“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” ~Tony Robbins
Over and over, throughout the day, we make a hundred little decisions: to work on this, to check email, to go to this website, to respond to messages, to grab a bite to eat, to meditate or exercise or do yoga, to have tea and watch a video—or to push into deep purpose.
A hundred little decision shape our day. They determine whether we’ve had a day of focus and calm with meaningful work, or a day of distraction and procrastination.
It turns out, we can train ourselves at the decision point. When we have one of the hundred little decisions come up, we can train how we’d like to respond.
Do we want to go to distraction? To response mode? To comfort? To avoidance?
Or do we want to do something connected to our mission and purpose? To something more meaningful than our comfort?
Let’s look at how to train at the decision point.
Start With the Motivation
If the motivation for this training is, “because it sounds good” or “so I can get more productive,” you probably won’t stick to it.
It has to mean more than that.
So ask yourself these questions. Journal about them. Take them seriously if you want to get serious about this training.
- Who do I care deeply about? Go beyond the obvious answer of your loved ones—who do you want to serve?
- How do I normally respond at one of the hundred little decisions? What’s my normal go-to exit? Where do I seek comfort? What is my habitual pattern? Get clear on this.
- How does this pattern affect me?
- How does it affect the people I care about?
- How powerful would it be for me and for them if I shifted this?
Make this something you care about. Make it more meaningful than the thing you usually go to. Make it about something more than yourself.
Starting the Training
To start the training, we want to make it really simple. We want to get good at recognizing the decision point, and then interrupting our usual pattern, just for a moment.
So here’s what to do:
- Put notes to yourself all over the place, where you won’t miss them. Your phone’s lock screen, a note on your computer, reminders that will pop up, notes on your bedside stand and bathroom mirror, and so forth. You want to remember to notice.
- Throughout the day, see if you can notice the hundred little decisions you make—when you’re deciding to switch to something new. You’re on one website, and you want to go to another. You’re done with one task, and you’re deciding what to do next. Over and over, notice these decision points.
- When you notice a decision point, have some kind of small thing you say to yourself, like, “Aha!” or “Breathe.” Whatever feels right. It should call attention to the decision point.
- At this moment, all you have to do is pause. Take three conscious breaths. Notice your surroundings.
That’s all you have to do. Try it for a week. After you pause and notice, you can go ahead and do whatever you want to do. Maybe it’s watch a video on Youtube, maybe it’s respond to a text. It doesn’t matter. Just notice, pause and breathe.
You’re bringing awareness to the decision point, and interrupting your pattern just a little.
Deepen the Training
After a week of this practice, you’ll be better at it than before. You don’t have to be perfect, but better. You’ll get better and better each week as you practice. Give yourself at least a month to see some effects.
At this point, you want to deepen the practice:
- At the pause, after you take three conscious breaths, you widen your view. Ask yourself a question: “What am I being called to do right now?”
- Open your heart to the people you want to serve, and to your mission and purpose. Connect with your intent to serve something bigger than yourself, whether that be your family, your team, your community, or whatever else it may be.
- Now set an intention to serve them through this next task. It can still be an email or responding to a text if it feels connected to your purpose.
Let’s talk about the question, “What am I being called to do right now?”
There’s no right answer to this question, but it puts you in a frame of mind where you drop into your body to feel what feels right to you. This is not what feels comfortable or pleasurable, which is often the unconscious basis of our decision to distract. This is about what feels in service of something bigger.
For me, this simply means breathing, feeling the sensations in my body, and opening my mind to the question. Usually one specific thing comes up—for example, I need to write, or I need to respond to my community, or I need to read with my kids.
Whatever answer comes up, just trust it. Too often we go into indecision mode where we question ourselves and whether we’re doing the right thing. There’s no right thing. Trust what comes up for you and then commit to it. Be all in.
Continuing the Training
As you can see, after a week of this training, you’ll be much more aware of what you’re doing and when you’re deciding. You’ll become much more conscious at the decision point.
After two weeks, you’ll become much better at making more purposeful and conscious decisions. You won’t be as reactive or tied to your habitual patterns of comfort, avoidance, control, and exiting.
Beyond that, you continue to bring awareness until you’re aware of the decision point for 80 of the hundred little decisions. Maybe 85.
You practice bringing more connection to your purpose to each task, so that they feel more meaningful.
This is when the magic begins. But you have to train first. Start today.
Leo Babauta is the author of six books; the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with more than 2 million subscribers; and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net