How to make better decisions

By Jonathan Pope

Whenever I am faced with an urge to do something I know I don’t really want to do (crush a tub quart of coconut gelato, take the night off from workouts) I have a series of questions that I ask myself before I make a decision.

First question:

What do I want to do?

To help you guys out, I’m going to map out a conversation I had with myself (yes, myself) a few nights ago.

Answer: “I want to eat an entire large pizza and drink a few pints of beer”

Literally ask and then answer this question. Even better would be to say it out loud. Seriously.

I’m still on board with the pizza binging after my answer, so I moved onto the next question:


 Answer: “Because I’m tired and feeling a little stressed out and pizza and beer sounds awesome”

Again, ask yourself and say the answer out loud. At this point, I’m feeling a little less pumped about crushing an entire pizza, but I’m still on board with the plan, so I move onto the next step.

Next, ask yourself:

 What do I really want? (i.e. What’s important to me right now?)

 Answer: “I’d like to cut down another 5 pounds, get better at climbing, eat a healthy and delicious dinner, save money, and feel great tomorrow so I can have a better day”

Hmmm. Pizza doesn’t really sound so great anymore. But, what am I going to do instead? I mean, I’m tired.

Side note: Not sure what you really want? Set some realistic goals

This is when I move onto the last question:

 What can I reasonably expect to do right now?

 Answer: “Well, I’ve got some leftover pulled pork already cooked up at home and I can cook a few eggs and make a salad in about 10-15 minutes. That won’t be very hard and I’ll save money and time and get a good dinner in. Then, I may have time to get a quick climb in at the gym.”

When I woke up the next morning I was happy with the decision I made and was thankful I had put the time in beforehand to have this process in place.

Wrap Up – Making decisions easier

Be reasonable – Don’t expect these questions to change your mind every time; they are a tool to help get perspective on urges and emotions.

Asking myself these questions gives me confidence in my decisions. Sometimes I opt for the pizza, and that’s ok. Instead of feeling guilty about it later I feel comfortable with the decision I made. It often leads to compromises such as ordering a smaller pizza or no beer. Either way, it’s a win.

Success comes from a series of small wins. One meal isn’t a big deal, but one meal 2 or 3 times per week for 6 months is a big deal. It’s the difference between improvement and stagnation.

These questions aren’t domain dependent. They work in nearly any situation at any time, not just fitness and nutrition related situations