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« Another mental strength exercise | Main | New Menu Item: Articles »

Exercising the choice muscle

In my recent article Taking the Easy Choice I suggested that the ability to make difficult choices was something that could be improved by training.

So I’d like to hear suggestions for exercises that would strengthen our ability to do this.

There’s one in my book Get Everything Done. You nominate one task you are going to do the next day. It can be something you need to do anyway, or it can be something completely arbitrary. Start with something easy. If you succeed in doing it, then you choose something a little bit more difficult for the following day. And so on day by day, getting a little bit harder each time. Whenever you fail to do the day’s task (no excuses are accepted), you have to reduce the difficulty of the task for the next day. The idea is that you build yourself up to the point where you can rely on yourself to do even the most difficult tasks when you say you are going to do them.

Can anyone think up some more exercises which would be as effective or even more effective? Answers in the Comments.

Reader Comments (8)

Doing AutoFocus develops the muscle. Initially you avoid certain tasks, but experience with AutoFocus makes it obvious they don't go away, and then it coerces you taking action Gradually you learn to eat your veggies sooner.
January 22, 2012 at 14:46 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Hiring a coach and/or working with an accountability partner. Either way, with enough support and carrot/sticks, you work beyond your comfort zones. The goal would be to integrate these new found behaviors and thinking as habits.
January 22, 2012 at 15:14 | Unregistered CommenterAvrum
What Alan and Avrum say above is good advice, but what I am really looking for is "exercises" - the equivalent of doing push-ups or squats, not the equivalent of an entire training program.
January 22, 2012 at 18:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

I will say the Pomodoro technique -- -- or at the very least using blocks of time of increasing lengths. I think it is good not only to exercise one's will in doing something but also one's will in <<stopping>>.
January 22, 2012 at 22:04 | Registered Commenternuntym
Here's a very simple exercise:

Every day, do one thing that you don't want to do.

It doesn't matter if it's "important" or "significant". It might be emptying a smelly bowl of something lurking in the back of the fridge, or making a phone call you're dreading, or...anything at all. The only criteria is that you don't want to do it right now -- and you make yourself do it. Just one thing, once a day.

This isn't my idea, by the way -- I read it somewhere, but I can't remember where. But it's definitely an "exercise" that helps with exercising your choice muscle.

Hope this helps!

- Erik.
January 22, 2012 at 22:07 | Unregistered CommenterErik
<think up some more exercises>. Okay, try this:
Covey proposed a 2x2 matrix of urgent/important. Mark suggested instead classifying tasks by should/want. Suppose you classify tasks by these criteria. Then before you may do anything you want to do, pick a need-to-do;don't-want-to-do. So in effect, pleasure is your reward for work.
January 22, 2012 at 23:52 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Exercise on doing it NOW: setup a timer and when it beeps, IMMEDIATELY stop doing what you were doing and start doing something else.
January 23, 2012 at 18:45 | Unregistered Commenterkiwiserg

Know what you want.

Prepare for what you want.

Want what you want.
January 24, 2012 at 21:29 | Registered Commenternuntym

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