The majority of people I have met believe they have the freedom to make at least some choices in life. Among those who disagree, most seem to live as if they do have choices on a practical level. Free will and the degree to which we may or may not enjoy it is a discussion for another day. At the moment I want to focus on the concept of discipline in the sense of intentionally shaping behavior in a positive manner.
Choices are sometimes the problem. Even the most strong-willed person will struggle more in the face of a multitude of distractions rather than one or two options. Distractions erode away at our will and desire is a fickle motivator that may be a help one day and a hindrance the next. Consider how many people set intentional goals and plans to exercise or diet as New Year's resolutions in January. Fast forward to Thanksgiving... how many of them even remember setting those goals? Things that are strong desires at one time are not guaranteed to continue over a variety of circumstances.
Mathematically, it pays to come from the perspective of choice control rather than simply boosting motivation. The bell curve on the chart above is the model that shows how often a choice is made across a variety of circumstances with the x (sideways) axis representing what percent of the choices available the action holds and the y (up and down) axis representing how often it is chosen. Notice it peaks when it holds 50% of the option, and the vast majority (95%) of any of it's actions take place when it holds between about 25% to 75% of the choice availability.
Perhaps this is easier to explain with an example. I get dehydrated easily and need to develop the discipline of drinking water regularly. Certainly there are some times that I will desire to drink water, but other times I prefer to drink coffee or soda. Still other times I don't feel like drinking anything at all. However, I am more likely to develop the discipline of drinking water if it is constantly an option for me to do - for instance if I am always carrying a water bottle with me. Some times I will drink water because I'm thirsty for water. Other times I will drink it because it will take more time or money to get something else to drink when the water is right there. Still other times I may be tired rather than thirsty, but drinking water may be a more feasible option to stay awake than taking a nap. Whatever the situation, if drinking water is continually a valid option, I am more likely to develop it into a discipline.
Eliminating other choices only works to a point. If I choose to rid my house of anything to drink but water, I will certainly be drinking more water than before, but my thoughts and desire will swiftly move towards the things I am missing. When I feel a choice has been taken away from me I tend to dwell on it more and as soon as those choices reappear, I will abandon the discipline of drinking water and fill my choices with other options. Not only will I lose the discipline, but it will be awhile before the desire for water returns.
This bell curve of behavioral choices has some profound effects upon our lives in our development of behaviors, our relationships, the choices we make in character development, and perhaps even in the history of our organizations and their growth and decline over time. More on this later...
Trying to hear the music in the din of many voices.
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