How To Make Better Decisions- Part 3: If/Then

Fat and Not Fat- smaller“Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be.” – From the song “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney

It wasn’t suddenly and it’s not quite half, but the two pictures here are me at age 30 when I was a “big boy” and me at age 45 when I was much healthier and in better shape. The difference is 15 years and 100 pounds of fat lost.

Everybody is looking for the Holy Grail that will cure the obesity problem in the developed world. Losing weight and controlling obesity is, for most people, simply a matter of making better decisions. We’re going to talk today about how I used this decision-making strategy to lose weight and get healthy.

To review, in Part 1 of the series we learned that most of the time emotions play too large of a role in our decision-making. And, because emotions are up and down we often make poor decisions. We talked about the need for removing emotions from our decision-making process.

In Part 2, we talked about one technique that helps remove emotions from the decision: never base a decision on a sunk cost.

Today in Part 3, were going to learn to use if/then statements to improve our decision-making.

  • What are if/then statements?

They are simply a statement that says “if ‘this’ happens, then I will do ‘this.’” For me when I was losing my weight some of my if/then statements were, “if it is 5 AM, then I will run for 45 minutes,” “if I want to eat a candy bar, then I will eat an apple.” You get the idea

  • Why does this work?

This is a powerful way to make good decisions by taking the emotional impact out of the decision-making process by separating the emotion from the decision. I don’t make a decision at 5 AM whether or not to run for 45 minutes. Why? Because at 5 AM my emotions may tell me I don’t want to run. But if I make the decision the night before after I’ve weighed myself and see that I’m too heavy, then I can decide firmly that, “If it is 5 AM, then I will run for 45 minutes.”

  • Does this really work?

You can see from the pictures above it worked very well for me. In order to increase my exercise and decrease my calorie intake every day became a series of dozens of if/then statements. The key is to make a good and logical decision at a time when your emotions are not pulling you in the direction of a bad decision.

If you wake up today and say, “I’m not going to eat a candy bar today,” the chances are when you walk by the vending machine and your stomach is growling, you will be reaching in your pocket for some change. But, if you make the decision before the day begins and say to yourself, “If I feel like eating a candy bar, then I’m going to drink Diet Coke,” chances are you actually will drink the Coke and save the calories.

  • This really works!

I use this technique every day multiple times to control my diet and exercise as well as get to those projects that I would otherwise put off.

  • Is there something you really want to do but have never been able to get started?

Make an if/then statement and get it done!

Can you make some if/then statements that will help you in your decision-making? Please post some examples and your thoughts.

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