Every little choice can lead to success – or away from it.
You are the sum of your choices, and most things you do during the workday are a choice.
I’m not talking about the big decisions – Do I take this job? Should I move to a new city? Am I in the right career?
I’m referring to the thousands of minute choices we make every moment of every workday. Do I work on this report or read espn.com? Do I call my colleague or go get another cup of coffee? Do I respond to this email now or keep scrolling through my inbox?
It’s those little choices that define who we are, if we’re successful at work, and if we’re happy.
I think a vital component of happiness is the satisfaction that comes from meaningful accomplishment. And achieving something significant requires us – in the moment – to choose to do the work we don’t necessarily want to do.
I see these choices falling into three big buckets:
- Choices where we take action.
- Choices where we do nothing.
- Choosing our attitude.
Your Actions are All a Choice
In every moment, of every day, of every week, of every year, you have an opportunity to make positive progress. What do you choose to do in those moments?
To accomplish anything worthwhile, things don’t magically happen. They happen because you make them happen. You must take action.
Much worthwhile work is not fun. As my wife says, “That’s why it’s called work!”
You must choose to do those things that aren’t fun. Most people don’t reach their potential because they choose to do the easy stuff and not the hard work.
- Park your seat in the chair and grind out the weekly report that you loathe writing.
- Make the phone call you’ve been putting off because it’s uncomfortable.
- Put on your yoga pants and get to the 6:30 am class, so you’re mentally prepared for the workday.
- Choose to be thoughtful in your tone and choice of words – even if you don’t feel like it.
Make the choice to delay gratification and do the hard work now.
Many people don’t reach their potential because they choose to do the easy stuff and not the hard work.
Doing Nothing is Also a Choice
When you don’t take action, that’s also a choice. You’re choosing the status quo. You’re choosing to put off something until tomorrow that you should probably do today.
When you choose to hit the snooze button, or binge-watch “90-day fiancé,” or read just-one-more set of Facebook comments, you are choosing to procrastinate. You are also choosing to not make headway on the work that enriches your life.
Why do we put things off?
This should be a longer article topic, but I think these three things are major contributors.
- Fear of failing and/or being judged.
People will evaluate our work. And somewhere deep in our brain, we may hold insecurities that push us away from the judgment. By doing nothing, we avoid evaluation and the potential pain of critique.
- Playing is more fun than working.
It’s more entertaining to consume an episode of South Park than to write a product specification.
- The world is designed to steal our attention.
The internet, phones, PCs, TV, social media, notifications… all are designed to grab our attention in small immediate chunks of time. Resist!
By the way, I’m all for intentionally doing nothing. To do our best work, we all need time to recharge our batteries. Plan that carved out time to relax and make it your deliberate choice.
Bonus: My favorite trick to stop-wasting-time
When I’m putting off doing something important but also difficult or tedious, I use this trick.
I tell myself I will do the difficult task for five minutes, and then I’ll stop.
And in the moment, I believe that I will actually stop. I figure I can endure anything for five minutes.
Well, you know what happens. 95% of the time, once I get started, I’m over the worst hump within the five minutes and use the momentum to make significant progress or even complete the task entirely.
Choose Your Attitude
This is the toughest of all choices.
Choosing your attitude even in the face of circumstances beyond your control.
It can be so so hard to stay positive when you get unlucky, or someone is being a jerk. You can’t control luck. You can’t control other people. But you can control your mindset.
I challenge you to do the following. The next time you’re thrown a curveball, you will stop. You will acknowledge that you’re upset. You’ll then dismiss that feeling, and you will choose to use the situation as an opportunity to overcome.
Don’t give other people the power to control your attitude. What did they do to earn that power? Why give it to them? Only you can manage your mindset and emotions. So do it.
Be aware that your everyday choices determine the path of your career and your successes. Be intentional about your choices – about what you do, what you don’t do, and your attitude throughout.
In 2018, I published my 11 most important lessons from Microsoft email, and over 25,000 people read it and forwarded it to their friends and colleagues. Many people asked me to write in more depth about the topics in the email, so that’s what I’m doing at AlexHinrichs.com.