Micro Decisions

Small Decisions, Big Impact 

Hit snooze… or wake up with your alarm. 

Scroll social media for twenty minutes… or meditate/pray for twenty minutes. 

Workout… or skip and make an excuse.  

React out of frustration at the person who cuts you off on the way to work… or take a few deep breaths and focus on the nice weather as you make your commute.  

Incur an insult and take offense… or extend grace and give the benefit of the doubt.  

Focus on all you need to do and feel overwhelmed… or focus on one day at a time and do the best you can.  

Take the edge off with a glass of wine… or regenerate with a relaxing walk.  

Quickly look up at your spouse when they get home and say, “Hey, how it’s going?” … or pause what you’re doing, greet them with a kiss and say, “How was your day? I’m glad to see you.”  

Sit on the couch with your kids and stare at a screen… or go outside and shoot some hoops.  

What do all these scenarios have in common? They are all micro-decisions.  

Micro-decisions are the thousand upon thousand of tiny little decisions we all make each day. Many of them are basic daily function decisions. For example, the decision to wake up, brush our teeth, and eat breakfast. These are deeply rooted and even subconscious as we have made them so many times over the course of our life… we don’t even really have to think about making them, we just do them.  

There are other micro-decisions though, that carry real weight and that can dramatically, over time, affect the quality of life we experience. They are small, but pack a big punch, especially when made repeatedly over a period of time.  

I’ve personally raised my awareness of these types of micro-decisions in the last week or two since listening to a podcast on the topic. This podcast was fascinating to me because the hosts talked about how we are presented with countless situations each day, and within each situation, we are presented with a small decision to make. These decisions often are the micro-decisions that culminate and make up the type of life we are living. The issue is that we often don’t think about these decisions and the ripple effect they can have over time. 

Take the example I listed above about how you choose to react to your spouse or significant other. Let’s just say, it’s been a long day and you’ve just gotten home from work. You are running late to get dinner started and soon, the kids will be home and ready to eat. On top of this, there are several loads of laundry to catch up on, plus the dogs have been alone all day, so they need attention too. You’ve gotten home from work only to be met with more work and you’re just trying to get a handle on things.  

Know the feeling?  

And then, your husband walks in from his long day. You hear him come through the door and now, in this moment, are presented with a micro-decision. You can either keep working on all the tasks and give him a quick look over your shoulder paired with a, “Hey how’s it going?” or you can stop what you’re doing, walk over to him, look him in the eye, give him a kiss hello, and genuinely ask him how his day was.  

In this moment, you have a micro-decision to make that holds a lot of power and weight.  

While the first response is fine and isn’t necessarily bad, it certainly won’t make anyone feel warm and fuzzy. However, the second response does. The second response makes your husband feel valued, important, and loved. Furthermore, in most cases, your response will affect his response, and he will by default, return the affection. 

Maybe this seems trivial and you’re thinking, “My spouse or significant other should understand that I’m busy and just trying to catch up when they get home,” or “I’m busy, they can walk over and give me a kiss hello!” and while these points may be true, think about this micro-decision being made repeatedly. Think about if it’s made so repeatedly that it becomes automatic. Eventually, what was an evening of catching up becomes months and months of the same pattern and you are now in a situation where you no longer greet your spouse in a loving way, and perhaps they are following suit. It’s a “Hey, how’s it going?” most of the time. Do you think this one micro-decision has the power to change the dynamic of an entire relationship?  

It absolutely does.  

Here’s another example. Let’s say I am someone who doesn’t have a regular exercise program and I have made the commitment to myself that I am going to start working out three time per week, yet every time my alarm goes off on the days I’m supposed to get up, I hit the snooze and validate my excuse. Each time I hit snooze; I make a micro-decision to sleep versus act on my goal. Each time I validate my excuse, I make a micro-decision to continue a pattern that is not beneficial to me. While this is significant, the even more significant point is that these micro-decisions spill over into other areas of my life.  

If I make the micro-decision to hit snooze early in the day, then later in the day it’s easier and even likely, that I’ll make a micro-decision to eat poorly rather than healthfully. If I make the micro-decision to validate my lack of follow through, then most likely, I’ll make more micro-decisions that validate more bad behavior in myself and perhaps even in others.  

Like with many things in life, these micro-decisions by themselves don’t seem like a big deal, but when you step back and evaluate the domino and compounding effect they can have on the quality of life we experience, it’s profound. 

So, what’s the take-away? Start stressing about every little decision you are presented with each day? Definitely not. We can be more aware and intentional about them though.   

As I said, many of these decisions are automatic because they have become subconscious behaviors and responses over the course of our life, so to change them first takes an increased awareness of our daily routines, reactions, and responses.  

For me, just doing this one thing, raising my awareness, has presented several opportunities to decide differently and respond to certain situations in a better, improved way.  

Personally, I’ve begun to see that the micro-decisions involving my perspective and the automatic emotional response to that perspective, are the areas where micro-decisions can be the most challenging to modify. By this I mean, these decisions are the ones that take some real intention and thoughtfulness to change because perspective and emotions are deeply engrained within me.  

This is where building mental muscle comes into play. To help make this more attainable, I have started viewing these types of micro-decisions as little tests or challenges. When I am presented with one and make the conscious decision to think and/or respond differently than I typically would, I see it as a little inner victory. For example, if I respond to something that is typically stressful to me, in a calmer, less reactive way, I see that as an inner win. This inner victory means I’ve strengthened my inner muscle in that moment, which increases positivity and improves my overall mindset.  

In closing, we often think that it’s the big things in life that really matter. While yes, they do, we can’t forget about the little things. The little decisions we make every day, over the course of time, make up the type of life we live and experience.  

Micro-decisions have a macro impact. 

So, raise your awareness to the many small decisions you are presented with each day. Are there any that you need to change? Are there any that if modified and adjusted, could improve the quality of your health, relationships, finances, and/or overall life?  

Remember, sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that overtime have the biggest impact.

Mind Discipline… learning how to flex the inner muscle