384. What’s important to you?

384. What’s important to you?

If it is important, you will find a way, if not, you’ll find an excuse.   Anon

It has long been said that we humans are rational beings. I don’t know if this is universally true but what I do know is that we humans are unquestionably rationalizing beings.

We are brilliantly creative when it comes to rationalizing, justifying or simply explaining why we did, or didn’t, do something.

Last week we revisited the idea that we only ever do one thing – we do what is most important to us in the moment.

And experience has taught many of us that decisions made based on importance in the moment are often not the best decisions.

We have all said yes when we should’ve said no, we have all chosen the TV and the couch over the gym and the treadmill and decided that coffee with a friend was time better spent than managing the potential rejection that sometimes accompanies sales calls.

So, if we do what we do based on what we feel to be most important in the moment, how do we decide on importance?

The answer is both simple and complex: we do what we do to either gain pleasure or avoid pain.

On the surface this is seemingly simple, but our decisions around importance are heavily influenced by another factor – time.

Let’s use an example familiar to many – losing weight. Let’s say we have established a goal of losing 40 pounds and chosen the method of getting there. That goal is distant, somewhere out in the future.

We are in a restaurant at lunch time today. As we peruse the menu our eyes are drawn to the broad selection of pizza. We notice the server delivering pizza to the next table and it looks delicious.

Really delicious.

We have done well. We have dutifully followed the program and when we stepped on the scale this morning we were down 7 pounds. We’re off to a great start, aren’t we?

Pizza is not on the program but surely, having pizza today and then really redoubling our efforts tomorrow is not such a bad thing, is it?

Standing on a scale when we have lost the 40 pounds is going to bring us a great deal of pleasure. The feelings of victory and confidence and just general pride are going to be amazing. But that’s in the future and the pizza is in the now.

Saying no to the pizza and ordering the salad is somewhat painful and not really what we want to do in this moment.

Ordering, and then devouring the pizza will bring us a great deal of pleasure right now.

And so we order the pizza. And enjoy every mouthful.

And by so doing we have traded – or delayed – what we want (40-pound weight loss) for what we want NOW, which is pizza.

We chose immediate gratification at the possible expense of future pleasure.

How many of us have been (repeatedly) guilty of this practice?

So, if we truly are serious about that 40-pound weight loss in the prescribed time we must make its attainment more important than pizza, ice cream and beer.

There are three questions that, if we habitually ask ourselves, and then pay attention to the answers, we will hugely increase the likelihood of achieving our goals.

The first question is, “What am I focusing on right now?”  Pizza? Salad?

The second question, “Is what I am focusing on moving me towards or away from where I want to be?”

Our answer to the second question will determine whether we even need to ask the third.

If the answer to question 2 is, “Yes, my focus is moving me toward where I want to be”, there is no need for the final question; order the salad and enjoy.

However, if what you are focusing on (pizza) is moving you away from where you want to be, you need to immediately change your focus. And whether you do this or not will depend on how badly you want that 40-pound weight loss.

When you finally tell the server your choice, you will know whether losing that weight is something that would be nice to have or something that you absolutely must have.

Some would call this a conundrum, others call it choice.

Till we read again.

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