How Removing Decisions Improves Success

I’m publishing this one month into 2021 about my attempts to keep my New Year’s commitments. It can apply any time you commit to making an improvement in any area of life.

While I was out on my walk this morning at 5am, I wondered if I would continue to keep my New Year’s commitments.

I actually ramped up to the new year in late December, getting up early for a bit of 45 minute walk every day. I’ve also been journaling and listening through the Bible every day for just about a year.

A few commitments are sticking.

Others, not so much.

Exercise has been the worst. I suck at exercising.

Since I’m pushing 50 years old (mark your Amazon calendars for September 24th), I feel particularly compelled to get fit. I want to be stronger and more flexible and leaner than I’ve been in a long time. I know that it will not get easier as I get older.

I’ve been asking myself these questions:

  • When I keep my commitments and stay consistent, what am I doing right?
  • What I don’t keep my commitments, what’s the problem?

The one thing that helps beyond nearly anything else is that I remove decisions.

Remove as Many Decisions as Possible

About your gear…

What time you’re going to do something….

What you’re actually going to do…

How long you’ll do it for….

Set the intention well before you actually start doing the thing that you’re trying to get done.

Your commitment might be to reading a certain number of pages everyday in a nonfiction book. Set the number of pages. Set the book in a place where you will sit and read. Set the time you’ll read it. And then read.

Since my issue has been exercising, I’ve had to do a better job at removing decisions the night before so I can wake up and get after it:

  1. Check the weather to know what clothes I’ll need.
  2. Set those clothes out clearly in my bathroom so that I can quickly put them on.
  3. Set the Band-Aid out next to the sink – or better yet, go ahead and cover that nagging spot on my heel where the shoe rubs a little too much when I jog (or speedwalk).
  4. Establish the workout and program the intervals app on my watch: 45 minute walk? Intervals?

Nearly every decision has been made beforehand.

My plans aren’t foolproof.

I still have to wake up. I still have to get out of bed. But I’ve removed a few obstacles to give myself much greater chance at success.

Over time, that little ‘setting out the clothes’ routine becomes a habit.

You Don’t Want to Negotiate with Yourself

We can really sell ourselves on not doing the things we know we should do. Just be aware of that. I do it to myself all the time. I have to continually ferret out where I am conning myself and build in practices to protect myself from myself.

Removing decisions is one way I do that.

Also, considering my ‘future self’ helps. When I lie in bed after the alarm goes off at 4:30, I say, ‘What does future Brett wish current Brett would do right now?’

Yes… future Brett really lays the guilt on current Brett. So current Brett gets up and luckily doesn’t have to make too many decisions. He just has to execute on the one thing he decided to do the night before.

For more on the idea of acting today in a way that would honor and lead to you becoming your ‘future self’, check out Benjamin Hardy’s book Personality Isn’t Permanent. (If you click that link and buy anything on Amazon, I will get a tiny commission.)

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