In our culture, convenience is the supreme shaper of individual decisions. At least, that’s what law professor Tim Wu argues in the Feb. 18, 2018, edition of the New York Times Sunday Review. In his article, “The Tyranny of Convenience,” Wu writes that “convenience is all destination and no journey.” Wu suggests that resisting convenience takes a special kind of dedication. He also raises an important question: What is the cost of our collective default to convenience, both to ourselves as individuals and to us as a country?
In my work with hundreds of clients, both in psychotherapy and other settings, I’ve seen how a conscious and active relationship to the way we make decisions is essential to experiencing life as purposeful and our selves as authentic. Convenience can be helpful when it is consciously chosen. Too often, though, it is a habitual default. Unconscious defaults negatively impact our capacity to be the primary shapers of our own lives.
In modern life, we have more choice than ever before. Does so much choice put each of us in a better position to skillfully make decisions? Do more options create a sense of greater volition? Probably not. Having too many options can actually hamper good decision-making. Generally, the more options we have available, the more we’re likely to choose easy defaults that present themselves. But when we unconsciously choose convenience, we miss an opportunity to practice skillful decision making.
Making wise decisions requires two things: consciously reducing the amount of choice to be made and, importantly, practicing intentional choosing.
Shape your life by simplifying your decisions. Consciously reduce the number of choices you make, and routinize decisions by becoming a minimalist most of the time. For example, determine in advance what you wear and eat during the work week, how and when you exercise, and what you do for other forms of self-care. This way, you can better prioritize making other choices, especially challenging ones, while still implementing good decisions around healthy living. Enjoy spontaneity and new experiences when you have the time, energy, and quality of presence to appreciate them!
To reduce the number of decisions you need to make throughout your day, it is helpful to begin your morning with a one-minute reflection on what choices, if any, you want to focus on that day. Be specific if you can. Of course, unexpected and urgent things may come up that need attention. But having clarity approaching your day helps you stay on track. A less cluttered mind helps you to be more responsive to whatever arises that needs your attention and helps you to set limits around it.
Are you more attracted to things than experiences? Notice if a lot of energy is directed toward bright, shiny objects instead of choices that enrich your life. Bright, shiny objects are anything that compels you but is ultimately empty because it doesn’t enrich you. It might be the latest technology apps, fashion trends, ideas, or person du jour. If you find yourself distracted by shiny objects, it may be because you have difficulty making and enacting decisions that would help you experience yourself as authentic and your life as purposeful. Focus within, not outside yourself, to prioritize your choices.
When you practice skillful decision-making, endless options are no longer a distraction or a pull. Instead, you come to perceive options relative to your value-inspired goals and trust your ability to create options and make important decisions.
Practice bringing increased awareness to how you make decisions. Evaluate and learn from the decisions you make. Prioritize those decisions that are in line with your values and aspirations. Live simply, routinizing decisions that are a necessary part of everyday life. Don’t accumulate material things or experiences that require energy to sustain but don’t meaningfully add to your life. Be willing to take risks in your decision-making for the sake of what is most important to you.
Above all, choose wisely as to what you wish to bring into your life.
Be an active participant in the decisions that shape your life in a way that actually reflects what matters most to you. As a result, you will experience yourself as authentic, and your life as purposeful.
*Originally published on Sivana East.