May 24, 2022

Apply Two Filters When You Make Important Decisions

I recently joined John O’Leary as a guest on his podcast, and he asked me about some of my life choices. I explained that I made twelve decisions in my life that really mattered. 

Research estimates that adults make up to 35,000 decisions in a day. That’s roughly 2,000 decisions every hour you’re awake. Thankfully, not every one of these outcomes is life changing.

I recently joined John O’Leary as a guest on his podcast, and he asked me about some of my life choices. I explained that I made twelve decisions in my life that really mattered. 

Continuing my education, pursuing a career, transitioning during my career, committing to a partner, building a family, and choosing my friends are some of the important milestones that led to a fulfilling journey.

One of the many pivotal decisions I made in my life was when I started college. I was the first in my family to attend a university, so you can imagine how arriving on campus felt like I was shot out of a cannon. I had no idea where I would land. 

Indiana University was and still is a big school, so how I chose to make the transition from the familiar surroundings of my neighborhood back home was critical. Thankfully I met a small group of guys who were like me. They had their sights set on the long view.

We were on a mission to get an education. Sure, we had our share of fun, but not before we hit the books. Choosing this band of focused friends over many other options I could have taken on my sprawling campus was a game changer, and they are still my friends today.  

There’s no question that we’re influenced by the people who surround us. Many of you are familiar with motivational speaker Jim Rohn and his idea that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I like to think that number could be higher and expand to include different spheres in your life. 

Whether you’re in school, in the community, at work, at church, or at home, I suggest applying two filters to your decisions:

Choose a headline

Every year, as individuals and a family, we create an aspirational headline to capture a theme we want our choices to mirror. This is something we reflect on, discuss, and commit to throughout the year. It’s actually harder than it sounds, but it’s worth doing and provides us with a guiding principle to live by. In December, we typically explore what our individual and family headlines will be for the coming new year, but you can do it any time that works for you. 

This year, our family headline is “Choose joy.” I won’t lie; it’s hard sometimes, but it helps us focus on gratitude at the beginning of every day, which sets a proactive tone for our decisions. If I had chosen a headline during my freshman year in college, it probably would have been “Work now; play later.”

Invoke your long view

In the absence of any filter when making important choices, we often rely on our emotions or turn to information that’s available in the moment. Instead, invoke your long view when evaluating your options. When I look back on alternatives that were available to me, what often helped eliminate doubt was playing out the long view in my mind. It goes without saying that knowing your why puts you in your future frame of mind. If you’ve settled on your purpose in life, then it becomes the standard by which all of your choices are measured. 

A great example of long-view thinking (and choosing a headline) comes to mind when I watch the movie The Shawshank Redemption. When Morgan Freeman’s character, “Red,” is paroled from prison, he lives in fear on the outside because so much has changed. It’s not until he adopts his friend’s way of thinking that his hope is rekindled: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” This perspective helps Red realize that he needs to overcome his fears and make the journey to meet up with Andy.

Consider creating a headline that will help guide your ongoing decisions, and take time to evaluate your why if you don’t already have one. In the meantime, ask yourself how your decision might play out in the long run. With 2,000 decisions per hour available to you, there’s plenty of room for practice.  

Live your why,


P.S. If you’d like to hear the full conversation I had with John O’Leary, join us! If you like what you hear, you’ll enjoy a copy of my book, Uncompromising

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