The 4 Choices that Will Profoundly Affect the Outcome of Your Life

choices

I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago about choices.  Specifically it was about which choices most impact people’s lives and which ones make the biggest difference.

There’s no mistaking that our lives are the product of our choices.  We have to decide where to work, who to marry, where to live along with a long list of other decisions.  Our choices can take us down many different paths.

My friend argued that it’s the big choices that matter most.  For instance, my choice to move to Houston last year from Minneapolis was a big choice and made a pretty big impact on where I am in life now.

But I take a different view.  I think the choices that impact our lives the most are the small ones we consistently make.  They aren’t the ones we do once; they’re the ones we do on a regular basis.

These everyday choices make a bigger impression on our lives simply because we do them more frequently.  We don’t just do them once; we do them all the time.  That means there is more opportunity for them to shape the outcomes of our lives.

Here are the four choices we face that make the biggest impact.

1. The choice of who we hang around with

The people around us have a powerful impact on our lives.  They can encourage us to reach great heights or fill our heads with doubt.  The friends and family who surround us have a great influence on who we become.

I think Jim Rohn put it best when he said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.

If they have negative or inaccurate views of the world, they may rub off on you.  If they’re angry or timid, you’ll probably be more angry and timid too.

We’re constantly introduced to people throughout our lives.  It’s your choice who you become friends with and who you marry.  One important question to ask is if those people will bring you up or hold you back.

2. The choice of how we spend our time

We’re all given seven days of 24 hours every week to use as we see fit.  Even if you took out eight hours for sleeping, you’re still left with 16 hours every day.  You can spend that time many different ways.

I use free time to better myself by reading, writing or learning.  I try to build skills like bodybuilding or learning foreign languages.

People can do amazing things with their time.  J.K. Rowling used her free time to write the Harry Potter books.  Many people start businesses in their free time.

But it’s more than about using your free time productively.

If you’re spending time at a job you hate or in toxic relationships, you’re negatively impacting the outcome of your life.

This is your time.  Choose to spend it the best way possible.  You only get this time once, you should be making the most out of it, not waiting for all that time to pass by quickly.

3. The choice of what media we let influence us

Whether we like it or not, media is influential – books, movies, music and TV especially.  The words we read, TV shows we watch, celebrities we admire all affect us – for better or worse.

All media is just a form of information.  And information has the power to change our viewpoints and opinions.

Just imagine someone who listens to Rush Limbaugh on the radio for several hours every day.  They’ll probably have far different viewpoints to someone who has read every Michael Moore book.

Someone who listens to heavy metal will often see the world in different ways than someone who listens solely to country.

The media we look at can affect us in surprising ways too.  Just listen to downbeat and depressing music when you’re in a good mood.  Listen to enough of it and you’ll start to feel depressed too.  The same also happens the other way – you can feel better simply by listening to upbeat music.

The media can be very influential.  If it can change your mood in just a few minutes, think about what it can do over a lifetime.

4. The choice of our emotional reactions to the world

We don’t always have control over the things that happen in our lives.  It’s a sad truth, but sometimes bad things happen that are beyond our control.

Fortunately, we do have control over one important aspect of life: our reactions.

I know some people who let the slightest setback infuriate them.  They get really angry and let it fester on the inside.

Then there are others who take bad things in stride.  They accept that bad things happen and try to move on with their lives as soon as possible.

You can choose to be the angry person who can’t let things go or the one who accepts things before moving on.  It’s your choice.

Sometimes you can’t control emotional reactions.  For instance, you can’t stop being sad immediately after finding out a loved one has died.

But for most days, you do have a choice.  You can choose to be positive and upbeat.  You can choose to be happy and grateful for what you have.

What you get out of life depends on what you put out.  Go into the world with love and positivity and that’s what you’ll get back.  Go into it with anger and negativity and you’ll see much more of that.

It’s time to make a choice.

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Comments

  1. Hey Steve,

    interesting that you called this ‘The 4 choices…’ rather than ‘4 Chioces’ and if you’re proposing that these are ‘The’ 4 choices above all others, I honestly don’t know whether I’d agree or disagree with that – but they do seem like good candidates worth anyone pondering.

    I’m 1000% with you on small choices though & have written a few times on the merits and surprising results of making tiny decisions – and doing so confidently and often – this will give you far better results than worrying about big decisions.

    On a related point, when it comes to any discussion about choices or decisions, it’s worth considering confirmation bias – another very interesting subject – i.e. that most people when faced with any kind of choice at all, big or small, aren’t really looking for an objective, neutral choice, they are rather looking to validate a choice that in fact they were already leaning toward – particularly when concerning themselves and particularly when considering decisions related to the success of something like their business – but also in life.

    But back to small changes – making 20 small decisions that end up taking us to exactly the same place as 1 big one is often worth considering particularly if the big decision is a scary one and would lead to procrastination or excessive risk in any case.

    e.g. your choice to move from Houston could have been various ‘de-coupling’ choices from your previous situation or some tests (a sabbatical or holiday in Houston first) rather than one big move.

    • I can honestly say that I didn’t give much consideration to the word “the” at the beginning of the title. So I really didn’t put it there for one reason or another, it just sounded better to me.

      Anyway, about confirmation bias. Yeah, we should be aware of it when making choices. We should actually be aware of it in general because it can affect most areas of our lives.

  2. Great choices here!

    The people we associate with on a regular basis will greatly determine if we become successful or unsuccessful. It will also determine our well-being. We have to be wise about the people we chose to connect with and be friends with. Great post!

  3. Another take on this is that there’s one big choice – what you beleive. This could be specifically about yourself – a writer friend say that he’s been put here to write and that’s what he does and that guides other choices. Or it could be a more about faith or morals – I make choices based on the ehtical code I’ve signed up to.
    Whatever, I think you’re dead right about it being about the daily choices we make. Those reflect who we really are as well as inform who we are.

    • I think belief tends to be a gray area. Do we really have a choice about what we believe? How much come from your own decisions vs culture or life situation?

      It probably depends on the belief too. Religious and spiritual beliefs seem quite hard to change by choice. Other things like believing in yourself or in your abilities can be more of a choice – but those are not always easy either.

      I think choice is a factor in forming beliefs, but it’s not as if you choose to believe one thing over another and that’s how they form.

  4. Becky Page says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for yet another inspiring post. I will share it with all my friends as I think everything you’ve said is very true and does need to be reflected on from time to time in our lives.

    I wanted to raise one other small choice that we make all the time that impacts us in the same important way as you mention above and that is how we care for our physical self. I mean having another glass of wine, staying up half an hour later, eating that extra piece of cake all affect our self esteem, self respect and our ability to deal with life’s problems in a positive laid back way. I don’t know about you but I’m more likely to curse in front of my children for example if I bang my head when I have a hangover or am overtired or feeling unhappy with myself then if I’ve slept well, eaten well and not let my self down. You may well think that this falls into number 4 but I thought I’d mention it anyway just in case you agree it is relevant.

    Thanks again for your posts. I enjoy reading and reflecting on them very much.

    Best wishes x

    • Hi Becky,

      You make a good point. How we take care of ourselves can affect a wide area of our lives – not just as far as health goes. I know that getting into shape helped me build discipline and confidence. Eating better gives me more energy.

      I’ve actually been thinking lately about writing on a similar topic to this. It’s about what ways exercise can positively improve our lives. You’ve given me some more things to think on that subject.

      Thanks for the comment and for reading.

      Steve

  5. I’m definitely with Alan on his point on confirmation bias. Testimonials on a sales page, for example, assist someone making a choice to buy a product/service.

    For me, I choose not to spend my free time productively. My free time is defined as any time I’m not working, which means productivity doesn’t come into it – relaxing does! Consequently, I don’t have a lot of free time on a daily basis, but when it does come around – I’m using it to do nothing.

    My choice, right?!

    • If that’s the best use of your free time, than I’d say you’re using it productively. We all have to have downtime – I’m not always working or doing things either. I think what matters is making sure that you’re not wasting all the time you’re given.

  6. I agree it is definitely daily choices that make a huge impact in life. So often I hear people saying that they are stuck with their current situation, but it is actually their repeated actions that have them “locked” in.

    The hardest one for me is letting go of things that are out of my control. Sometimes I roll with the punches, but occasionally something the universe does strikes me as unbelievably unfair and it lingers. Once I do let it go … everything seems so much brighter.

    Knowing and doing are often two different things!

    • Wasn’t it Einstein that said “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again expecting to see different results?” That’s how I see being stuck too. Sometimes it’s our repeated actions that are causing that “locked in” feeling.

  7. My Grandfather always used to say “you are only about as happy as you allow yourself to be.” And he often said the same thing, but substituting the word “miserable” for “happy.” I’m pretty sure the original idea was Abraham Lincoln’s, but regardless – they are wise words. Life is all about choice – easy, hard, large, small and so on. We can choose to be happy, miserable – or whatever. Or we can choose not to be.

    I definitely agree that often it is the little choices we make daily that add up to huge differences in our lives. It’s easy to say we want to eat better or be more active, but that often seems overwhelming. Perhaps making one small change a day is the way to go – park far from the door at work, add a fruit or vegetable serving to just one meal, etc. Baby steps are still progress!

    • Eating healthy is a great example. If I usually eat poorly, I won’t be in as good of shape. If my daily habits are good, I’ll be healthier. All those little decisions add up.

      One small change at a time is good. Eventually all those incremental changes will build up. It’s like you’re snowballing all your efforts. Even with baby steps you can go far.

  8. Haha wow, I kind of got more and more into the post as each of the 4 choices came up. The last one is really the most important to me. As someone who focuses on meditation a great deal, I’ve noticed that all reactions are choices. You can CHOOSE not to react to negativity or slander…

  9. Hey man! I’m a bodybuilder! :)

    Glad to hear that from you. Great article!

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