There have been many times in life that I have forced an issue by making decisions I wasn’t aligned with. I’m sure you have too. You know the situation, you want something SO badly that you will do whatever it takes to get it? You will even hold your breath and bite your tongue to make a decision you’re not comfortable with but you do it anyway thinking that the outcome will somehow be worth it.
Notice how you either don’t achieve it or you feel crappy or if you do because something has been expensed along the way. Your reputation, your relationships, your pride, your health, your sanity, your life?
The question at the end – how did I get here?
Let’s do a metaphor! 🙂
It’s one thing to want a burrito. To be on a mission, very task focussed and no matter how far you have to drive and how much time it takes on your Sunday, you’re getting a burrito. I’ve lost count of the effort I’ve made for things that seem so trivial to some but have been the upmost importance to me. At the time however, a burrito on the scale of ‘life changing choices’ didn’t seem that significant so I didn’t see what the big deal was.
On the flip side, when I’ve wanted money, I found myself less able to focus on the task and often argued all these reasons as to why it was just too hard to get. Instead I’d find something else I want, like a packet of Oreos or a new car and I’d invest my time in making that happen instead. At the time, money was always significant but I was playing it down and ignoring it.
So it seems that significance still wasn’t a motivating factor. Interesting.
Many have said to me, “oh Paul, if you just invested that same time and energy into X, then you’d have it!”
And they’re right. I probably would. I know this is pretty much the same for a lot of people I’ve met. They can find the bucks for some cigarettes but can’t pay their bills. Why?
Well we could blame marketing and their push on self-indulgence, ‘me-time’ and what we ‘deserve’. We could also blame governments for being designed to allows us to have rights, benefits and access to resources. But I don’t think it’s any of these. I think this is more animalistic.
It’s based on reward and consequence – the short term, the mid term and the long term.
- I’m hungry now so food as a short term outcome brings immediate reward/consequences.
- I need to buy food for tomorrow is a mid term outcome and brings reward/consequences in the not to distant future.
- I need to get a heart transplant from all the crap I’ve been eating is a long term outcome that brings reward/consequences in the distant future.
The problem is, what I eat today becomes future Paul’s problem. Eventually. Unless I die before then – which based on my penchant for driving fast cars – could render this blog post academic. But I digress.
So many people at this point would be nodding and then harp on about the importance of making sound long term life choices and the need to have a conservative view with decision making as living in the fast lane today could mean you don’t see tomorrow. It makes a boring short term but somehow the end will be rosy? I don’t buy that. On the flip side, living on the edge today might be exhilarating but if you screw your body today, what will you have in thirty years?
Oh the perplexing questions of life! I understand why so many people just opt for mid term. But it’s still too conservative to be fully spontaneous and not long term enough to prevent you from ‘failure’ – and I use that term loosely.
So it seems like we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. But we’re not, because I’ve figured out how you can have both.
I’d like to introduce some more texture to this perspective.
If the small, micro decisions you make today could have this butterfly effect later in your life, effectively your life is actually based on micro decisions rather than big planted milestones. It’s not actually the boy/girl you marry or the promotion you got, it was actually all the small decisions you made that brought you there – that’s what defines you.
The way you view your diet today, the way you spend money, whether you have manners or not, whether you clean up after yourself, the language you use, the way you dress, how you treat your friends, whether you brush your teeth, make your bed, speed in your car, go out with your friends tonight, eat that fatty but tasty dish, try that jacket on, check the lock on your front door or write down a thought when you had it – these are all micro decisions.
Most people don’t just wake up one day and are rich, happy, with quality friendships and a career they love. It takes years and years of small, incremental decisions. Think of it as polishing the diamond rather than making big cuts and hacks.
You see, having both long term and short term reward and consequence all starts with the small decisions. You build, you iterate, you polish and you shape. The long term rewards are because of the short term rewards. It might seem crazy today to quit your job or to start eating apples but without the short term decision, the long term can never actually exist.
With this additional perspective I want you to think about that decision you made today/this month/this year ‘for the time being’.
I hope you really considered the reason you made that choice and how that small decision to choose that industry or that company or that role may seem like a temporary solution but it’s actually a micro decision that will shape your future in good or bad ways you might not imagine.
Grant yourself time for authentic and honest thought to your micro decisions. The rewards and consequences are all yours and they’re bigger than you think.