Best Life: Do little choices really matter?

Do little choices really matter in creating your best life?

Absolutely!

Most people are familiar with the compounding effect of money, as it’s key to the long-term accumulation of wealth.  Saving a few hundred dollars each month grows into tens of thousands over time.  The principles of compounding also apply in every choice and every area of our lives, whether we like it or not.  Internalize the simple principles in this article and adopt them for a lifetime.  

When you do, you’ll more easily stay focused on what is most important to you and take the necessary action steps to realize your desires. Willingness is the key.

The compounding effect of choice is made up of two simple principles. The Mastery and Mediocrity diagram below illustrates this concept visually.  

Principle #1

“It is the simple disciplines (choices), that don’t seem to make any difference at all in the moment; HOWEVER repeated over time, the compounded affect makes all the difference in the world.”  

Principle #2

“It is the simple errors in judgment, that don’t seem to make any difference at all in the moment; HOWEVER repeated over time, the compounded affect makes all the difference in the world.”



 


Principle #1 in Action – “Simple Disciplines” – Look at the upper side of the graph above.  The x-axis on the diagram depicts the role of time, while the y-axis represents the growth in mastery or success of something important to you.  This could represent progress in your profession, leadership, relationships, health, mothering, creative expression or cultivating a sense of inner peace.  

Each tick mark in the diagram represents one action, or “one simple discipline” or “one simple choice.”  Unfortunately, the choices acted upon in the earlier stages don’t reflect much growth for quite awhile. Much like saving a few hundred dollars each month, it doesn’t SEEM to add up to much in the beginning stages. Without referencing this graph, it may feel discouraging and you may choose to quit before reaching your desired outcome.  However, if you were to continue repeating “it’s the simple disciplines (choices), that don’t seem to make any difference at all,” AND continued to take simple actions, the compounding effect would eventually kick in.  You would ultimately experience the growth and success you desire.  It’s simply a matter of time – AND CONSISTENT action.  How often do people quit when they are nearing the finish line?  

There are three important elements in the compounding effect of choice.

1. Compounding Effect – Your actions will ADD upon the others.  

2. Choice – ACTING or NOT ACTING is always a choice.  Choose consciously.  Frequency and effort make a difference.

3.  Time – Actions taken over time GROW.

This visual representation has proven useful to me throughout the last two decades and continues to keep me on track with important objectives.  Here’s one of the ways I used this principle to support my goal of fitness.   

Personal Story – When I lived in Dallas, I frequented the gym.  There were many days that I did NOT feel like going.  Once there, often times I didn’t feel like being there.  Can you relate? However, I simply repeated the following words in my head, over and over again. “It’s the simple disciplines, that don’t seem to make any difference at all, in the moment, but the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.”  Clearly, my one little workout wasn’t transforming my body into a Cindy Crawford.  I could see that each time I looked in the mirror.   It WAS discouraging in the moment.  However, I had faith in the process, and these simple words of wisdom.  I trusted the compounded effect of many workouts over time, combined with a matching nutrition regime, WOULD give me results. My current level of fitness is a clear reflection that the compounding effect of choice works!

Ultimately, the habit of working out became second nature, and I rarely need to repeat, “It’s the simple disciplines, that don’t seem to make any difference at all, in the moment, but the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.”  However, in the early days, I used it almost every day!

Brand this principle into your being, and use it anytime you feel discouraged or uninspired to act (I do!).  It’s a great reminder of the bigger picture.

Simple Disciplines – Simple Choices – Reflect upon the compounding effect for each of the simple choices below.  The principle applies well in health, relationships, business success, money, self-care, self-esteem and in evolving one’s Consciousness.  Even in caring for babies and toddlers, as I am now. The principle also applies in cultivating internal emotions and states of being, such as love, joy and inner peace.  Or the practice of being present. Anything repeated over time ultimately creates a compounded result.  What results in your life would you like to compound?

  • Reading 10 pages of a good book
  • Eating healthfully
  • Spending quality time with your children
  • Working out
  • A simple act of kindness
  • Saying, “I love you” to a loved one
  • Yoga or stretching
  • Meditating
  • Focusing on what you appreciate
  • Avoiding sugar or caffeine
  • Drinking a gallon of water per day
  • Saving money
  • Attending seminars
  • Listening to educational CD’s
  • Getting up early
  • Cleaning off your desk each day
  • Volunteering
  • Listening closely to others
  • One extra hour of work
  • Being honest
  • Being on time
  • Coaching
  • Pursuing a dream


“It is the simple disciplines (choices), that don’t seem to make any difference at all in the moment; HOWEVER repeated over time, the compounded affect makes all the difference in the world.”

Principle #2 in Action – “simple errors in judgment”:

If you want to successfully boil a frog, it’s best to turn the heat up over time or the frog will jump out and escape.  I wish no ill will to frogs, however it makes the point about “simple errors in judgment.”  These little actions or non-actions seem relatively harmless initially and for a period of time.  However, the compounding effect leads us to less pleasant results in our lives.  This is the model of mediocrity.

“It is the SIMPLE ERRORS in judgment, that don’t seem to make any difference at all in the moment, HOWEVER repeated over time, the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.”

This principle is clearly illustrated in the lower portion of the diagram above.  Again the x-axis depicts the role of time, while the y-axis represents the accumulated negative impact or atrophy resulting from specific habits.  The results range from mediocrity to disaster.  This graph may depict the negative compounding effect of actions or non-action in any of the categories named above.  I find it useful to apply this principle to the habits I want to change.

Each tick mark in the diagram represents one “simple error in judgment.”   As is the case in accumulating credit card debt, a little each month doesn’t seem like a big deal.  The negative consequences don’t appear to have much impact for quite awhile. Without referencing this graph, it may seem that watching two hours of mindless television each night isn’t hurting you in any way.   You may simply continue watching every day, while complaining about needing more time to pursue an important dream like writing a book.  Two hours of television is relatively harmless.  However, the compounding effect of this “simple error in judgment” translates to 728 hours of television per year!  That is over 30 full 24-hour days in a year! 

Remember these elements in the negative compounding effect of choice.    

1. Compounding Effect – Negative actions and non-actions ADD upon the others and create a cumulative effect.

2. Choice – ACTING or NOT ACTING is always a choice.  Choose consciously.  Frequency and lack of effort make a different.

3. Time – “Simple errors in judgment” create ATROPHY over time.

Examples of “Simple Errors in Judgment.” – Reflect upon the impact of the items I’ve included on the list below.  Some of these may initially appear harmless.   What consequences could result over time in compounding these “simple errors in judgment”?  What other “simple errors of judgment” would you add to this list?  This list is not intended to elicit feelings of guilt or remorse.  We have all exercised “simple errors in judgment.”  Use this list to stimulate awareness.  In later chapters, you may or may not consciously decide to address something from this list.

  • Watching mindless television
  • Not saving money
  • Spending more than you earn
  • Being late
  • Complaining
  • Gossiping
  • Eating a cheeseburger or fries
  • Overeating
  • Spending time with negative people
  • Dwelling on negative thoughts
  • Interrupting people
  • Not being fully present when listening
  • Speeding
  • Smoking or using drugs
  • Disorganization
  • Listening to loud, abrasive music
  • Staying up late or sleeping in
  • Excessive time on the internet or Facebook
  • Not working out
  • Not being friendly with others
  • Criticizing yourself or others
  • Procrastination
  • Maintaining a stressful lifestyle
  • Not taking personal time for yourself
  • Laziness – performing below your capacity
  • Not expressing appreciation to your partner
  • Time in a dead-end job
  • Too many desserts or candy
  • Arguing


Contrast and Compare – Another way to use this model is to compare a “simple discipline” or “simple error in judgment” with another.  

If you read 10 pages of a good book today, and I don’t, the difference between you and I on that day is pretty negligible.  In fact, after a month, the difference is still not that great.  However, if you continue to read 10 pages of a good book each day for the next ten years, the difference between you and I will be CONSIDERABLE.  If you focused your attention in a specific area of focus over that ten-year period, it’s likely that you would be an expert in your field.
 
If I eat one ice cream bar today, and you don’t, the difference in our level of health is not very significant.  However, if I eat an ice cream bar every day for a whole year, and you don’t – all things being equal – there will likely be a CONSIDERABLE difference in our health.  

Cumulative Discipline – Generally, it’s not just about the ONE single discipline, or ONE simple error of judgment.  Some of our choices support our growth, and some don’t.  Becoming aware of these choices is the first step.  Seeing a visual representation of their respective impact is also useful in fine-tuning our choice points.  There will be numerous simple disciplines you’ll apply over and over again on your path of personal and spiritual growth.  Enjoy the journey.

Portions of this article taken from Chapter 3 – The Power of Inner Choice by Mary Allen.  Explore 12 Fundamental Choices that will forever change the way you make choices and experience life.  Order your copy today, if it isn’t already a part of your personal growth library.

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