Every day we are faced with countless choices. Minute by minute we make decisions, some big some small. Many decisions seem insignificant, like what to wear, what to have for breakfast, or what time to go to bed. We may not recognize those little things as decisions. But they are decisions, nonetheless.
In order to cope with the sheer volume of decisions we face daily, we go on autopilot. This autopilot is neither “good” nor “bad”. The decisions we make while on autopilot can take us closer to or further away from the kind of life we want to live.
If our autopilot is focused primarily on this moment, without taking into account the bigger picture we will take the path of least resistance. We will seek immediate comfort over long-term satisfaction. This is what I call “unconscious” decision-making.
How Unconscious Decisions Impact Our Lives
They might seem insignificant, but these little decisions add up! Over time, our small choices have a cumulative impact on our lives.
For example, if we want to be healthy, what we have for breakfast each morning and what time we go to bed each night can have a big impact on our health over time.
Even though one bowl of sugary cereal looks innocent enough, we might notice a decline in our health over time if we choose that for breakfast every morning.
Staying up an hour later than we planned might seem like a good idea at the time because we could get some extra work done, but over time that lack of sleep adds up. It can impact our ability to focus and take a toll on our bodies.
When we don’t have a direction or game plan for our life, we are like flotsam and jetsam on the ocean. We’re tossed and turned by the waves, winds, and currents. We are adrift, floating unconsciously through our daily lives.
In the meanwhile, time is passing and decision by decision we are creating our lives. Whether we acknowledge ownership for those decisions or not, they are shaping the quality of our life.
Where the Path of Least Resistance Leads
Unconscious decision-making inevitably leads us away from what we truly want.
It’s easier to eat fast food for breakfast than to plan and make a healthy breakfast.
It’s easier to stay up late watching TV, reading, or playing video games while ignoring how you will feel in the morning.
In short, we push the “EASY” button.
In modern culture, we have elevated comfort to be a goal or even the purpose of life.
We seek homes that are the epitome of comfort-climate controlled, big, and separate from others. We choose furniture designed for lounging and technology designed to serve and entertain us. Our extreme attachment to comfort leads to stagnation. There is little growth (except to our waistlines) in comfort, little vitality, and little meaning.
So, what’s the alternative?
Seek Meaning over Comfort
People who live highly fulfilling and meaningful lives embrace challenge. They seek meaning over comfort
The answer is living consciously or living by a framework that guides your actions and decisions.
What does that mean?
They know what they want in life, and they make decisions that will keep them in line with that desire. They have guiding principles to help them make choices.
If they want to be healthy, they choose healthy meals and go to bed on time.
If they want a clean and clutter-free home, they avoid buying things they don’t really want or need.
Thinking hard about every single tiny decision would be overwhelming! Luckily, there’s a shortcut to simplify the decision-making process.
They have a new compass so when they are on autopilot they are headed to true north. That way, they don’t have to start over every time they make a small decision. Choosing meaning over comfort is less of a struggle.
For another example, imagine taking college courses when you don’t have a major yet. You might enroll in lots of different courses willy-nilly, but they don’t add up to anything that will actually get you a degree.
Once you decide on a major or an overarching meaning for your education, suddenly choosing courses becomes easy. You know where you are heading and what will contribute to you amassing knowledge that will serve you in your future career. You have a framework to guide you.
Conscious living is that simple. It’s living by a framework.
When we put a high premium on our minute to minute comfort, we forsake the deep satisfaction that comes from choosing to advance a higher purpose.
I have found that when I am unclear about what I want in my life or what is most important to me, I am more prone to make decisions that do not further my highest and greatest well-being.
For example, if I’m driving and traffic comes to a standstill, I might feel trapped and feel stressed about getting to my destination on time. I might think negative thoughts about other drivers or about my day going forward.
However, if I wake-up from my unconscious state and tune into my guiding framework of love and acceptance, I relax. I appreciate my surroundings. I send energetic love to the other drivers and wish them happiness.
This doesn’t alter the time that I get to my destination, but it certainly shifts my state of mind, from cursed to blessed, from captive to free, from closed to open.
What is your guiding framework?
Think about what you want in life. This doesn’t have to be a grand purpose. It can be as simple as “I want to feel healthy and alert.” That framework takes care of a lot of your everyday decisions.
Maybe you want to save money to purchase your dream home.
Maybe you want to be kind and be of service to others.
Maybe you want to write the novel you’ve always wanted to write.
Once you have an intention, you can make decisions that take you closer to where you want to go.
Remember, you can always correct course or even change course. You can choose a different path if the one you have chosen is not serving you. That’s okay!
Part of conscious living is knowing that you are free, and free to decide!