Each day you’re faced with hundreds of choices—many of them seemingly inconsequential—that in reality make up your future.
So the question becomes: Are your choices moving you toward living your best life or are they keeping you unhappy, stuck, and living small?
It’s choice—not chance—that determines your destiny. —Jean Nidetch
How perfectly that captures the notion that past choices have created your life today and the choices you make today will ultimately determine the quality of your future.
Create a better future
Here are 11 strategies to start choosing better:
- Start noticing the choices you make every day: You make hundreds if not thousands of choices each day. Start noticing them. Notice the ones you make without thinking. The ones where you are on autopilot. Notice the ones you struggle with. The ones you put off making a decision about. You don’t have to do anything other than to observe—just notice all the choices available to you. You may be surprised how many choices you make in a day!
- Realize you always have a choice: There’s a difference between a reaction and a response. A reaction is the knee jerk—someone is rude to you and you react in a rude manner in return. A response, on the other hand, has a space between the event and the action you take. It’s considered. Start responding more. The events that happen in our lives are neutral and we have a choice as to how we respond to each and every one of them.
- Lay a solid foundation: Your mind and body both play a key role in making choices that serve you well. Exercise, healthy eating, a positive and optimistic state of mind, and supportive relationships lay the foundation for making choices that empower and enable you to live your best life. Lay a solid foundation when it comes to the health of your mind and body so that conscious choice becomes easier as a result.
- Choose your focus: We can choose our focus. It’s as simple as that. I can wake up and choose to be positive. I can choose to be grateful. I can choose to see the glass as half full. Two women may be faced with a similar circumstance—a failing marriage, a layoff, a health situation, a maxed out credit line, an extra 20 pounds… Whatever the circumstance, she can choose what her focus is going to be. Start noticing how you focus your thoughts. Are you focused on the life you want? Or are you focused on all the things you don’t want?
- Take responsibility: Move away from a mindset of life acting upon you. When you think you have no choice, you are actually choosing. Not choosing is choosing because even making the decision to do nothing has consequences. Take responsibility for the fact that every choice has consequences and either moves you closer to or farther away from the life you want.
- Turn off autopilot: Autopilot is a cognitive state in which you act without self-awareness. The choices you make as a result of being on autopilot are simply not going to move you forward in living your best life. It takes practice, but you can reduce the number of decisions you make without first giving consideration to the impact and outcome.
- Ask better questions: Debbie Ford’s The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary Life is a great place to start building an arsenal of quality questions to help you clarify and make conscious choices. It is worth the effort to figure out what questions you need to ask in order to get the answers that will lead to your best life.
- Brainstorm options and alternatives: When faced with a decision where there is no clear answer, brainstorm until you come up with at least a dozen options. Twelve possible solutions or alternatives might seem like too many, but stick with it. Brainstorming is an incredibly powerful approach for uncovering those inevitable flashes of insight you didn’t even know you had.
- Weigh consequences and tradeoffs beforehand: Don’t wait until after you’ve made a choice to think about the possible outcomes and pros and cons. Weigh the possibilities and tradeoffs upfront as a conscious part of the actual decision-making process. While you can’t anticipate every outcome, giving conscious thought to the consequences of various choices can shed light on which one is really right for you.
- Make action-oriented choices: When we make a choice, particularly if it’s one we’ve struggled with, then it’s going to be important to get into action to build momentum around that choice. I can make a decision to exercise daily, but it’s the action I put behind my choice that is going to determine my success.
- Learn from your failures and your success: It probably seems obvious you can learn from your failures. They offer us the chance to know what doesn’t work and make the necessary adjustments. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes or failures; instead, use them for what they are—a perfect tool for gaining insight into a better way. Likewise, consciously learn from your past successes—from previous decisions that did work.
Take to heart the quote by Carl Jung: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to become.” Ask yourself: Am I becoming the person I want to be?