We all face challenges when it comes to making decisions every day. Whether it is peer envy or the perception of your peers, your family background, your emotions, your relationships, work, stress, thought patterns, education, time, money, enjoyment, self-esteem, religious convictions or heuristics (decisions made based on past experiences). All of these challenges shape the way we think and therefore how we act.

The words we think and say actually affect our actions.

When we were toddlers we thought we could achieve anything. We could climb on anything, touch anything, but our sense of invincibility dissipates as we get older. We begin to believe what we are told. “You can’t walk on that wall, you’ll fall”. It gets to a point where we believe it.

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We are conditioned to believe we can’t and that dictates how we make decisions when it comes to us taking risks. That is why most of us stay in jobs we don’t like, drive cars we don’t want to drive and stay in relationships we don’t want to be in. We have to get back to believing in ourselves and believe we can achieve anything. You can lift that barbell, you can do a pull up, and you can lose that 60lbs. You just have to believe you can in order to achieve it.

Optimism versus pessimism

Most us wake up on a Monday and think here we go, another Monday and it becomes just that. You start off with a negative thought. You made the conscious decision to think Monday is going to be terrible and it turns out to be true. Shocking! There is growing research that is showing that the vibrations of positive expectations that people give off actually attract the people and experiences they believe they are going to get.

We must find a way to turn our “negative” experiences into positive ones.

Whatever you are going through now will always turn out well in the end. We have all had that experience of “this can’t get any worse” and it does. That is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When we focus on the negative things that are happening to us and we talk about it and put it on Facebook and are constantly thinking about that experience, it normally does get worse.

What else would happen? You let it dictate your whole life. On the other hand, if we take that experience, find the positive, find the lesson that is to be learned, know and believe it is going to get better, it will. The sooner you look for the good the sooner and more often you will find it.

Visualization

What if we visualized our goals as already achieved? What if we wrote them down, read them 2 or 3 times a day, affirmed them, saw every aspect of that goal, felt it, dreamed it and tasted it. If we simply thought about positive things that we wanted to be, wanted to have or where we wanted to go in our lives.

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How do you think that would affect your decision making process? If you want to weigh 145lbs on October 1st at 5.15 pm. and you do all of the above on a daily basis and somebody puts a donut in front of you, do you eat that donut? Try and it and let me know. I know some of you reading will say yes, I’ll have that donut”, but if you are truly visualizing your goal daily your decision making will change too.

There is so much more to be said about decision making and how we do it, but I will leave you with some strategies to help shape your decisions and get what you want.

Other considerations and strategies to shape our decision making processes:

1. Establish a support group. Use family members, work buddies, a mentor etc. to hold you accountable.

2. Do not grocery shop when emotions are not under control.

3. Getting appropriate amounts of natural sleep is essential (no sleep aids).

4. Prioritize: Make a list of what is most important to you ex. Money, health, family, car, job etc. Without your health none of the other priorities can be enjoyed fully.

5. Observations: Make everyone and every situation your teacher. If a person is irritating you look at it as a test of patience or compassion. It is not them that is making you mad, it is you that is having the issue.

6. Take responsibility for you thoughts, feelings and actions.

7. Understand heuristics: Heuristics speed up the process of finding a solution to a problem Ex. Rule of thumb, an educated guess, common sense. Sometimes we will use hindsight bias to where we will predict an outcome after it has happened. You set a goal you are not fully committed to and then when you don’t reach that goal you say, “Well I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach that goal”.

8. Cognitive biases: Making decisions based on observations and generalizations that may lead to memory errors, inaccurate judgments and faulty logic. Just because it’s always been done that way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Be conscious of your decisions.

9. Emotional eating triggers happy hormones that satisfy our cravings in the short term. Ten push-ups will have the same effect. Having an exit strategy is essential.

10. Tracking food or progress will hold you accountable make you think twice about your decisions.

11. Tracking emotions at the end of each day based on  accomplishments, workouts and eating in order to find patterns or what works and what doesn’t.

12. Planning: Making detailed plans before you go to bed. We are 40% more likely to execute those plan rather than just saying we will do something.

13. Using a calendar to set routines (Be specific).

14. Preparing meals for the week to avoid the convenience of McDonald’s etc.

15. If you are going to a party eat before you go to avoid snacking on the chips and dip.

16. Set goals and making them SMART (and sometimes don’t make them smart. Make them outrageous. You never know what you can achieve if you believe in yourself).

17. Through meditation we can learn to identify past experiences and develop the skills to let them go (Naming demons/emotions and letting go) Understand that all emotions are valid, but you must be able to let that emotion go in order to make the desired decision. This will help avoid emotional eating/drinking.

18. Regret or anticipated regret can shape decision making ( if I eat this burger I will regret it).

19. Reversal of decision: People will rationalize a decision by saying “ It’s the first time all week” or “I’m going to work out tomorrow anyway, it’s ok”.

20. Last but not least. Think positive. You can do this!

Read more from Expert Michael Keane

 

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