Each morning when you wake up, you’re faced with multiple decisions: what to wear, what to eat, which route to take to work, and thousands more. Various sources point to a generally believed notion that we make up to 35,000 choices per day, which is roughly 2,000 decisions per hour or one every two seconds.
The compounding effect of each decision leads to another decision that could be made on how you feel, what you’re doing, where you are, and what’s happening around you. Your decisions drive your days and determine your life.
The sheer multitude of all those decisions and the pressure of making the “right” choice each time can be overwhelming. So let’s simplify it.
Every time life presents you with a fork in the road (a decision), you actually have only three choices: rise higher, stay the same, or fall behind. By framing each choice in this way, the decision becomes easier.
Choice #1: Rise Higher
Your first option is to rise, grow, improve, do more than you could before, exceed expectations and shift into new altitudes that you haven’t experienced before.
To rise higher, you must make a conscious decision to learn new things, gain experience, enhance your skills, rise above challenges, and move towards your potential. This upward movement leads you in a positive direction to enhance the number of opportunities you’ll receive or further your goals and objectives.
Generally, this choice requires moving into the unknown above your comfort zone. This is always the harder choice to make and it requires strength, resilience, and oftentimes doing what seems counterintuitive.
By always rising, climbing upwards and going higher, you face the gravity of life and that’s why it’s hard. However, the most successful, fulfilled people push themselves to climb more consistently over a longer period of time. They raise the bar for themselves, and over time, that is how they separate from the masses that are stuck on cruise control (or worse).
Choice #2: Stay the Same
Your next choice is to stay the same. This is the comfort zone in which most people live.
To cruise through life is to consistently take the easier path, where more often than not, things stay the same. There are some attempts to rise above the average, but an upward movement is usually offset (in the long run) by a downward fall (quite often a self-sabotage). Nothing destructive happens, but you don’t gain any ground toward your goals and objectives.
In a weird way, this is the worst possible outcome, because you learn nothing from the experience. At least if you pick a direction and fail, you’ll acquire valuable knowledge about what not to do in the future. By choosing nothing, you also don’t enhance anything in your career or your life.
Many people work in this zone. Instead of challenging themselves with new opportunities, they stay in the same situation or the same job. They think they have five years of experience, but they actually have one year of experience relived five times.
If you cruise and stay in the comfort zone for too long, you will lose ground to those who choose to rise higher.
Choice #3: Fall Behind
Your final option is to fall behind. This happens when you repeatedly make the wrong decisions, slowly and steadily taking you in the opposite direction of where you want to go.
Remember that many choices lead to short-term pleasure and that leads to long-term pain and vice versa. For example, eating too much unhealthy food can lead to many chronic health conditions. Alternatively, enduring the short-term pain of exercise can lead to long-term benefit in a fitter, stronger, and healthier body.
The point is that you are going to experience pain one way or the other, so why not choose the short-term pain that creates long-term gains, instead of the short-term gains that lead to long-term pains. The lesson to be learned is to do what’s hard now so you can live better later.
Also remember that the cumulative effect of making bad decisions creates a widening gap between where you are and where you want to be or where others are. The greater the gap, the more you feel unhappy and unsuccessful.
Compounded bad decisions lead to an unhealthy body, a negative mindset, an uninspired heart, less opportunities, and worst-case scenarios while others are taking a different higher road or at worst, staying the same.
The Importance of Intentionality
Whatever you do, be intentional. Don’t let life happen to you. Take control of your actions and your outcomes. Think “if…then…” all the time.
If you want to get healthier, then rise higher by choosing to…
If you want to have a better relationship, then rise higher by choosing to…
If you want to get that job or promotion, then rise higher by choosing to…
A single decision will not make or break your life, but our decisions compound. The more you make a certain type of decision (up, down, or the same), the more likely it is that you will move in that same direction in the future.
If you are not intentional, your decisions will naturally default to what is easiest or most comfortable, and instead of climbing to new altitudes, you will cruise along at a steady altitude (while others may be rising higher than you) or fall into a downward spiral that eventually leads to you crashing.
Always set the dial for the next altitude and use your own motivational fuel to propel you to that next level. The higher you go, the better the view.
For more advice on how to make the decisions that lead to success, you can find The Standout Experience on Amazon.
John Walsh is an inspirational and successful executive, entrepreneur, author, husband and dad with a passion for impacting the lives of others. John faced many challenges, uncertainty and failures early in his life but he created a purposeful and happy life with a lot of hard work and help from others. Over time, he created a playbook that allowed him to make the journey from homeless in high school to a senior executive with Disney and Madison Square Garden. He is also the founder and CEO of a company whose mission is to inspire and help millions of young adults stand out in their own lives and careers.