What Drives Your Decisions?

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I recently read a quote that stated,

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now
and what you want most.”

I found this really interesting for a few reasons.

First, it reminds me of the marshmallow experiment conducted by Stanford back in 1972, where they gave children aged three to six years old a single marshmallow. They were told that if they waited for a period of time they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. In the follow-up studies, it was found that the children who waited (delayed gratification) tended to have better life outcomes in the areas of SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures.

Take what you will from that original experiment, because later studies including a more diverse cohort have shown that economic background, rather than willpower, has just as much to do with delayed gratification.

The second reason I found this quote interesting is that it brings into sharp focus that choices we make each day. So often we decide to do something that will make us happy in the moment, without regard for the future implications. For example, I may want to make a joke so I feel like a part of the crowd. But what if my joke offends someone? In my spontaneous quest to be funny and likable, I neglected to see beyond my own desire to realize I could hurt someone else’s feelings.

And the third reason I find this quote so interesting is that it illustrates that we often don’t even consider our own futures when we decide to do what we do.

Let me explain. Most of us set goals for ourselves. Typical examples include losing weight, eating healthy, saving money, spending quality time with family, doing meditation.

But what happens when we find ourselves in the cross-hairs of a jelly doughnut, or a great sale, or a happy hour with coworkers, or any other temptation?

How do we approach these temptations? What concessions do we make? What bargains do we propose to ourselves? How do we rationalize that it is ok to just make this one exception?

All of these cases, the marshmallow test, the insensitive joke, and the goals we set, if we want to achieve a successful outcome, boil down to one thing: discipline.

Discipline brings stability and structure into our lives, reducing chaos and confusion.

Discipline teaches us to be responsible and respectful, minimizing impulsiveness and petulance.

Discipline promotes good behavior and keeps us in line with our greatest goals, not just grabbing the low hanging fruit right before our eyes.

So how do we decide to make the choices that bring us closer to our goals and not further away from them? How do we discipline ourselves looking beyond what we want right now, and visualizing  what we want most?

That, dear readers, is for you to decide.

 Your Mindful Moment:

To get the things we really want most in life, we must be bold in setting goals, consistent in taking action, and disciplined in making decisions.

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