Decide to Decide

Fork in the Road

Fork in the road

What if there was a key behavior that if you could master, would save you untold pain, worry, effort and time? What if this behavior could make your efforts to achieve total self-mastery ten times easier? Today I’m going to teach you a simple concept that seems to elude most people, yet is so simple.

One thing you share in common with nearly every one else is that your day is full of decisions. Dozens of times a day you are faced with a fork in the road and must decide which way to go. Humans are naturally lazy creatures so when you are faced with two choices you tend to gravitate toward the easiest path. Why choose the long, hard road when you can take the short, easy one? Or why do something when you just don’t feel like it? As you stand there at the fork in the road and evaluate the situation, the pull to the easy road becomes powerfully strong. More often than not, if you are like the average person, you are sucked into the easy road.

The problem here is that the easy road is not always the best road to follow in the long run. In our minds we know which road is the best road but somehow we end up going the wrong way. What I am explaining here is the answer to a long held question. It is:

“Why do we do what we do when we know what we know?”

In other words, why do people do things they know aren’t good for them? The answer is because we are making our decisions at the wrong time. We are making our decisions when we are standing at the fork in the road.

Let me give you an example. If every morning you make the decision of whether to get up or not at the time your alarm clock goes off, you are making that decision at the fork in the road. In your mind you are deliberating, “Should I get up? Should I sleep for ten more minutes? I’m so tired! Just a few more minutes of sleep.” And back to bed you go.

Do you see the problem here? The time to make the decision of when to get up in the morning is not at 6:00 in the morning!

“Right decisions are easiest to make when we make them well in advance, having ultimate objectives in mind; this saves a lot of anguish at the fork, when we’re tired and sorely tempted.” – Spencer W. Kimball

There are dozens of decisions we face every day that should already have been decided long ago. We shouldn’t have to agonize and re-decide the same decisions a hundred times! Many of these decisions only need to be made once. This statement by William James describes it so well:

“There is no more miserable person than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work are subjects of deliberation. Half the time of such a man goes to deciding or regretting matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.” — William James

The whole point we are trying to make is to determine early on what things you will and will not do and be done with it. Look at your long-term objectives and make the decisions now that will lead you in that direction. You only need to make those decisions once.

For example, my wife made the decision long ago that she will go out running every morning, no matter what. There is no deciding each morning as to whether she is going running or not. That decision has already been made. There is no painful deliberation and analyzing that takes place. It is as automatic for her as the rising of the sun each day.

Now I want you to think about the decisions you make on a daily basis. Aren’t there a number of them you could make once and for all and be done with them? Aren’t there decisions about what you will eat or not eat, decisions about exercising, decisions about daily habits, decisions about all kinds of things that you can make once and forever be done with them?

I challenge you to consciously examine your life and make this one key behavior change. Examine each fork in the road you come across on a daily basis and see which ones you can decide once and for all. You will be so much further along the road to self-mastery.

“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.” — Aneurin Bevan

What are your thoughts about making decisions once and for all? What are the ones you have the biggest challenges with? Have you found ways to make this process easier? Please share with us in the comments below.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Habits – The Software of Your Mind

MindsoftwareLet’s talk about habits. What are habits? I’ve been in the computer industry for nearly twenty years and I’ve written over a million lines of software code in that period of time. I understand how a computer works. I understand software. I know how a program works. A program is simply a set of instructions that tell the computer what to do. The computer can make decisions and perform operations based on those instructions. You can load different programs in a computer and it will follow different instructions depending of what program you have loaded.

Like a Player Piano

I kind of relate it to a player piano when I try to explain software to people. When I was a kid our family had a player piano. We had a lot of fun with it. It wasn’t electric so we had to sit at the piano and pump the pedals with your feet to get the air going which made the piano go. In the piano you would put a roll, a piano roll. It sort of looked like a paper towel roll almost. Actually more like a scroll. In this paper were punched little holes. Depending on where these holes were punched in the paper, that would determine what notes would play and how long the holes were would determine how long the note would play.

So you could take a piano roll and put it in the piano and it would play a song. You could take out that roll and put another one in and it would play a different song because it was a different set of instructions. That is similar to how a computer program works.

Like a Computer Program

You can install a computer program in a computer and it’s a set of instructions and it tells the computer what to do in given situations depending on the inputs that are given. Now a computer is a little more sophisticated than a player piano. A computer can detect mouse movements, it can detect keyboard input and it can detect a number of other things and make decisions based upon those inputs. A computer program can read data from files that are stored on the hard drive and make decisions dependent on the data.

Our brains are much more sophisticated than any player piano or any computer that exists on this earth. But there are some similarities between how computers work and how our minds work.

With a computer you don’t have to tell it every little thing it does. You give it some instructions or commands and it does a whole lot of things under the covers that you never see. It executes millions of instructions that you will never even know about. Our brains are the same way.

We don’t have to tell our brain to move every little muscle in order to walk or in order to pick up a pencil. We just think, “pick up a pencil” and our conscious mind sends a command to our subconscious mind and our subconscious mind takes care of all the nitty-gritty details. I don’t know how many muscles control a hand, but all we have to do is give the command to pick up the pencil and our subconscious mind takes care of all of the little details of picking up a pencil. It’s because we have learned it in the past. There’s a pattern or program in there that says execute “Pick Up Pencil” program and it runs that program and all the little details are taken care of and our hand moves and based on input, our sight, our touch, our hand is able to move towards the pencil, grasp it and pick it up without us even thinking about it – its’ running a program!

We Wrote the Software!

Inside of our minds are millions of programs, millions of programs that we have written ourselves. The software of our brains – We Wrote! These programs are called habits. This is called learning. When you learn something what you have really done is you have created a program in your mind.

When you learn to golf, to hit the ball, to hit that long drive and you practiced over and over again – what you were doing is you were creating a program in your mind so that the next time that you stand up to the tee and you grab that same golf club and you put the same ball down and you get into the exact same situation, then your mind suddenly says, “Ah! Run the program to drive the golf ball.” You have pre-programmed that so you don’t have to think about, “Where do I put my foot? Where do I put my hands? How do I swing?” It’s already there and you just run this program and whammo, you hit the ball and there it goes. You don’t have to re-learn it all again because you have created a program in your mind.

There are millions of programs in your mind that you have created. Some of those are good programs and some are bad. But they all are programs and that is what we call ‘habits.’

Habits

Now, a habit is sort of like a flywheel. Once you get the flywheel going it doesn’t take much effort to keep it going. Once you create a habit it doesn’t take much effort to repeat that habit again and again. To stop it is very difficult. To change it is very difficult. We have to erase the pattern, erase the program and create a new one. This is how habits work in our minds and the idea is that we can be the programmer of the software of our minds.

Reprogramming Our Minds

Now a lot of the software or programs in our minds were created without us even thinking about it, without even trying, especially the bad habits, the bad programs. But guess what – we are the programmers and we can reprogram our minds, we can recreate those programs the way we want them to be. We don’t have to let it automatically happen. We don’t have to put up with these programs or habits that are in our minds. We can change the software of our brains.

That is an astounding thing to think about. That is a gift that we have that animals and other creatures don’t have. They follow instinct. They come to this earth with most of their programs pre-written. For example, take a newborn horse or deer. Within a matter of hours after birth they are standing up and walking around. How long does it take for a human to walk? A year? Most everything we do we have to learn and program ourselves or learn from our parents. Most of the animal kingdom comes to this earth with nearly everything pre-programmed into their minds, into their brains. Humans do not.

Triggers

These programs that we have inside of our minds – how do they run? What makes them run? On a computer you can enter a command. DELETE FILE, COPY FILE, EDIT FILE, etc. Or run a program by typing the name of the program on a command line or by clicking on its icon.
Inside each of us are commands or triggers, however you want to call them – conditions that then set off the programs – a set of conditions that then tells your mind to do a certain thing, to run a certain program.

Friend of Foe?

When we think about these habits that we have, sometimes we tend to think about habits as negative, bad things. We think of them in a way that makes habits seem undesirable. But habits, in and of themselves are not bad. They are neither friend nor foe, they are neither negative nor positive. It’s our use of habits and our control and development of habits that determine whether they will be beneficial or detrimental to us.

We can use habits. They are powerful. We can let habits control us – we can be bound by our habits or we can use habits to benefit us. It’s sort of like fire. Fire can be used for good or evil. Fire of itself is not good or evil. A fire can burn down a home and yet a fire in a fireplace can keep you warm and keep you alive. Just as fire is not evil or good, neither are our habits. Habits are not evil or good. It’s how we use them that make them bad or good.

Daily Routines

A very simple example of a program that you have inside of you is this, at least if you are like me and put on pants and a belt every day. I want you to think about how you put on your belt. Usually you just grab your belt and you put it on. You don’t have to think about it. Usually you put it on one certain way-either you start it going through your left belt loop or you start it going through your right belt loop. Whichever way you do it, try doing it the opposite way. Take your belt off and put it on in the opposite direction around your pants and see how that feels.

This new way is something you don’t have programmed into your mind and so you have to think about every little thing. You have to think about which loop to put it through. You have to think about how to do it. When you put your belt on the other way you don’t have to think about anything, you just run the program – it’s already programmed inside. You may not even realize you have put your belt on because it is so automatic. But when you do it the opposite direction it’s difficult, it’s weird, it doesn’t feel natural. But if you did that for thirty days, every day put on your belt the opposite direction, eventually you will have programmed your mind and then you won’t have to think about it any more. You have created a habit in your mind. You have programmed your mind.

What Does it All Mean?

So what does this mean to us? How can we use this information? It is my belief that there are many aspects about our personality that we just accept as just being the way we are, when, in fact, it is simply a program that was created unintentionally long ago. I believe we can change any aspect about ourselves. I believe we can re-program the software of our minds. At a later time I will explore this concept and talk about the methods and processes for doing it. Until then, pay attention to programs you run every day in your mind and know that they can be changed.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Judging Others – A Lesson in the Desert

The Biker

Several years ago I decided to make the long trip to southeastern Arizona to visit my father. We had a nice visit and when it was time for me to drive home I decided to take a different route home to see some of the country I hadn’t seen before.

The Breakdown

My trip across the desert was going fine until I made a stop and saw steam coming from the engine of my car. I added water to the radiator and tried to continue on but before long the engine began steaming and overheating again. I tried that remedy a few more times but realized I would never make it home at that rate. I limped into the next small town and talked to a mechanic. It turned out my water pump was going bad. Unfortunately they were closing in a half hour and told me they couldn’t help me.

I had tools with me so I thought I would try and replace the water pump myself. I bought one at the local auto parts store and then looked for a place I could work on my car. I found an abandoned rest-stopa mile or so outside of town and pulled into the empty parking lot and began to work on my car.

To my dismay, I couldn’t loosen the bolts on the water pump. I tried and tried but they just wouldn’t give. The sun was about to go down and I was getting very discouraged. I just wanted to get home and it didn’t look like I was going to make it.

The Stranger

As I was standing there, staring at my engine, I heard the sound of a motorcycle. I looked up and saw a man on a Harley Davidson heading in my direction across the empty parking lot. He was wearing a leather vest, leather pants, a bandanna on his head, earrings in his ears, various tattoos on his body, and chains hanging off his clothes.

I assessed the situation. Here I was all alone in the middle of nowhere and here was this man coming towards me that didn’t look like the kind of guy I wanted to meet up with. I remember thinking to myself, “I am going to die right here!” I was sure he must be carrying a gun and was going to rob me and then shoot me, execution style. My wife was going to be a widow. My kids where going to be fatherless. I even started imagining what my funeral was going to be like. I was scared!

He parked his Harley nearby and walked over towards me. I was bracing for the worst.

He asked me, “What seems to be the problem?”

The Near-Death Experience

“Oh,” I thought, “he’s just softening me up before robbing and killing me.” I told him my situation and instead of killing me, he helped me. I was shocked! He told me to loosen the radiator cap just enough to let the pressure off the cooling system and I should be able to make it home fine. And guess what, that’s exactly what I did and it worked just as he said. I made it home without further problems.

I remember as I was driving home how bad I felt that I had misjudged this man. He was really a very nice guy – just a bit different than me in his choice of clothing and jewelry. It taught me a great lesson to not be so quick in judging others just because they may be different than me in some way. It taught me that I need to be more accepting of people for who they are.

The Challenge

My challenge to you is to be more aware of how you are treating others. Do you treat all people with equal respect and kindness or are there some groups that you tend to treat differently than others? Ask yourself why that is and resolve to change. Work more on being inclusive, not exclusive. Look past the differences and see the common good in all.