If you are a frequent social media user (and really, who isn’t these days), I’m sure you’ve seen the “Just Do It!” video put out by Shia Lebeouf over a year ago. While his gesticulations, posturing, and total commitment to this piece invite a lot of humor, his overall message fits in nicely with my thoughts today.
We as humans are masters of making terrible choices and of avoiding decisions whenever possible. Which, of course, is the opposite of what we should be doing. Most people avoid making choices because a)they don’t know what they actually want, b)they don’t want to work hard, or c)they want to keep all options open as long as possible. In order to get ahead in life, you need to Make. A. Choice., which means you need to have an awareness of the following things:
What do you actually, honestly, want?
There are few, if any people in the world who are true free agents. Every person has obligations to someone, whether it be to a parent, a spouse, a child, a boss, or another established relationship in your life. Before you make any choices, you need to think about how your options will affect those commitments, if at all. Most of the time, we find that we have been using our responsibilities as an excuse to get out of making difficult decisions. “I know I need to eat healthier, but my family won’t eat the healthy food I make” or “I know I need to work out but my boss demands so much of my time time” or “I want to stop drinking so much but my friends go out all the time”. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that you actually don’t want it that bad.
If you really, truly want something, there will be nothing that stands in your way. I have a friend whose boyfriend drove an hour and a half, in traffic, every weekend in the beginning of the relationship because he valued her. He actively CHOSE her, against all inconveniences and drawbacks, because he knew what he wanted. I have another friend who uses his lunch break to work out so he can focus on other personal goals before and after work. He actively CHOOSES to sacrifice sleep and social time because his aspirations are important to him. I get up at 5am every weekday so that I can complete my cardio workout regardless of what might come up after work. I actively CHOOSE to forfeit lazy mornings because I want to maintain my health.
Figure out what you want. Make that knowledge so ingrained in your mind that no one can make your focus waiver. Then, make choices based on that solid foundation of desire.
What are your options?
When people make a passive choice (something that they chose by their thoughtless actions rather than actively pursuing it with their mind) they are allowing themselves to believe that they don’t have any other option. Passive choices come from not acknowledging that there are, in fact, two or more options, but instead simply falling into the easiest pattern of behavior. “Ah, its after dinner, time to sit and watch TV” or “It’s Taco Tuesday-margaritas again!” Stop. Think. What are your actual options? Which ones are going to lead you closer to where you want to be?
There are always alternatives. Absolutely hate your current job? Get a new one. Sick and tired of constantly buying a bigger pants size? Change your lifestyle. Completely annoyed with your roommate? Find a different living situation. For every passive decision you have made, there were 2 or 3 other choices that may have led you down a better path.
“But wait”-you’re thinking-“It’s not that easy!” Of course it’s not easy. If it was easy, you would have already done it. We are more than water falling down a hill-we should not always take the path of least resistance. Honestly look at all of your options, and choose the one that leads you closer to where you want to be, whether it is one big decision or many small cumulative choices.
What aspects about that choice are going to be tough for you?
If you already have a set pattern of behavior, making a choice that directly conflicts with your established system will be difficult. But what’s even more difficult is looking back ten years down the road and realizing that your life could have been so much different (i.e. better). Yet you are also not doing yourself any favors if you blithely make a decision and skip off towards your goal without actually considering where you may stumble.
Take measures to be successful. I know that if I come home from work absolutely starving, it’s going to be extremely hard to wait for my healthy meal to cook without devouring everything in the kitchen beforehand. Therefore, I cook everything a day in advance so that I don’t have to wait and tempt myself. If you know that you cannot say no to cookies in the break room, don’t go into the break room. If you know that being alone with a certain person may cause you to be unfaithful to the man or women in your life, don’t be alone with that person. If you know that you won’t go to the gym if you stop home beforehand, don’t go home until your workout is complete.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can will yourself through any and all temptation that comes your way when you are first starting out. Believe me, I’ve told myself that “I got this” for many a social gathering, and then the next day I wonder how the hell I let myself get so out of control. By anticipating your weak moments in advance, you can make sure you have barriers in place that prevent total collapse.
What do you have to sacrifice?
For some choices that we decide to make, there will be nothing to sacrifice. However, for most life-changing or hard decisions, there will usually be something that has to be given up. If you want to lose weight/get in shape, you have to give up unhealthy foods and sitting on your butt all day. If you want to start a business, you have to give up time spent on happy hours and Sunday Football. If you want to initiate a new relationship, you have to sacrifice one night stands and going out on weekends prowling for the opposite sex.
However, most of the time our ‘sacrifice’ is not really a loss. Once you start eating good food, you feel amazing and can’t believe you ever ate crap to begin with. Once your business gets off the ground, you realize that most of the hours you ‘gave up’ would have actually just been wasted existing rather than growing. Once your relationship is established, you appreciate the steady love of someone who supports and complements you more than the momentary excitement of a new conquest.
If you truly want what you are choosing, the things you are giving up will not feel like losses. And when all is said and done, you may realize that your sacrifice actually ended up being a blessing in disguise.
In the end, our most defining feature will be our choices. Don’t let fear, other people, or routine make your decisions for you. Don’t make half-choices where you waffle back and forth between two or three different things because you don’t have the cajones to take a stand. Decide who you want to be and focus your selections based on that conception. Once you start narrowing your vision and making strides towards your optimal life, you will find whole other planes of existence opening up to you.
You control your future. You control your present. You control you. If you really sit down to think about that, its a terrifying reality yet an amazing opportunity. Decide what choices will get you to where you want be and Just DO IT!