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Keep your doing and your deciding away from each other

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There’s something liberating about being told what to do. It lets you focus on the doing.

This is another one of those countless truths that I sensed but never articulated until a real-life example made it clear.

Historically, my relationship to the fitness “wagon” has been spotty. Many times in my adult life, I strung together a stretch of regular workouts for a couple of months, and made progress, but it always felt like I was close to falling off.

It was always the same thing that unseated me. I would begin to doubt whether my chosen regimen was sensible, and that made it hard to throw myself into it physically. I’d wonder whether I was doing too little and not really getting anywhere, or the opposite — setting the pace so high that I would inevitably start compromising. At some point, I’d always begin to wonder whether I should make an adjustment to my targets or my number of sets or rest times or something. Soon it would be impossible to stick to the program, because I no longer know what the program was.

Until recently, the intermittence of my workout habits was never a big problem because my job had been physical enough to keep me in shape. Now I work from home, which can become an extremely sedentary lifestyle if you don’t deliberately include daily physical activity. I went from walking miles a day, with equipment on my shoulder, to a twenty-five-foot indoor commute.

For the first time, I’m doing a regular workout that I don’t have to fight myself over. I have almost no resistance to it. My success has something to do with the fact that this time I’m taking orders from a computer program.

Going with the principle of “The best workout is the one you can stick to,” I decided to begin with the arbitrary but attractive goal of a hundred pushups in one session, using a much-downloaded “100 pushups” app on my phone. You start with an initial test, type in your results, and then it prescribes how many reps to do each set, and counts the rest time down for you. It charts your progress in a graph.

It’s not high fitness science and I understand that. I’m fully aware there may be better programs, but any doubt in my regimen is trumped by the undeniable fact that it is working — my reps-per-day graph is snaking steadily upward, I’m looking and feeling better, and I’m never tempted to miss a workout. I’ve never experienced this kind of consistency and confidence in my workout routine. Now that I’ve established this consistency I can scale up the volume. I’m going to start doing kettlebell squats in the same way.

The doubt that normally sinks my fitness efforts is absent this time because it’s always clear what to do. Press the “Begin” button. Shoot for the targets it tells you. Keep your form good. Enter your results. Repeat the workout if you have to. The wondering is gone, and that removes a certain shakiness from my muscles. 

Where doubt comes from

This kind of clarity is beautiful and powerful, and I want to have it in every aspect of my life. As generally defiant of authority as I am, it turns out I love being told what to do if what I’m being told to do is something that works. It doesn’t even have to be the most efficient or helpful path to my goal as long as it moves me toward it without the constant backpedaling. It’s a very empowering position — to be in a place where you know that all you have to do is do.

Doubt is the real work-stopper, and that happens when you’re deciding what to do, not when you’re doing it. If doubt seems to hinder you while you’re working, it’s because you either haven’t decided what to do yet, or you’re letting yourself reconsider your decision while you’re supposed to be carrying it out.

When it comes to actually getting something done, it makes all the difference in the world to have the decision of what to do already made, whether it was your decision or someone else’s. In the case of my return to fitness, what a relief it is to know I’m almost guaranteed to move steadily toward my goal if I just follow the program. It’s like a yellow brick road. There’s no more trickiness or ambivalence about it, just pushups.

With all of my goals, I want the doing aspect to be as separate as possible from the question of what I should be doing. They’re both essential parts of getting something done, but they need to be done at different times.

Decision points are momentum killers. They’re the moments where high-level doubt about your actions can establish itself. In thirty seconds you can go from doing, to wondering whether you should be doing something else instead, to wondering where this particular plan went wrong, to wondering where your life went wrong. Being uncertain of what to do right now often means you won’t do anything right now, and years can go by that way.

It makes sense, then, to keep your decision-making time separate from your doing time whenever possible, as a rule. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of simply asking myself whether I am, at this moment, 1) making decisions, or 2) acting on decisions I’ve already made. It’s easy to slip into a stuttering kind of mode where you’re trying to do both, which feels about as comfortable and efficient as tying your shoes while you’re running.

Making a yellow brick road

This insight is the reason Getting Things Done, David Allen’s wildly popular workflow system, finally clicked this year after about five years of missing the point. Deciding and doing are two totally different modes of work. But nobody teaches us to distinguish them, and so all the stuff we have to do seems so complicated and fraught with uncertainty that the actual doing itself seems hard — when in fact all work consists of single actions that can be dispatched fairly quickly once the deciding has been done.

Ideally, when you’re at your desk, you’re either defining your work, or you’re doing work you’ve defined already. If you’re not sure which one you’re doing, you’re probably treading water.

Questions requiring a decision do pop up in the middle of “doing” sessions all the time. But most of them can wait. I write them on an index card and drop them in my inbox and get back to what I was doing. Every day or two, I consciously switch modes and look at the stuff in my box, and decide what to do about it. There is a time to wonder and doubt and consider changing approaches, but it’s not allowed to marble itself into my “doing time” any more.

My silly phone app represents an ideal level of clarity for getting to a goal. The doing is totally defined already and I can see that I’ll get there. The only decision I had to make was whether to go with the program or not.

For more complex goals (say, switching careers) a phone app isn’t going to spell everything out. But you can still use heuristics that prescribe you a sensible-enough response to most things that come up, until you can sit down and have a dedicated decision-making session. The word heuristic can mean a lot of things, but in this context I’m talking about a rule of thumb for keeping moving when something you hadn’t planned for comes up.

Here’s Steve Pavlina’s example of a heuristic for climbing a mountain:

Head directly towards the peak until you reach an obstacle you can’t cross. Whenever you reach such an obstacle, follow it around to the right until you’re able to head towards the peak once again.

It may not be the most efficient path, but it will get you to the top. Or at least, keep you moving confidently toward the top until you can take a break from climbing and do some more detailed planning. That is the most powerful part — separating decisionmaking from doing removes the doubt and fear from the actual work itself. The goal is there if you want it.

I half-understood this concept until my experience with the pushup app brought it into focus. With anything, the work itself usually isn’t the hard part, it’s the emotional unsteadiness you feel when your doing is interspersed with moments of choosing. So isolate that choosing. Keep it away from your doing, because on a mental level doing is a much more zoomed-in activity than choosing. When you’re doing, you don’t want to be minding general trends and life goals, you want to be minding handholds and penstrokes.

Doing a pushup isn’t that hard, and with a fully defined program, once I’ve decided to go with it, a pushup is all I ever have to do. Push the floor away, and I will get there. On the action level that’s all I need to be thinking about. Trying to do a pushup while you’re simultaneously deciding whether it’s worthwhile is about ten times harder than just lifting your body off the floor.

***

Photo by joiseyshowaa
Martin February 12, 2014 at 12:17 am

I really enjoy reading your posts. Really insightful articles with good and often practical examples from personal experience. Somehow you cut through a lot of the noise that is out there. Looking forward to reading your new book. Thanks for writing.

David Cain February 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Thanks Martin. That’s what I try to do better each time I write a post — cut right to the bone of the problem.

Kabamba February 12, 2014 at 1:24 am

“Head directly towards the peak until you reach an obstacle you can’t cross. Whenever you reach such an obstacle, follow it around to the right until you’re able to head towards the peak once again.”

You have just given me insight of what to do to move to the next level of my lead guitar playing. Thank you very much. I love Steve Pavlina. Been following his blog since 2006 but somehow missed out on this one.

David Cain February 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm

I would like to apply this to guitar too, but I’ve been keeping it on the backburner while I focus on blogging for the next year or two. I think I’d like to run scales in a similar way I do pushups. Get an app to tell me what metronome tempo I should shoot for, and advance when it’s smooth enough.

Kabamba February 13, 2014 at 9:39 am

Yes! Scales! Glad you mentioned the dreaded scales :-) They are the equivalent of pushups.

Chris Kaz February 15, 2014 at 6:45 pm

You both should check out the ‘Guitar Scales Method’. I have been doing this for months now and it is exactly like you described in this post. A whole series of exercises that you simply follow and rate your progress. What has made me stitch with it is that I don’t have to think about it- I just see where I left off and do the exercises as it says. Give it a shot.

Monika February 12, 2014 at 7:46 am

I think you just changed my life. So obvious but never thought about it in this way. Thank you!

Erika February 12, 2014 at 8:06 am

I love your insights and then how you express them. Thank you! Great article……..again!

Jon February 12, 2014 at 8:33 am

great read as always David…I experienced something similar with a YouTube channel dedicated to fitness…I just fire up the videos and follow the instructions onscreen…it’s somehow a lot easier when someone else is giving the directions and setting the goals..its simply up to me then to meet these goals…or “push the floor away” as you so poetically put it :)

David Cain February 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Great. What channel?

Insourcelife February 12, 2014 at 8:48 am

That silly app is a great motivator indeed. I’ve been using a similar system to pay off my big mortgage. Set up a Goal in Mint.com, take $3,000 and apply it to the principal every month, go into Mint and look at the pretty graphs and the rapidly approaching “will be paid off on” date. The alternative would be to agonize over the decision whether it would be better to invest that 3K instead of paying down my 3.25% mortgage. Truth is, for me that “will be paid off on” date is a lot more motivating than some hypothetical market return. That date is tangible and guaranteed if I continue this routine. Find what motivates you and stop worrying about all the other noise. Great post!

David Cain February 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Excellent. The standard personal finance doctrine is that you should invest rather than paying down such a low-interest loan, but I think there is value in reaching psychological milestones. Knowing that it’s paid off and yours might be a big boost for your moment-to-moment quality of life, which is all money can ever pay for anyway ultimately.

insourcelife February 14, 2014 at 9:55 am

The “standard personal finance doctrine” also prescribes working a 9-5 until you are 65 or 70 years old… Coincidentally, they want you to keep your mortgage for 30 years. I plan on making work optional a lot earlier than 65-70 and paying off my mortgage is a big piece of that (very straight forward) puzzle.

Kenneth February 12, 2014 at 9:19 am

This reminds me to practice being more mindful. I’ve already made the decision to exercise and eat less. Exercise is no problem because I set my alarm for 4:45 AM weekdays, and do an hour at the YMCA before work every day. Eating less is a problem – the portion sizes I like are too much. So I’m going to practice being mindful before doing all things, especially eating. Is this portion size in agreement with my decision to eat less?

David Cain February 12, 2014 at 12:04 pm

A fellow blogger once told me how to learn to eat mindfully. Just commit to paying your fill attention to the first three bites and the last three bites of the meal. That’s it. You’ll naturally become more mindful throughout the whole experience, but it only requires a small commitment.

When I do this, I feel satisfied by less food.

It’s a similar idea to this old post:

http://www.raptitude.com/2010/03/how-to-make-mindfulness-a-habit-with-only-a-tiny-commitment/

Pete February 12, 2014 at 11:35 am

Your Steve Pavlina quote reminds me of the ski scene from Better Off Dead… :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEHZJNQ5Y4A

David Cain February 12, 2014 at 11:54 am

Sounds like just about the perfect advice to me :)

Soccerdfw February 12, 2014 at 11:47 am

I did the same thing with a Couch to 5K app. It finally got me into running and I went all the way to running a half-marathon. You made me realize that I should apply this methodology to more than just exercise. Great advice!

David Cain February 12, 2014 at 11:53 am

I’m going to start running again this Spring, and I’ll definitely give this a try. Apps and algorithms are sometimes the perfect thing for eliminating the decision-making from certain pursuits.

Matt February 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm

I love this post.

“which feels about as comfortable and efficient as tying your shoes while you’re running”

I find that I’ll end up re-evaluating my task frequently while I’m trying to execute it. Very much a show-stopper.

This is like separating the “entrepreneur” from the “technician”. In my life as a photographer, I like to spend too much of my time as a technician. More of me needs to be dedicated to the higher-level plan making rather than just executing tasks.

David Cain February 12, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Yes, exactly. I guess it’s the same principle in “The E-Myth” — keep the roles separate.

tallgirl1204 February 12, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for this. I was just thinking about how my New Year’s Resolutions are going this year (and why). Inspired by Mr. Money Mustache, I listed my very specific resolutions on a spreadsheet. Each day I check off each thing I did, and at the end of the week I give myself a score for each item.

For most items, I realize that the decision has been made– it’s on the list!– and then I just do it (doing 100 crunches, for example). For some reason, getting to check the box and give myself a score is very motivating, and takes the decision out of the activity.

But I wonder why other resolutions have failed to launch (for example, ‘Do a three-minute meditation each day.”) It’s on the list, yet I still don’t do it. I have it on my I-Pod, it’s all set to go– I need to think about why some things get my attention and not others…

Now I need to decide to get back to work…

David Cain February 13, 2014 at 9:21 am

It is interesting why certain things don’t take and certain ones do. I am the same with meditation. I still do it intermittently. This pushups success has me thinking about how to remove the resistance from other habits I want to establish.

Ardys February 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I love this David. So timely. I embarked on a new way of eating a couple of weeks ago and it is only because I have seen marked signs of improved quality of life that I have been able to stay with it. I can see the benefits and keep those foremost in my mind to keep me inspired. Your post has helped me see even more clearly why that is working. Thank you.

Krista February 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm

You always know exactly what to say, so that I can understand it. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

David Cain February 13, 2014 at 9:20 am

Thanks Krista. In the same way, writing these thoughts out helps me to gain clarity about them.

Karen J February 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

“…Deciding and doing are two totally different modes of work. But nobody teaches us to distinguish them, and so all the stuff we have to do seems so complicated and fraught with uncertainty that the actual doing itself seems hard.”
Spot on necessary, and perfect timing for me, too, David!
Where was this information 40+ years ago, when I was learning “How to do Life”???

Thank you for seeing and sharing it with us, now!

Michael Eisbrener February 12, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Incredible post! I have been mulling, thinking and returning to this all day long. When we go into the deciding mode, we engage the morass of thought by thinking and immediately hand over the reins, the keys to the kingdom to the subconscious which is more than willing to take over. Great if you are driving a car, riding a bicycle or even walking. Spending time ‘thinking’ has is rewards. Doing and remaining conscious requires NO THINKING…. Take the RED pill! The wooly mammoth subconscious has useful features. Letting the ‘pea’ be as you say is easier said than done.

David Cain February 13, 2014 at 9:15 am

Right. I think we definitely do way more thinking than is useful. We’re normally like 90% thinking and 10% doing, when I think we’re better off the other way around. I believe most thinking is compulsive and repetitive and only gets in the way.

Hamlet February 13, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Eckhart Tolle somewhere wrote, “Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visit to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects your life situation.” I thought this sounds great, but it’s not obvious how to translate this into practice. I think your choice of words here in this latest post does the trick for me. You’ve hit on another portal into the Now. Action is another portal into the Now. Thank you!

Zaire February 12, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Hi David!
This article comes at the point my resolution to exercise almost every day possible is pushed to the brink. I was like “OMG David reads my mind”. And yes I totally get what you mean by making the decision and the actual doing. Unconsciously, I know that is true. For example, I had wanted to learn Japanese. At the start (being a poor student), I had wanted to do self-learning. Materials can be obtained rather cheaply and if I want to, I can. But this wooly, self-determined learning “program” just can’t work. I got myself signed up to a Japanese course instead (still affordable thankfully), and when asked about why, my reason was always “I can always tell the book on the table, maybe tomorrow, but I will lose the money I paid for class if I don’t go for it. Makes me actually go and do the learning.”

And I guess perhaps one more point should be emphasized. I find that designing a program (e.g. the one Pavlina has for climbing) is only one part of success. Definitely, with a program, the difficulty to get up and moving lowers. But just like me and my plan to exercise everyday (I set myself rules that it should be 30 minutes, done everyday unless I have something on at night and should go to be once I get home), the lack of something external to me to keep myself in check often means compromising on my own rules. For you, you had the app as something external and something to make sure you don’t fudge the rules. I guess the rule of thumb is to find something that defines the program rules AND is not easily bent by you. For example, if you feel a need to never turn down an invitation to meet up from your peers, find exercise buddies to invite you out. Keeps you in check. For me and my Japanese class, it was the money.

David Cain February 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

Investing money in something also helps you to stick to it. That’s the reason this blog exists: I had committed a significant amount of money to a blogging course. If it had been free I would have let myself get hung up on something in the beginning and I wouldn’t have followed through.

Randall Pitts February 13, 2014 at 12:38 am

Hi David,
This is a nice post. I teach a similar approach in my potential classes. I teach that you should have a long-term goal or vision of what you want to achieve or become that guides your short-term plan making process. Then you make a concrete time-scheduled plan for each week. This planning process is done just once a week and then you shut off your brain and just do what you planned. It’s the same principle as an app except you make the “app” yourself. As a next step I suggest you concentrate on the habit you are creating, the doing, rather than the results so you can have an instant success feeling that motivates. The results will come automatically: guaranteed! It’s that simple.

David Cain February 13, 2014 at 9:27 am

I am experimenting more and more with vision, as it relates to what I do this month and this week. I’ll be writing about it soon.

Randall Pitts February 14, 2014 at 3:05 am

Great! I’ll be looking forward to your take on vision.

nanette February 13, 2014 at 4:27 am

the outcome will come naturally as a result of my doing so i concentrate myself on the doing and not on the outcome of my doing… the perfect example for this is when i have my one-hour yoga :)

Gael Blanchemain February 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I’ve been using the same “100 Pushups” apps for a few years, I like how it raises the bar for you, but I never manage to do anything significant with the 90 seconds of break it gives me between series (like brushing my teeth, for instance).
I guess if you’re too much of a productivist even the tightest frame isn’t enough to control your hyper active mind :)

Vilx- February 14, 2014 at 5:56 am

I’ve been pondering about something related for a while now, and this fits in neatly with that. I’d like to share what I’ve figured out.

It has to do with emotions. The desire to do something (like sports) or not do something is an emotion, and a strong one. To control this desire, to keep it where you want, means that you must manipulate your own emotions.

But what are emotions? Emotions are a very quick analysis of a situation. It has to be quick, near instantaneous, because it’s an integral part in things like fight-or-flight and others, where there is no time to think. Because of this, emotions cannot perform a deep analysis of the situation and logically deduce the possible outcomes several turns ahead. It needs to get the results NOW.

To do that, emotions employ beliefs. Beliefs are these simple, pre-deduced rules in your mind. The sky is blue. Loud sound is scary. Losing a job is BAD. Hurting someone is BAD. Sweet things are GOOD. Etc. Beliefs can be accessed instantly, and their results are also available instantly. There is no processing, no deducing there. They are perfect for emotional calculations.

So, in order to manipulate your emotions, you must first manipulate your own beliefs. And that fortunately can be done consciously. You just need to sit down and ponder about it, and arrive at the conclusion that “sports is good”. There must be no doubt in your mind. If there is doubt, then you need to explore that doubt and resolve it. When you have no doubt left, you have a belief and your emotions will respect that.

This approach can be applied to many areas of life which need emotional self-manipulation. Changing your habits, getting over some strong emotions/trauma, etc.

Michael February 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm

That app sounds like a great motivator. People cause themselves so much grief over exercise routines I’ve often wondered whether it is even worth it, or if people should simply learn to love their bodies. Although I suppose that seems a little bit like just giving up.
I will try the 100 sit ups routine and see how it goes!
Great post as usual!

Zoe February 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Thanks for this one David. I am a doctor, trying to become a writer AND transition to working the third sector (community-based health development/advocacy), at the same time. Ergh. This week realised my bar is ever-unrealistic and I’m always trying to “tie my shoelacing while running” and ending up flat-faced with scraped knees that sting! Your blog is always v helpful – hits the spot. Now, how to incorporate it into my bloated routine hmn…

Deacon February 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I think the point you make is why exercise programs like boot camps, P90X, and Crossfit have caught fire amongst many people who wouldn’t create that sort or routine on their own. These outlets take all the programming decisions off the individual so that he or she simply has to show up and take part in whatever activity is scheduled for the day. This is not to say that the work itself is easy, but it is easier than combining the mental chore of creating the workout with the actual act of carrying it out. Any immediate positive feedback from the routine will reinforce the merit of the program while dispelling the lack of confidence that you speak of above in your own prior regimens. And that has translated into big $$$ for those who have exploited it, for better or for worse, in both the fitness and nutrition industries (ie, Jenny Craig, Nutrasystem, etc.) in particular.

Jessi Tidwell February 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Another success. Good one, David!!

José February 16, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Thanks for sharing such a good insight. I realize it has certain similarities to the Scrum framework for developers where one person takes most of the decisions and frees the rest of the team to focus on the doing, and it works.

greg February 20, 2014 at 8:04 pm

yes – I was thinking exactly the same thing =)

along with how I happen to have done this with my life but never really thought about it or formalized it

Free to Pursue February 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

David,

YES! Separate the deciding from the doing. When we are planning an activity/an outcome/work, it is easy to look at it from a logical and progressive view because there is a natural separation between planning and doing. We are not emotionally tied to how we feel in the now because we are planning for a future point in time.

So, the importance is in ensuring the plan is well thought out and easy to follow (a no-brainer, if you will) that helps us avoid the *hiccups* that get us back into planning/pondering/questioning/decision-making mode. If the emotions of the present (“do I feel like it”, “is this going to work”, “will I stick with it”, “is this worth my time”, “I never like doing these things”, “my body/mind won’t respond, what’s the point”) are allowed to interfere with execution, likelihood of success is much lower.

I also like what others have alluded to above: what gets measured gets done. Knowing you will look back on whether or not you completed an activity (potential for an “in your face” instance of regret) does help avoid succumbing to the emotions of the moment, as the potential for regret becomes more powerful than the potential for short-term negative feelings. I hate having to give myself a bad grade more than doing something I would rather not be doing!

Here’s wishing you much success with this recent “AHA moment”.

I enjoy hearing about your epiphanies. Thank you for sharing them with us.

Yanling February 21, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I think you just answered tallgirl1204’s question: why something on the list gets done while others are not. It is because things like “meditation” does not get MEASURED. In such cases, you always wonder if you skip it once, it does not matter in any physical sense…

One solution could be this: label the task as “300 meditation sessions”. Then it is measurable.

Su February 20, 2014 at 2:19 am

Thank you David for sharing your realizations – and always in such a humble way. With focus on the decision making, I would like to add 2 things I’ve learned (just to make the deciding process itself easier).
First, I came across this very simple classification of decisions: love it, change it – or leave it. That’s the only outcome possible for any decision. Knowing this, you’ll never get afraid of decisions as overwhelming, blurry thoughts with no outcome. You see the map – and only have to choose the way you’re going. And secondly a friend taught me: there is often so much more than a dilemma – and it’s worth a try to remodel your dilemma to fit into a “tetralemma”. So, a decision would look on the base like like a triangle of: yes – compromise – no …. and on the top of this triangle is the question: is this decision due right now? Or isn’t it the right time for the decision at all (yet). Those two “compasses” have proven to be working for me extremely well and have taken away the unease in the decision making. And now I will add your insight to it: is it a doing – or a decision making moment I’m in :) Thank you once again for sharing and thus helping all of us to create more joy in our lives.

Maggie B. February 20, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Great analogy! I’ve attended group fitness classes in the past for the same reason – if I leave myself to plan my exercise session, I would have motivational difficulties and stress over whether or not I was maximizing my time. With a class, I just have to follow the instructor, knowing that regardless of what happens I will be closer to my fitness goals at the end of a specified time period.

It’s an interesting analogy as well, because I don’t tend to see such clear pathways towards success in other aspects of my daily life – that’s why I spend so much time hemming and hawing in the first place! It’s good to have the reminder to make a decision and then work without second guessing yourself, though – even if you’ve made the wrong decision, it’s often much easier to correct a course than to start from scratch!

Sara February 21, 2014 at 4:34 pm

This is why I get my kid to choose her clothes the night before, when she has time, instead of in the morning. She can then get dressed in 2 minutes instead of taking a half-hour. This post really put some clarity on why that works and how it applies to EVERYTHING.

Dina Winkel February 23, 2014 at 9:24 am

The word “decide” has to me some unnecessesarily unpleasant connotations. I often use the word “choose” instead. This leaves me feeling like I have choices (how priviliged!) and I am aware of the road I’m going down willingly.
I know I have a harder time sticking with something I decided rather than chose, because it feel restricted, so I rebel.

Aside from that, your post clarified beautifully a very common struggle. Thank you!

Sean Tessier March 2, 2014 at 8:26 am

So money David. Thanks a lot for this clarity.

LinaG March 10, 2014 at 10:10 am

This helped me a lot. Thank you.

I keep months, literally, deciding if I should go on with a study course, get a random job or become a painter/programmer/circus fugitive/move from the city/do house chores and nothing happens/or is a half-assed disaster. And when I feel I have to start the things I think I should be doing, I get so nervous and avoid it so much it doesn’t let my mind rest.

And you know when it gets worse? When I by circumstance am alone w/o group support or work at home/waiting or completely free for me to decide what to do. Sometimes this happened even when I worked in a public place, a big gov institution, that I had completely free will to pick what to work with or had to propose work plan because the inst was a new one and was still without its own shape and processes. I think is a lesson God wants me to learn, its such a recurrent thing in my life. Do you think is like this for most of the people?

You are right, sometimes is so much easier to let somebody to tell, but what if you are not happy with it but you also don’t have enough wisdom to choose the right path? Then even deciding when to do housework/chores/cleaning the fridge makes you trip into doubt! Is so frustrating!

Thanks for your post. I never noticed consciously how much is needed the separation in time of both processes.

JR March 10, 2014 at 8:07 pm

I am one of your silent fans and always read your blog, I find it excellent.

Had to respond to this post. I am generally fairly disciplined about doing what has to be done, but there are many times when I just don’t want to do whatever and I come up with all sorts of rationalisations and delaying tactics.

Now, I take a different approach. When it’s time to do the task, IMOVE MY BODY to take the first step, no thinking allowed. Then the next step and so on. Once I’ve started it’s 80% easier to continue and finish, the starting is the hard part.

You have changed my life, thank you!

peetu March 11, 2014 at 1:12 pm

dude, your posts are fking awesome.

im trying to get my business off the ground by cold-emailing businesses and i always have doubt if it works… and i have only contacted 2 in the course of 2 weeks or so. doubt is/was hindering me all the time.

(yes, cold emails suck hard, but i do provide real value to those businesses)

thank you.

Jack Chen March 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Hi David,

Just wanted to say that your blog is excellent. Your content is very valuable and very important to me. I am so happy to have come across your blog here. Thank you.

Jack Chen

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