control. The weather, for example. If a day at the beach is canceled due to an unexpected storm. Do you get angry? Does it ruin your day? It is okay to be disappointed, but did you get mad? That anger is a decision you made. Think about that.
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I encourage you to check out the book Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Marshall Goldsmith.