The three decisions that shape every moment of our lives
I love learning how to pare back seemingly complicated issues to simple fundamentals. Tony Robbins is the master at it – and his insight into the three decisions that shape every moment of our lives is a brilliant example.
You may have guessed from last week's post that I'm a bit obsessed (again) with Tony Robbins' work. He's been around for nearly four decades, showing us all how 'life' is done, but he keeps raising the bar. And in my renewed obsession, I've uncovered a truckload of wisdom I'm falling over myself to share.
What I like most is his razor-sharp assessment of problems that have vexed most of us for an entire lifetime. He's an optimist and a strategist who believes 'action is everything', which really appeals to my more passive, slightly anxious personality.
So, what are these three decisions that shape every moment of our lives, and therefore shape our 'destiny' as Tony calls it (how we feel, who we become, what we achieve etc.)?
What we focus on.
What meaning we give these things.
What we do about them.
Tony says, as soon as we focus on something, we've got to give it a meaning, and whatever that meaning is produces emotion. Emotion drives our actions. These three decisions give us ultimate power to shape our own lives and our culture. We're making decisions every moment. We need to be aware of their power.
So, breaking it down:
What you focus on.
Focus equals feelings. Is your focus on the past, present or future? Is it on the self or others? Is it on gratitude and abundance, or lack and limitation, for example? Is it on anger and resentment, or ease and flow? Is it on problems and drama, or opportunity and fun?
What meaning you give these things.
Does this thing you're focusing on mean the end or the beginning to you? Is it a reward or a punishment or just bad luck? Do you see it as a failure or a chance to grow, for instance?
What you do about them.
Are you going to choose to give up or move forward? What action (or lack of action) will you take in response?
If you don't control these three decisions, you simply aren't in control of your life.
It's quite powerful stuff, and to sit down with pen and paper and determine what you're focusing on, the meaning you've given it, and the actions you're taking (or not taking) as a result, is illuminating and potentially life-changing.
Tony says these three decisions create our 'state', one of two invisible forces that drive us. Our state is our physical and emotional position in the moment. Longer term, our state creates our 'model of the world' or world view. You might have heard it called your 'filter'.
We view the world through our filter and we use what we see to confirm our feelings and thoughts. Psychologists call this the confirmation bias. There's a big problem though: we can become trapped by our own assumptions and miss all of the goodness that exists outside of our closed-off thinking. We can stagnate instead of grow, for example.
The difference between peak performance and poor performance is not intelligence or ability; most often it’s the state that your mind and body is in.
In Tony's classic book, Awaken the giant within, he explains how we can make different decisions about our focus, meaning and actions in order to feel better and move forward, even drastically. But plenty of YouTube videos take us through it too.
One way to change our state is to radically change our body (physiology) through movement and motion (e.g. by going for a brisk walk or run, dancing around the room, taking a cold shower). Your focus is likely to be brighter and more optimistic than before the run, especially if you're feeling down. The other way is to change your thoughts (focus) and then create rituals around these new thoughts so they stick. Tony says we can change our thoughts (our focus) in a heartbeat, but we can't just do it once. It's not set and forget. It's a practice, like building muscle. And the best way to practise new thoughts is to ritualise them into your daily routine so they get cemented in your mind and body. Tony says we're all controlled by our rituals ('our life comes from our rituals'), so they've got to work for us, not against us.
To change your thoughts (focus) in a heartbeat, like Tony says, you have to ask the right questions of yourself. Start with: What am I excited about? What am I grateful for? What makes me proud? And then focus on that. Tony says humans always find what they focus on, because it's impossible not to. Watch this video and do the simple exercise around 'brown' and 'red' to see what he means. If we ritualise our change of focus, and practise it often, we'll start to change our state and thus our life.
An example of ritualising a new focus is going for a morning walk and reciting your new thoughts constantly along the way. Tony calls this recitation 'using incantations'. It's like affirmations, but it's not just wishy washy positive thinking. It's hard core focused repetition of your new focused thoughts. If you watch any Tony Robbins' YouTube videos, you'll come across him explaining the enormous payoff he got from long runs and focused incantations early in his career. Given his success, it obviously worked.
I think we all know this stuff on some level. In spiritual circles, authors like to say your thoughts create your reality. It's the same thing, but Tony Robbins adds the science of human achievement to it and makes it crystal clear.
You can watch Tony Robbins' TEDTalk on the three decisions that shape every moment of our lives here. It goes into a lot more detail and also explains the six human needs I mentioned in this post. And check out this video on how to change your focus.
Sometimes I think all we need is Tony Robbins' wisdom to live a drastically better life, whatever that may mean to us: calmer, fulfilled, content, active, wealthier, adventurous, healthier etc. His is a single, simple solution that certainly gets massive results for those who act on it. In trying to be kinder to myself and calmer in the world, I'm all for it.
Another great resource for changing your focus is Dr Martin Seligman's book, Learned optimism: how to change your mind and your life. He's also written Flourish, and Authentic happiness. He's world renowned for his brilliant work.