To Think or Not to Think – Your Fundamental Life Decision

by Stephen Mills on April 8, 2009

Thinking

It is in our moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.  –Anthony Robbins

What is the key to a successful life?  Is there a single key?  Probably not, but I believe there is a primary decision you can make from which everything else flows.  In that sense this decision is the primary key to a successful life.  Without this key you will not succeed in creating the life you want for yourself.  This decision is the decision think or to avoid thinking.  You can choose to focus or to avoid focusing.  You can choose to be aware or to avoid awareness. You can choose to understand or to avoid understanding.  All of these are just variations of the fundament choice to think or not to think.

Furthermore, as I live my life, I have the choice to operate mindfully or mindlessly or anywhere between.  I am accountable in any issue for the level of awareness I select.  To think is an act of choice; so is to avoid thinking, and I am the cause of that choice. –Nathaniel Branden

I am not suggesting one should maintain a laser-like focus all day every day.  That is an extremely unhealthy choice that will eventually destroy your mind.  Trust me, I know.  I am a shining example of how to mess yourself up by thinking non-stop eighteen hours a day.  It is completely debilitating.  Achieving a balanced and healthy mind and body requires that you take some time to relax and meditate.  Sometimes you just need to be present and let things flow through your mind without analyzing them.

What I am suggesting though, is that you must make the choice to maintain awareness at all times as to how and when your active and focused thinking is required.  That is your fundamental choice. Regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in, you cannot abdicate the responsibility of thinking.

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.  –George Bernard Shaw

The circumstances you find yourself in at the present moment are are result of the total accumulated consequences of every decision you have ever made.  No matter what has happened to you via external forces, you chose to think or not to think and to act or to avoid acting on those thoughts.  You cannot separate your current life from your prior choices.

Circumstances hell! I make circumstances! –Bruce Lee

Please don’t twist this into some categorical pissing match.  Obviously if you are smashed by a Tsunami on a Thai beach, you didn’t really do anything to contribute to that (other than possibly choosing to go to the beach).  But you are responsible for choosing to think and for your actions once the water hits.  Those choices make the difference between life and death.

You have made choices up to this point in your life that either position you to survive or not.  Are you trim and healthy or are you obese and ill?  Are you able to swim or not?  If you are near water you must accept the responsibility that you chose to go near water and that something may happen that causes you to end up in that water.

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well. –Jack London

What about things like cancer?  You must accept that choices you have made, such as your diet, have contributed to that disease.   You thus chose, directly or by abdication, the result you now see.  You are not a victim of circumstances.  You created the self you now see.

Most Decisions are Not Real Decisions

You cannot simply create a wish list and say you have made some decisions.  Saying you want to lose 20 pounds is not a decision, it is a wish.  Saying you want to be rich is not a decision, it is a wish.  Saying you want go to medical school and become a heart surgeon is not a decision, it is a wish.  Saying you are planning to do x is not a decision, it is just talking about wishes instead of of doing something to make them happen.

“I will lose 20 pounds in the next 4 months.”
“I will make five million dollars in the next two years.”
“I will go to medical school and then become a heart surgeon.”

Those are real decisions that create an explicit obligation to act.  You cannot say “I will lose twenty pounds in the next four months.” and then sit and wait for the pounds to disappear.

Making a true decision means committing to achieving a result, and then cutting yourself off from any other possibility.  –Anthony Robbins

A Real Decision Means You Have Taken Action

A real decision is basically an action.  It is the choice to act upon your wants, needs, or desires.  If you don’t take a follow up action, you haven’t really made a decision.  You are just performing mental gymnastics.  A real decision means you are committed to taking the next action.

My whole life changed in just one day – the day I determined not just what I’d like to have in my life or what I wanted to become, but when I decided who and what I was committed to having and being in my life. –Anthony Robbins

Once you have made a decision, you should take immediate action.  Don’t know what to do?  Do something, anything, no matter how small.  In fact, intentionally make it small so you can complete it and celebrate it immediately.  Make it so easy that you would feel guilty by not doing it immediately.  Then celebrate and tell yourself you have moved part way to your goal.  Make a big deal about it and create a lot of positive energy and emotion that your brain will automatically associate with moving towards your goal.  You have then started a feedback loop that will carry you to your target.

Are there areas in your life where you continually postpone making decisions?  Have you given up on a goal because you didn’t get the result you wanted the first time? …  Often times, the hardest step in achieving anything in your life is making the decision to do something about it now.  Think about some areas of your life that have been stalled because a decision needs to be made.  Could you make that decision now?  –Jonathan Wells – Advanced Life Skills

Make Frequent Decisions

You need to practice your decision making.  The more you do the better you get.  Build the habit of making quick decisions and taking immediate decisive action.  When you make a decision you feel powerful and energetic.  Try it.  The more decisions you make the better you feel.  Successful people make decisions.  Unsuccessful people go with the flow.

Think about this.  Let’s say the average person makes one significant decision a month.  What if you made one significant decision a week?  You would be getting the life experience of four months in one each one of your months.  What if you made one significant decision a day?  You would be getting the average life experience of 30 months in each of your one months.  This practice will rocket your forward.

You can sit around and wait for life to happen to you, or you can make life happen for you.

Learn From Your Failures

I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. –Thomas Edison

What about all those months of experience I describe above?  Well many of them will be “wrong attempts” as Thomas Edison would say.  So what?  That is a step forward.  Fail often and fail quickly.  Pick yourself up and try again.

People fail to make decisions because they are afraid of the unknown.  They are afraid of what might happen.  They are afraid of life.  I choose not to be afraid of life but to experience it.  How about you?  What do you choose?  It’s up to you.  You can be a victim or you can be an owner.  In either case you create the life you get.

Keep the “How” Flexible

Cultivate the art of flexibility.  When you make a decision you don’t have to worry about how you are going to accomplish whatever you have decided.  The important part is deciding to take action and being committed to achieving that which you have decided.  Stay focused on the what.  You can figure out the how as you go along.

Life gives you various experiences that result from external forces.  The choice you made about how to do something might no longer be valid.  It might have been the wrong how to start with.  Be constantly aware and change your approach and keep changing it until you find something that works.  Most people stop when they fail the first time.  Most of the rest stop after they fail the tenth time.  The truly great never stop until they find a way.  There is always a way and your can find it if you are willing to continually change your approach.

Enjoy Making Decisions

In any moment the decision you make can change the course of your life forever.  –Anthony Robbins

Isn’t that a powerful thought?  Making decision after decision after decision is a trip.  You will get high on life.  It creates an empowering feeling in you because you are taking control of your life instead of letting life happen to you.  Don’t take my word for.  Try it for yourself.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.  –Helen Keller

Just writing this article has pumped me up.  I hope you are pumped up too.  I hope that you will make some vital decisions about your life right now.  Why don’t you make one decision right now and let me know what that decision was in the comments below.

Know that it is your decisions, and not your conditions, that determine your destiny.  –Anthony Robbins.

What do you think?  Leave a comment below.  Subscribe to The Rat Race Trap by Email here or to a reader in the top left sidebar.  I would love to have you aboard.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills April 8, 2009 at 11:30 am

Wonderful article Stephen,

As you pointed out, one of the most common reasons why people’s decisions don’t lead to the result they hoped for, has to do with understanding what it really means to make a decision. The term “decision” is so loosely applied these days that oftentimes what’s being described is not a decision at all, but simply wishful thinking.

Our life today is the manifestation of the decisions and actions from a time that is now past. We shape tomorrow by what you decide to do today. Life is about taking action learning from the result, making adjustments and taking more action. Sooner or later we get the result we want. It’s all good if we learn to enjoy the process. Failure only inters the picture when we give up.

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Robin Easton April 8, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Wow, what a passionate post. I love this kind of thing. When I was young I had the hardest time making decisions. I would waffle back and forth and back and forth until I felt crazed, trapped and finally immobile. My life would stagnate and go no where. I was so afraid of making the wrong choice or of hurting someone or doing something wrote. I was full of “what if(s)”. Then one day I looked at my family, my friends and the world around me and saw ALL these people just jumping in and making decisions without thinking, without caring, etc. And it hit me: “Gosh, none of them worry. And THEY make mistakes, some have even hurt me due to their decisions. So what am I worried about? I too get to join the human race. I will trust that I’ll learn as I go.” Guess what? I did. More importantly I LIVED, my friend. I mean, REALLY lived. I discovered that I was a great “Life Learner”. I grew so fast that I consciously decided that I wanted to live an experiential life…for the REST of my life. LOL!!! We often stop the essential life flow within us when we avoid decisions. We get to let the waters of our lives flow and learn as we go. We get to have faith that Life will teach us all we need to know. Brilliant post. :)

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Karl Staib - Work Happy Now April 8, 2009 at 9:08 pm

A very inspiring post. We are our decisions. If we aren’t careful about what we put into our bodies and minds we are going to end up very unhappy people.

My decision will be to start making good money from my blog by the end of the summer. I’ve been building up content and now it’s time to make the push. Thanks for the kick in the butt. I needed it.

I’m a big fan of Tony Robbins. Check out his TED talk. It’s fantastic…
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/tony_robbins_asks_why_we_do_what_we_do.html

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Giovanna Garcia April 9, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Very inspirational post, I enjoyed this very much.
There is a difference between take a moment to think, than making a decision. Vs. Hiring behind thinking and never make really making the decision.
Most people need to learn to make a decision quickly and commit to it a long time. Instead of taking a long time to make a decision and commit to it a short time.

Thank you,
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

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Stephen - Rat Race Trap April 9, 2009 at 7:39 pm

@Jonathan, Thanks for the comment as usual.

@Robin, I like the way you described noticing those around you jumped right in and weren’t afraid to fail. What’s the worst that can happen besides being human? Thanks!

@Karl, I’m so glad you liked it. I’m going to check out your links.

@Giovanna, I love the way you contrasted the decision vs. action time. Great insight. Thanks for stopping by.

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Shamelle- TheEnhanceLife April 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I am often caught in this trap… Is it worth thinking about, Am I thinking too much about it? The endless cycle continues…
I wrote my thoughts on this a few weeks ago
Is Heavy Thinking Ruining Your Life? http://www.theenhancelife.com/2009/02/is-heavy-thinking-ruining-your-life.html

This is indeed a good post to set the boundaries.

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Dennis Dalton April 11, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Good informative post. Many people are simply afraid to decide; they don’t want to upset anyone so they just go with the flow. I have been learning to make good solid quick decisions and working with and learning from the consequences. The tsunami/cancer thing is really tough for us to get our minds around. I can’t understand it in the least!

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Mariam June 14, 2009 at 9:47 am

HI
All I CAN SAY IS THAT I AM REALLY INSPIRED AND I THINK THAT THIS IS ALL WHAT I REALLY NEAD RIGHT NOW. THE QUOTES ARE GREAT, YOUR APPROACH IS GREAT. ITIS JUST PERFECT. ABOUT MY DECISIONS, I AM NOW COMMITED TO LOSE 60 POUNDS IN A 6 MONTHS TO A YEAR TIME AND I AM DOING WHATEVER IT ITAKES TO ACHIEVE MY DREAM, I ALSO DECIDED THAT I WILL START STUDYING AND PREPARE MYSELF FOR MY USMLE COZ I WILL GO HAVE MY RESIDENCY AS THE DOCTOR I CHOSE TO BE IN THE US AND WHEN I RETURN BACK TO MY COUNTRY I’LL HAVE MY OWN HOSPITAL THAT WILL BE MANAGED ACCORDING TO MY OWN THOUGHTS AND WILL BE UP TO INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS THAT PATIENTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD WILL COME HERE TO EGYPT TO BE TREATED IN IT AND I BELEIVE THAT THAT IS THE CONTRIBUTION THAT I WILL LEAVE TO THE WORLD.
SO THANKS FOR THE INSPIRATION…

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