We’ve all done it, open the fridge for something to eat we look past all the fresh fruit and vegetables, all the healthy stuff, and instead pluck the chocolate cake. Leaving work we plug in our sat nav and two destinations pop up; the pub or the gym. We know the choice we should make and we know the choice we are more likely to make. Choices are the enabler of a decision that is more likely to be costly to our wellbeing.
I eat a lot of crap food, mainly out of boredom and a lack of self discipline. I can remind myself it is not worth eating that huge chocolate bar, consuming a family size bag of tortillas, or drinking that can of coke, and often that is enough to prevent me poisoning myself. No matter how often I tell myself this though, I always revert back to eating crap, because I have the choice.
I sit on the sofa considering going and doing something active, maybe even just a short walk or even a good climbing session. The choice is hard because I’m comfy and there’s that new episode of Breaking House Of Orange Narcos Thrones is on, the fridge isn’t far away and I have that six-pack of beer to deal with.
I like to attribute my poor choices in this respect to boredom, laziness, or lacking self discipline, but recently I have been wondering is there something else at place. Something less obvious that is overlooked because it appears harmless, and I have settled upon choices.
I read about a care home where the residents began moving the furniture in their rooms around to arrange the layout the way they each individually wanted it. The care home staff were fine with this but didn’t want the residents getting hurt moving around the furniture and so they offered to move the furniture around however the resident wanted it. The residents turned around and said they didn’t want to be told they could do something, they were independent and capable people, with the ability to make their own choices and they continued to defy the staff, even though the staff were happy with the furniture being moved.
This is a great example of the the danger that comes with choices, being able to make your own decisions is often more important than the result of those decisions, even if the result comes at a cost. The residents were willing to risk injury by moving heavy furniture because all they really cared about was having the choice and taking action on it.
When there are snacks in my house they get eaten, because they are there and I can eat them because I have the power of choice and I am a grown adult who can make their own decisions. The moment there isn’t a snack in the house I grumble a bit and consider going out to get something but then I remind myself I could just eat an apple or something else healthy and I’ll be sorted. In most cases I want a snack because I am bored – usually a distraction magically makes my craving disappear. The best case is the poor choice is not available so I forget about it and go on with my day.
If I said you had won a prize, a mystery box, you would be happy and take your prize away to enjoy. If I said you had won a prize and all you needed to do now was choose between mystery box A and mystery box B, you would have a choice to make. The choice comes with a range of emotions and unnecessary stress that you wouldn’t have if you did not have to make a choice.
The trick to making the right choice is to make a decision. It might be wrong or it might be right, it might be good but could have been better, the point is that making decisions on your choices is where the reward really comes in. Assess the known factors and make a judgement call, settle your mind with the fact that you might not make the right choice but do yourself a favour and don’t dwell on the decision or the outcome. Often decisions are final and when you make peace with that you let peace into your life.
Taking choices off the table is one option but better yet is not allowing those choices on the table in the first place. Holding yourself accountable works only for a short time, being held accountable by friends is better. Real friends are ruthless, they don’t care how much you might get frustrated at their efforts to compel you to do the right thing and make the right choice, because they know you can’t be mad at them forever and you’ll share a laugh about it later. Having an accountability buddy, or accountabilibuddy, is the best way to ignore the bad choices in the first place. Set real and serious stakes with your buddy and tell them if you don’t make the right choice that they make good on the stake – you’ll never fail to make the right choice again.