The secret to create good habits and achieve goals is to be aware of the choices you make. At any given moment, we have countless choices. We may not consciously realize the extent of the options available to us, but nevertheless, they are there, and we are constantly choosing one action over another.
Instead of reading this article, could you grab your credit card and book a trip to Italy on a flight leaving in a few hours? Could you get up from your computer, run outside, and sing and dance down your street? You may realize you have those options but it wouldn’t make any sense for you to choose them. More realistically, could you organize your workspace? Go exercise? Get started on some project you’ve been thinking about but continuously putting off?
The point is to recognize that there are endless options available to you throughout your day.
The choices we make each day form our habits and shape our lives. Taking a moment to ponder this concept helps us appreciate having all these choices. In turn, appreciating the options we have also encourages us to make better choices. It is as if the awareness of the choices sheds light on them, allowing us to see more clearly. Recognizing the options we have in each moment reveals how much control we have over our actions and the path we take in life. It reminds us to ask ourselves questions like: Where we are headed? Where we would like to go? Are we enjoying the journey?
Our habits often guide our choices, yet our choices have the power to either reinforce or change our habits.
Being aware that we are making a choice is different than taking an action on auto-pilot. It is easy to behave habitually without stepping back and examining how we choose to spend our time, or why we do one thing instead of another. By recognizing each time we have an option, we create a space to ask ourselves: Which choice moves us closer to our goals? Reading that book or watching TV? Ice cream or fruit? Reaching for a drink to unwind or going for a run? Each time we choose options that support our goals, we are creating the life we want for ourselves. Likewise, if we continuously make choices that are not in line with what we ultimately want out of life, then we are sabotaging our own progress. Choosing whether we support or sabotage ourselves is also habit-forming. The more often we act in a certain way, the easier it becomes to continue choosing that option.
Being conscious of the choices helps us to choose consciously.
Our reactions and responses to the events of our lives is one area where we have many options. Let’s say you put your money in a vending machine to get a bottle of water because you are thirsty. The machine takes your money, but when you push the water button the little red light “sold out” light comes on. The machine won’t give you your money back, so you have to make a different choice. You can get something else that you didn’t want, maybe a soda or that syrupy iced tea. Then you can choose to appreciate the beverage you did get, or grumble about getting roped in to buying something you didn’t want. You could also choose to freak out completely and smash the machine to bits. You could call the service number or hunt down the vending-machine guy and try to get your money back. You can also choose to walk away, leave your money in the machine as a pleasant surprise for someone else, and look for water elsewhere.
We can’t control many of the events we face in life, but we can choose how we react to those events. We can practice accepting our circumstances or we can choose to do something towards changing them. We can get angry and fight a situation or we can choose to walk away. Taking a moment to recognize that we have options can help us respond more mindfully to a situation instead of just reacting without thinking.
Seeing all the forks in the road reveals that life is a lot like those “choose your own adventure” books. The reader does not get to choose the whole story, but as events unfold, the reader gets to choose how the characters respond to the events and what actions they take. Depending on what you choose, you flip to a certain page and the story continues differently depending on the choices you made. Recognizing that we are choosing our own adventure each time we make a choice helps us create good habits and life that we desire.