I received an email from an 18-year-old reader over the weekend with the following question:
It seems that I’m always changing my mind about things such as what I should study and choosing my profession. I’m working at a training center as a consultant but don’t see it as my future profession. How do I become more decisive and determined?
It’s a great question that applies to every human on this planet. Why is this important? It’s not just my 18-year-old friend that has trouble making a decision and sticking with it. How many of us have decided in a moment of strength that we would exercise daily or quit smoking or be on time, only to give up on the decision within 24 hours?
How does a person make a decision and then make it stick?
Whether you’re 18 or 81, there are six steps to making lasting decisions. Here they are:
1. Find Your Passion. No decision will ever last if it’s made based upon what someone else wants you to do or what you think you “should” do. Until you are emotionally engaged and excited, until you are totally convinced deep in your soul that a certain course of action is what you need to do, you will never develop the determination necessary to carry out your decision. My 18-year-old friend is still exploring his likes and determining his aptitudes. There is nothing wrong with testing various areas of study and employment until you find the one that truly moves you. Keep searching, keep digging deeper, until you find your passion. Only then can you think about making a permanent decision.
2. Be Committed. Don’t make a decision unless you have explored all of the ramifications, anticipated the challenges, and organized yourself for success. For example, deciding to start a diet while your pantry is full of cookies, chips and soda is a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, when you make a decision, commit to it no matter what. Burn the bridge, remove every opportunity to veer from your chosen path, determine that you will do whatever it takes to follow through.
3. Get Motivated. Motivation is nothing more than controlling your emotions. If you feel that following through with your decision to change is going to be more difficult or painful than staying where you are now, you’ll never change. You need to believe, from your gut, that the only way forward is to follow through on your decision. Success on this planet does not come from being comfortable. Visualize what it will look like and feel like to have acted on your decision. Continually remind yourself why this is the right choice and how much you want it to happen. Finally, congratulate and reward yourself for every forward step you take.
4. Kill the ANTs. Whenever you make a decision that involves personal change, your mind will automatically strive to return to the security of your previous comfort zone. It will generate negative thoughts that, in effect, sabotage your desire to change. ANTs stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts that invade your mind. Tough decisions always generate a lot of ANTs. When this happens you need to recognize these thoughts as the brain’s natural defense mechanism. Occasionally, when you evaluate your decision, you realize that you need to re-think it. But in 99% of the cases your original decision is solid, so you need to eliminate these negative thoughts before they can affect you. Thoughts like “you can’t do that” or “I’ll wait and start next Monday” or “you’re not smart enough” can negatively influence your ability to act on your decisions. How do you eliminate something that you can’t see, like a thought? Write it down so that you can see it, then tear tear up. Let your brain know that you are not about to let anything interrupt your commitment.
5. Dump Distractions. We are surrounded by countless options and conflicting messages. Everywhere we turn, someone is trying to sell us something or get us to act in a certain way. There are plenty of good, worthwhile things we can participate in. (Not to mention plenty of time wasters.) The problem is that we can’t possibly do all of the worthwhile things that are available to us. When we choose to do one thing, we have automatically chosen to NOT do what we had planned. It’s so easy to be distracted and flit from one thing to another, never really committing to one activity. It’s a great way to get a lot of nothing done. Instead, decide what is most important to you. Then put the blinders on and go for it.
6. Do Something About it Every Day. Deciding is just the first step. The next and most important step is to take action on your decision every day. Small actions taken today are worth far more than large actions anticipated in the future. Why? Because, today is where everything happens. Today is the rubber meets the road. Don’t just think it, do it.
Success Tip: Be a person who makes decisions and sticks with them by finding your passion, becoming committed, getting motivated, killing the ANTs, and then doing something about your decision today.