Distance Yourself from Decisions
How to do what we say we're going to do.
Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.
The farther in advance we make decisions, the better the decisions are.
When decide what to do in one week, one month, or one year we don’t plan to eat junk food, avoid difficult conversations, or give up on a new project.
When we decide how we’re going to spend our time in advance, we think rationally and optimistically.
When we decide on how we’re going to spend our time in the moment, we think emotionally and impulsively.
Author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers explains this phenomenon best:
Thinking of the future doesn’t come naturally.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to live from moment to moment, so our tendency to focus on today is built into our biology.
But times have changed.
Now the surviving fittest are the ones who plan ahead.
The more distance we can put between the decision and the time of execution the better decisions we’ll make.
The power of planning
We’re constantly bombarded with different options for how to spend our time and most of these options are sub-optimal or at the very least unrelated to what is most important to us.
In the absence of a plan, it’s difficult to say no and avoid the pull of common distractions like social media, TV or streaming, and mindless junk food or drinking.
If we wait until we’re finished with a long day at work to decide what we are going to eat for dinner and how we’re going to spend our evening, the tired hungry version of ourselves is going to take over and steer us toward the instant gratification of take-out and mindless entertainment.
If we plan the week out in advance, the satiated rational version of ourselves will have already decided what we’re going to make for dinner and how we’ll spend our time intentionally afterward.
The power of planning is we can make decisions removed from the temptations that pull us off track, but planning is only helpful if we follow through and execute.
How to do what we say we’re going to do
Executing is easier said than done.
It can feel like the difference between those who execute consistently and those who don’t is simply willpower or discipline, but there is more to the story.
Tying our plan to our values, creating the right environment, and leveraging external accountability are all more effective levers to help us do what we say we are going to do than relying on willpower alone.
When our plan is tied to our values, doing what we say we’re going to do becomes who we are, not just a hopeful item on our to-do list. We aren’t using extra energy to do something out of the ordinary, we are just doing what someone with our values does every day.
Similarly, it will be a lot easier to do what we say we are going to do if put the actions we plan to do on the path of least resistance.
If we want to stop eating junk food, we should get it out of the house. If we want to read more, we should leave books on the coffee table and our nightstand. Instead of going out of our way to do things that are important to us, we should go out of our way to make those things as easy as possible.
Finally, we can create external accountability systems to help us do the right thing when all else fails. We’re much more likely to let down ourselves than we are to let down a friend, a mentor, or a coach.
To take consistent action toward worthwhile pursuits, we should not only plan ahead, but we should also take steps to make the right decision the easy decision so we can create bold plans and actually follow through on them.
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Do you live life moment to moment or plan things in advance? What have been the consequences of your tendencies?
Think about your plans for the next month. What is one step you can take to make sure you do what you say you’re going to do?
If there was only one thing you could follow through on this year what would it be? How can you guarantee you’ll get it done?
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Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.