Most people think it’s the big decisions they have made over the years that have shaped their life into what it is today—where you went to school, who you married, what job you chose, attending that important training, finally launching your big dream project, deciding to leave your career to pursue your passions, traveling to foreign countries and so on.
But I would argue that in many ways it’s just the opposite—it’s all the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of microdecisions you make every day that you are often unaware of that shape the course of your life and hence your reality most strongly.
How Microdecisions Shape Your Life
Have you ever missed being in a major car accident by a few seconds? Or any kind of serious accident for that matter? Or perhaps, maybe you didn’t miss it, and you were in the accident after all. Everyone has been on both sides of the coin. In most of those cases, if not all, making a few ultra-small, seemingly inconsequential choices could have prevented—or caused—the situation entirely.
For example, you could have chosen to spend an extra five seconds in bed before getting up that would have saved you from—or put you directly in the middle of—that accident. You could have chosen to stay in instead of go out the night you ended up meeting the person who would become your husband or wife. You could have chosen not to get a coffee that morning where you went into Starbucks and synchronistically met an old friend who offered you a job or opportunity that changed the course of your life. You could have not been on Facebook and missed that post that you saw recommending the book that you then read which unlocked massive growth in your business and altered your life forever.
You get the idea: seemingly inconsequential decisions we make all the time can radically change the course of our lives. In fact the ratio of microdecisions to macrodecisions, or rather decisions that we deem inconsequential and make on autopilot vs. decisions we deem consequential (which is often totally arbitrary), is probably something on the order of 1,000 to 1, respectively.
So which thing do you think is going to have the biggest impact on your life: the thing you are doing thousands of times per day or the thing you are doing a handful of times per day at most?
When you really boil it down to its essence life is a giant synchronicity. Really think about it: Anything and everything only happens if you are in the right place at the right moment in time or if you were at the right place at the right moment in time in the past that set off a chain of events that eventually leads to the thing that is happening in your life right now.
And all of that only happens by making thousands upon thousands of microdecisions from how long to spend tying your shoes to when you feel like getting out of bed in the morning to what you decide to wear that day, eat for breakfast that morning and so on, ad infinitum.
Your life is what it is because of the cumulative decisions—conscious or unconscious—that you have made up until this very moment and whether or not you end up in the right place at the right moment is controlled by making an endless series of microdecisions (and a smaller number of macrodecisions). Period.
Your decisions—and especially those microdecisions you make thousands of times per day without consciously realizing it—and the resulting actions you take based on your decisions are everything and are the biggest determinant of your actualized experience of reality.
On one level…
But on another level, the giant elephant in the room then becomes, what influences those decisions? And hence, what is the programming that essentially runs my body, mind, life and reality on autopilot 24/7?
The Programming That Runs Your Life
Two things: Beliefs (which are essentially perceptions) and the resulting emotional state that they generate.
Some of you might be saying: “Wait a second… what about thoughts? Thoughts are everything!” Thoughts are important as a translational tool between your unconscious and conscious mind. Let me explain.
Thoughts are the end result of a combination of thousands of unconscious beliefs and emotions interacting and being translated into a more coherent, simplified form that is useful for your conscious mind to be able to relate to and process. They are the synthesis of huge amounts of incoming psycho-perceptual data from your environment filtered through thousands of unconscious belief structures and your current dominant emotional state.
How you interact with reality is a two way street. When your mind/brain/consciousness observes reality, it then needs to know how to act in order to A) keep you alive and B) help you thrive, which are two sides of the same coin. So it takes the input from your senses and then processes those through the algorithm of your beliefs and dominant emotional state to spit out thoughts and the micro (or macro) decision you will then make in order to fulfill directives A & B. Ironically, Directives A & B (keeping you alive and helping you thrive) are not free from the grip of your beliefs either as different people have different levels of risk tolerance and ideas of what thriving means, showing that beliefs are in large part defining our experience of reality.
But that is another point entirely and to keep this from getting too complex, the fact of the matter is, your beliefs and the resulting emotional state they generate are your most fundamental programming, and hence they influence all of your thoughts and all of your micro and macro decisions and 100% control your experience of life and reality.
Said another way, it is in large part your unconscious beliefs and to a slightly lesser degree your emotional state that control your decisions, and therefore it is here where you want to focus in order to shift your microdecisions in a positive direction that supports your growth, success, happiness, safety and so on.
Some people believe our DNA or the brain programs us on a psycho-physiological level, however, epigenetics research has shown that our mind (belief level) and our actions and lifestyle (results of belief level programming) shape our DNA and our brain and body to a large extent , and so it is actually the other way around. You are even controlling how your body and mind function to a large degree.
All of this to say, your perception (your beliefs) is everything. What you believe and what you feel, you decide and what you decide—either consciously or unconsciously—you do and what you consistently do shapes your reality and your life.
And the bulk of this happens on autopilot with microdecisions being the flashpoint between the vast expanse of your unconscious and your experience of life.
How to Harness the Power of Microdecisions to Improve Your Life
So what are the takeaways? How do you apply this into your life in a meaningful way?
- Examine and understand the impacts of your beliefs and change them in such a way that you are permanently perceiving reality in a way that can only be constructive/expansive.
- Do those things that are known to have positive impacts on your emotional state, because in the world of microdecisions, a predominantly negative emotional state and outlook can have exponential impacts through the magnifying power of thousands, upon thousands of microdecisions. And consequently a predominantly positive emotional state will be magnified a thousandfold through the power of microdecisions.
The one clarifying statement I will make about the above suggestion on negative emotions is that the word predominantly is extremely important. Your reality is in many ways a reflection of your most dominant emotional states, not necessarily moment to moment quivers in your attitude. So if you really struggle with negative emotions (fear, anxiety, shame, anger, worry, hate, etc.), then your reality will predominantly reflect that; and if you are pretty much happy, centered and at peace most of the time with a positive outlook on life, then your reality will reflect that as well.
Reprogramming Belief Structures
Let’s deal with beliefs first.
Limiting beliefs will, through the cascading effects outlined above, cause you to make an ongoing string of micro and macro decisions and take resulting actions that will limit your reality and keep you from expanding into your full potential. Your decisions and actions will always lead you to experience a reality that is a reflection of your deeper beliefs be they positive or negative.
If you believe the world is a dangerous place and you can’t trust others, then you will perceive and experience that all around you. On the other hand, if you believe the world is a safe and supportive place and other people are generally kind and supportive, then you will experience that reflected back to you in your life circumstances.
So the question then becomes which reality do you prefer? One that is constantly creating fear, distrust, limits and struggle or one that is reflecting love, happiness, effortlessness, success, abundance and joy?
It is your choice and you choose with your beliefs.
How to Put This Knowledge Into Practice
There are three primary steps:
- Examine your beliefs. Ask yourself questions like “What must I believe is true in order to be having this experience?” when going about your day to day life. Look at your life mindfully and objectively. What patterns do you notice? Are all of your friends highly critical and prone to gossip and drama or are they loving and kind and supportive? Do you have the financial abundance that you want or are you struggling to make ends meet?Your life is the mirror of your beliefs and by asking yourself questions like “What must I believe is true in order to be having this experience?” when considering different aspects of your life, you will begin to reveal the underlying beliefs that are operating unconsciously.
- Upgrade your beliefs. Now that you have an idea of what your beliefs are, you can consciously change them if you like. If you see something positive being reflected back to you that you enjoy and have identified a positive belief that it is reflecting, maybe you will choose to leave it as is, as it seems to be working well. Or maybe you notice a way that you can expand it to open you up to even greater possibility, growth, success and fulfillment.Perhaps you notice limiting or negative beliefs being reflected back to you in one or more areas (which is totally normal if you haven’t done a process like this before!). In that case, you will likely want to shift that belief from negative/limiting to positive/expansive. How do you do that? Typically it is simply a process of finding the opposite of the limiting belief.For example, if you find that you believe, “I am not good enough” then the opposite positive belief might be “I am good enough” or “I am capable of anything.”Another example might be if you find that you believe, “You have to work hard to be successful” then the opposite positive belief might be “Success happens effortlessly.”
- Rewire your brain to see the positive belief. There are many ways to change beliefs, however, one that I am particularly fond of is what I call “Affirmations 2.0” Here is how the process works:
When you challenge your own beliefs, you will tend to instinctively defend what you currently believe is true, even if it is self-limiting, because to do so is to deny your current version of reality and what you are experiencing. Simply put, what we believe is true about ourselves and the world defines who we are at a very fundamental level, and we do not tend to give up such beliefs easily. However, through the use of special types of questions, we can help ourselves to open up to new possibilities and new experiences that invalidate limiting beliefs in an indirect way. And therefore no contradiction is involved—simply a falling away of what is no longer true in favor of something much more expansive, positive and appealing.
Instead of using a traditional affirmation of the new, positive belief where you simply repeat it to yourself over and over again over the course of days, weeks or months, try asking yourself a question in the format outlined below, as repeating new beliefs to yourself consistently in the form of ‘I am…’ statements (how affirmations are traditionally practiced) implies on a subconscious level that you don’t totally believe it is true for you yet. Otherwise, why would you need to keep telling yourself over and over again?
For example, if you are working with the limiting belief, ‘I am not good enough’ ask yourself a question like this: “How can I become even more capable of achieving my dreams?” This implies that you are already capable and sends this signal to the unconscious mind, without challenging or denying ingrained belief patterns as happens with traditional “I am…” affirmation statements. In addition, asking questions like this trains your brain to search for evidence of the new belief and search for actions you can take to make it a reality. Taking action on a new belief is a powerful way to convince yourself it’s true on the subconscious level and make it a reality in your life. As the new belief takes over through this process it naturally invalidates the limiting belief which starts to fall away of its own accord.
When this process is combined with the second part of the equation, big positive shifts in your reality can be experienced in a remarkably short period of time.
Shifting Your Emotional State
The truth is that your emotional state is in large part a reflection of your beliefs. For example, if you believe the world is a dangerous place, you will experience fear and anxiety more regularly; and if you believe it is a safe place, you will feel peaceful and happy more often. Consequently if you believe you are not good enough, you will experience self-doubt, fear and anxiety; and if you believe you are capable of anything, you will experience self-confidence, peace of mind and happiness most often.
Essentially you can’t be predominantly in a positive emotional state with a huge swath of limiting beliefs. And vice-versa, you can’t be predominantly in a negative state with only primarily positive/expansive beliefs.
However, beyond working with beliefs, there are things you can do to raise your emotional state. Here is a short list of simple but powerful things you can do to shift your emotional state:
+ Take a Yoga class or practice Qi Gong
+ Go on a walk or hike in nature
+ Practice deep breathing or some other form of breathwork
+ Get some form of exercise
+ Spend time with loved ones or friends (as long as they aren’t negative and critical!)
+ Volunteer to be of service to a meaningful cause
+ Get creative—play music, create art, etc.
+ Learn a new skill
+ Take action towards a dream or goal of yours
+ Get out of your normal, everyday routine—travel somewhere new or that you have always wanted to go
+ Watch an uplifting movie or video
+ Engage in healing practices (energy medicine, chiropractic, massage, reiki, etc.)
+ Take courses or read books on personal development and spiritual growth
+ Eat healthy, organic, whole foods regularly
+ Do some form of detoxification like a juice cleanse or visit a sauna or steam room
Do one or more of the above activities regularly in tandem with the belief shifting work outlined above. In just a matter of time your microdecisions and your reality begin to reflect all the positive upgrades you are making.