It is amazing what you can achieve once you have no choice.
Many people in the world act bravely, courageously, and surmount extreme difficulties with strength and endurance, simply because they do not have the choice to do otherwise. That’s what we must do when we have to mourn the loss of a dear one for instance. In many other poor countries, the most simple and basic needs require the same kind of strength. In our modern lives where almost everything is available and customized to our choosing, most of us barely know what “not being able to choose” means.
We need to change that.
“Not having the choice” is a powerful source of making things happen.
Why would one willingly put themselves in conditions where there is no choice? The answer is simple: “In order to achieve a preset target. Big targets, small targets, ANY targets.”
Recently I was taking a flight from San Francisco to New York and had to be at the airport at 6:15 am. It was surprisingly easy to get up at 5am, right at the buzzer of my alarm clock. Why? I think it’s because I wasn’t given the choice. I had to do it. My will of staying in bed had no power against the fact that the plane was going to take off without me.
The odd thing is that my alarm goes off around the same time every day, yet other days it’s much harder to get out of bed then. Why? That’s because on a daily basis, I always have the choice of either going to my morning workout or not going (deciding to stay in bed). It basically comes down to my will battling against my laziness. Those 10 to 15 seconds are the hardest, as my mind will try to find all the reasons to “not go.” It’s cold outside, it’s dark, you already worked out yesterday, you have a long day ahead, you deserve to rest a little, you are in a rush… etc. etc. It is a matter of self-discipline to make the right choice and go.
The easiest solution is to remove the “choice making” step of any action we want to do, PURPOSEFULLY. This is what we already do for brushing our teeth, for going to the bathroom, for eating, for going to work, etc. We’re not questioning whether we want to do it or not, we have to do it, that’s it!
So, what if we just remove the “choice” factor from the equation and put yourself in conditions where you cannot decide the outcome of the moment, but for targets of our own choosing. For instance, “Every morning, I will go work out,” no matter what.
We can take the decision on our own, but that does take a big amount of will and mental disciple. An easier way is to make sure the decision is taken by someone or something else, but affects us:
- Option 1: A higher authority decides for you: Just like in the military, you have no choice whether you want to train or not, you have to. If you hire a coach, you have no choice to quit, he or she will always be here to make you do that extra rep. If you are at work and have a deadline, you just have to do it.
- Option 2: Join a group: If you are part of a team, you have no choice whether to go, because the team depends on you. The weight of the “will” of the group is stronger that your own “will”. That works too.
- Option 3: You put some skin in the game and you “pay” for the service. For instance, you are part of weight loss program and you pay a monthly fee for it. Since you paid for it, you “have” to do it, or it would be wasting money. That solution meets the coach option.
- Option 4: Take a one-way route. Go on a run that is a circle rather than a back and forth on the same road, that way you won’t be pushed in turning around earlier than the point you have set. It happened to me actually, when I rowed across the mid-Pacific Ocean: there was just one direction: all the way to Hawaii, there was no turning back. The current was too strong to turn around in our row boat, so you just have to keep going until you get there. No Matter what.
- Option 5: You make yourself accountable to the public, by declaring your goal to everyone you meet, and on all social media. That’s my specialty: everyone knows I want to cycle across the US in an unsupported race in June 2019. That puts pressure on me to make it happen, as I don’t want to be seen as a “says it but doesn’t make it happen”.
- Option 6: Use a negative incentive. Commit to giving a certain amount of money to a cause that you strongly dislike if you fail to meet your goal. (Or have a friend do it: one of my friends pledged to give $100 to a certain politician’s re-election campaign if her friend did not complete her project as promised.) Ouch!!
The whole thing is a four-step process:
- First, decide on your goals ahead of time. For instance: “I will go run tomorrow morning at 6am,” “I will run a marathon this year,” “I will lose 20 pounds,” “I will learn to play the guitar.” When you are not under the pressure of making a decision, that’s when it’s BEST to make plans.
- Reflect on your weaknesses and recognize them. For instance: A. I don’t like to work out when it’s cold, early in the morning, or alone. B. I am feeling tired, so I am usually lazy to do the dishes just before going to bed when my show is over. C. I can’t stop myself from buying and eating chips when I’m hungry. Etc. etc.
- You are preparing the environment, so you don’t have any chance to make a decision when you’re at your weakest. Answers from above’s points: A. I have coffee is ready the day before, so I can just press the button and have a warm coffee before going, my warm running clothes are ready. B. I am making it mandatory upon myself to do the dishes right after dinner, and obviously before TV. C. I make sure I have healthy snacks always available when I am hungry, and I don’t go to any grocery store when I am hungry. I also train myself to look at the chips as “dead food”, detrimental for my health.
- Execution: Not think. Just do. Roll out the plan you intended to do. No time for a choice. The choice has been made. Now just do it.
Sometimes you have to act in new ways to discover new ways of functioning. Not giving yourself the choice is definitely a new way of thinking and acting.
Try it, it might work for you!