Everyday Choices that Can Change Your Life

Everyday Choices that Can Change Your Life

When I was 10 years old I changed schools. My sister had been a pupil at that school for two years when I started and was the school sporting champion. Because of my sister’s sporting prowess I was welcomed by the teachers and other students with open arms and for a couple of weeks I was popular. However, once the teachers and students discovered that I was hopeless at sport no one wanted me on their team, that was when I decided that I was always going to be hopeless at sport and that I was never going to be humiliated like that again. I made the decision that I was going to avoid all forms of exercise.

That same year Wilma Rudolph, a young black woman from America, won a bronze medal in track and field at the Melbourne Olympic Games. As a young child Wilma suffered many illnesses including scarlet fever, whooping cough, double pneumonia and polio which left her with a twisted foot and leg. The doctors told Wilma’s mother that she would never walk. Wilma also had an older sister who was on a basketball team. Even though Wilma wasn’t able to walk without crutches until she was 12 years old she was motivated by her sister’s success and vowed that she too would play basketball one day.

That seemingly inconsequential decision, which I made when I was 10 years old, had far reaching consequences. For many years I went out of my way to avoid exercise and sport, which led to a life long struggle with my weight. Carrying so much extra weight contributed to arthritis which restricted my mobility and led to my need for joint replacements. Wilma’s decision on the other hand enabled her to win a Gold medal in the Rome Olympics and her courage inspired others.

Decisions are generally regarded as conclusions you arrive at, or judgements you make, they influence your perception of yourself, other people and life in general. Your perception determines how much money you make, how intelligent you are and even how hard or easy your life will be. Your perception of life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A study was done on the self-fulfilling prophecy by Harvard Professor Dr Robert Rosenthal. This study involved 300 children who had equal abilities. The children were divided into two groups. One group of students was given to teachers who were told the children were all high achievers. The other teachers were told that the children were underachievers. By the end of the year it was found that the groups lived up to the labels that were placed upon them, the high achievers were doing very well while the class of underachievers were doing below average work.

Dr Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor also carried out an interesting experiment with two groups of people. One group consisted of people who considered themselves lucky. The second group was made up of people who considered themselves to be unlucky. Both groups were asked to count the number of photographs which appeared in a newspaper. The people who considered themselves unlucky took several minutes to complete this exercise as they flipped through each page and counted whilst the group who considered themselves to be lucky only took several seconds and that’s because on page two they saw the printed message, in two inch font, which said: “Stop counting: there are 43 photographs in this newspaper”.

The people conducting the experiment concluded that people who believe they are lucky are always on the look out for unexpected good fortune, whilst those who believe they are unlucky have closed minds, and therefore miss opportunities.

Just because you have taken on beliefs that may limit you doesn’t mean that the rest of your life has to be restricted by those beliefs. Our brains are continually changing as a result of our daily experiences. In the docudrama What the Bleep Do We Know!? Down the Rabbit Hole the creators received a lot of emails from people asking why they kept re-editing the movie. People thought that scenes had been deleted and others added and some people became quite upset by this. At that time the creators had not made any changes. It seems that viewers’ minds picked up on different things, and missed others, as they gained new knowledge.

You can change your life by changing your decisions but anyone who has made the decision to quit smoking or lose weight knows it isn’t always that simple. However, support that decision with your daily choices and change can occur quite easily because your brain supports you. Choices are made when you have two or more options. For instance if you experience a set back you can choose to look for the opportunity in that experience or you can talk your problems and use this setback as excuse to stop trying. The first choice supports you, the second choice doesn’t. When you establish the habit of always acting on the choice that supports you, you begin to establish habits which can change your life.

Whenever you learn something new such as learning to tie your shoes, ride a bike or drive a car your brain sets up a neural pathway associated with that action. At first that neural pathway is weak and you may have to really focus on what you are doing to be able to do it. The more you repeat that action the stronger the neural pathway becomes and before long you can carry out that action without conscious thought. Most people believe that what happens to them determines how they feel but that is not the case, your neural pathways produce neurochemicals so your actions and reactions determine how you feel.

Who you are today is a result of the conscious and unconscious decisions you made about yourself up to now. Who you will be tomorrow will be the result of the conscious and unconscious choices you make today. Every time you act on a choice which empowers you, you reinforce the belief that you can have what you want, and when you do this your life begins to change.

Around 30 minutes a day is all it takes to establish a new neural pathway. So you need to act as if you believe you can have what you want until such time that acting in this way becomes an automatic response. If you do this repeatedly one day you will find that you really do believe that you can have your heart’s desires.

Remember, it’s not what happens to you that determines how you feel and what you can do or have. It’s the daily choices that you act upon.

Photo by martinak15

Anne Hartley

Anne Hartley is the founder of Hart Life Coaching, a life coach training school. She is the author of several books. This article is an extract from Anne’s new book Empowering Choices which will be released in April 2013. Anne lives in Sydney, Australia. Visit Anne’s blog at http://annehartley.com.au.

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11 Comments

  1. Hey, I’ll go along with that – how you feel – your feelings are out there for you to get to grips with – react positively to everyone you meet and you begin to feel better about everything – and what’s also good is that whoever you’ve been nice to also benefits. Heaven knows, we need some boost to our ‘feel-good’ factor these dark days.
    I reckon that broadcasting companies like CNN and BBC should purposefully go out on air with things that encourage people to be positive – to each other – to themselves – and to the economic plight the world has got itself into. Here’s my take on the global downturn – at least the natural environment isn’t suffering quite as much as when production is sky high. We need to live within our means to make sure our beautiful planet can continue to sustain us.
    Can I ask everyone to just remember that – OK, times are hard, but times have been a lot harder – remeber that, eh?

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  2. Thanks Anne! I love the experiment with counting the images in the newspaper.

    It’s amazing how our perceptions and pre-dispositions can have such a huge impact on what we consider to be “luck”.

    In the end, we make our own luck, no matter what happens to us.

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  3. It’s funny you mention that part about being lucky. I recently decided to become a luckier person. I’ve been telling myself I’m lucky, and whenever something lucky happens, I comment to myself how luck I am. It’s starting to pay off. Just yesterday I got a front row parking space at the busy mall. At Christmas I received a small stack of lottery tickets and I won $300. I really believe that if you see yourself as lucky that you can actually become lucky.

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  4. Really great post! I continuously remind myself to look out for good in life. If I don’t do that I start to grumble about this or that. Thanks for the reminders.

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  5. Anne, I enjoyed your article and your writing. What is your current condition? Did you find habits that made your life better? Excess weight and arthritis are pretty serious.

    The harder you work the luckier you get. Absolutely. And good daily habits allow us to work hard and smart. Nice to see a post like this backed up with some science too: Most people believe that what happens to them determines how they feel but that is not the case, your neural pathways produce neurochemicals so your actions and reactions determine how you feel.

    Reply
  6. Very inspiring! Its about faking it until you make it – but as you mentioned the most important part is taking the postive steps everyday. I have had to and continue to work hard at rewiring the negativity (low expectations) from my family. Exercise and yoga specifically has been amazing at rewiring my neurons to let go of negativity and to learn to listen to myself.

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  7. Dear Anne,
    Thanks for this inspiring post. Yes, our conscious decisions can change the drift of my life. Aristotle said, ” We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”. For this, it is necessary to’ know thyself ‘, as Socrates said. Introspection is the key.

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  8. Wow, Anne. I really love the science behind this. So often, we hear that if you just think positive thoughts your life will be great. Your post reminds us that our actions affect the body. Our brain is our body, and I find it so disturbing when people treat the area between our ears as if it were separate!

    Seeing as you are now a coach, I am sure that you have made this work in your own life. It took me into my mid-late 30s, but I changed my life for the so-much better. I reinforced the right neural pathways. Thank you for putting words to it!

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  9. Anne,
    What an inspiring post. So often we allow fear of failure or what others think or say about us cause us to hide from life itself. But learning just how such a decision can affect us is crucial to us realizing that we can be overcomers if we learn to be strong and give our all without fear. Great post!
    Greg

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  10. Love the re-frames in this post. One thing I believe and teach is that luck = labor under correct know-how and the more I believe that the luckier I am.
    As for following an older sibling and making choices because of that – so often it seems that the younger child starts on a back foot and yet teachers are taught that every child is different and yet…too often boxes are put around the, I saw this in my life, my children’s schooling and now I see it again with my grandsons.
    One day we will learn to see each person’s total uniqueness

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  11. Well, I totally go with this article.
    Just want to mention that it there was no need to write that Wilma Rudolph ist a “black” American women. Would you have written this if she was “white”? You see the implicit thing here?
    There are some great websites, explaining for journalists how to uncover dayli racism, sexism and all the other -isms.

    Reply

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