The Compounding Effect of Making Real Decisions

Scott Leonardi

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I’ve started noticing that over the past year or so, I’ve had a much easier time sticking to decisions once I make them. Normally, or at least before this past year, I would always find myself making a “decision” then within a week or two or few I would be right back to doing what I was doing before the decision to change.

It’s almost like half-baked resolutions fail no matter when you try to start them…

There’s plenty of similar things people always try to change about themselves, normally around the new year of course, but also just in general. Things like exercising more, eating healthier, being more productive, cutting back or quitting smoking or alcohol, reading more, etc. There just seems to be a pattern in the kinds of behaviors and habits people are always trying, and failing, to change.

I’ve gone through the same struggles with every one of the things I just mentioned, and then some. I understand what it’s like to want to eat healthier then finding myself at some drive-thru at one in the morning a few nights later. I know what it’s like to want to take a month off boozing and in a week after an exhausting day grabbing a beer because, well, it’s just a beer, right? One drink doesn’t even count, right??

…It counts.

My problem with these sorts of things has always been that I’ve subconsciously given myself the leeway or flexibility to step in and out of my little decision bubble without even realizing it. I’d always given myself a free pass to not feel too guilty if I slipped up on a choice to change, never really taking it to heart when that one slip up always turned into two and multiplied from there.

I have experience with addiction.

A few years ago, I was at a real low point in my life. I was never really on the verge of bankruptcy or death, but my habits had become a major problem in making any sort of progress in my life. I was living life on repeat and even though I always knew I was going to sort myself out at some point, that point never seemed to come because I was waiting for the motivation to make a real decision to fall into my lap. I realized that the only way out of that broken record haze was to walk out of it myself. No one was coming to grab my legs and drag me out.

After a short but necessary detox stint, I made a firm and concrete decision to be better. I knew then that I would never end up in a place like that again. Not in my mind and not in my physical reality. It was then that I slowly began to realize what making a true decision is all about, and it’s most likely why I’ve been better able to maintain that kind of conviction recently.

I had laid the ground work for myself to better understand choices and the importance of following through on them.

My problem a few years after initially understanding this was the same problem as anyone’s. Things became routine again, not so great habits started to form, and one day you realize that you may not be living that same struggling addict lifestyle, but you’re definitely not doing what’s best for yourself, even in this objectively healthier reality.

Once you’ve struggled with addiction, it’s a lot easier to spot bad habits forming in other areas of your life. Things like letting a bad attitude snowball for no reason, being too judgmental, watching to much T.V., or becoming too absorbed in social media are all things that can slip by unnoticed a lot easier and in some aspects can also be a lot harder to quit doing then simply not exposing yourself to hard drugs. One can be extremely hard to find once you disconnect from certain nefarious types while the others are probably open and running on another open tab as you read this very sentence.

But, history aside, what I’ve come to learn recently is just how powerful it can be to understand what it means to make a real decision. To say you’re going to do something or not doing something for a specified amount of time, perhaps forever, and shifting your mental state into a frame of mind where you truly believe that the act of you doing or not doing that thing again is an actual impossibility. You have to not only believe that what you want to do isn’t real, you have to place your mind into the future where that thing you wanted to do is already done.

You want to read 50 books this year? You have to believe you already have. You have to know exactly what your year is going to look like, understand the implications, and accept them fully.

You want to lose 20 pounds? They’re already gone. Now you just have to play catch up while the thought of not going to the gym doesn’t even cross your mind because you truly believe you’re just living through a reality that’s already happened.

You see, to me, I like to see this decision-making process as a kind of game to play with time itself. I make a decision to complete or change something, then I force myself to know that in that future moment, I am living a life where that thing is done or changed. I know that until that moment, all I really have to do is fill in the blanks. I just have to live through something that’s already happened.

The more often I’ve successfully done this, the easier it’s become to be the kind of person that remains true to his word and follow through on whatever choice I make. The compound interest in continually being able to actualize your decisions reinforces the idea that you actually are that person. Your old flaky self slowly fades into obscurity as a more fully understood and controlled self emerges.

What’s most important about this mindset it that, when you’re able to truly see things in this way, all temptation goes away.

It no longer has power over you. When you whole-heartedly believe in yourself and in your decision, any passing offer or inclination to act otherwise dissolves as it enters your awareness. You are no longer the person who takes the offered cigarette because you decided to cut it to one a day and you already had one. You are no longer the person that throws your friend a few dollars on their way out to grab you something from the drive-thru they’re going to because you decided it was best to cut out late-night grease once and for all. You know longer have the same mind as the person who would normally succumb to temptations because you truly believe you are a different person and those things aren’t a problem in this new person’s life.

It’s always going to be easier said than done, I know. It’s an ongoing practice as much as anything worth doing is. All I know is that having this kind of mindset has worked for me before and continues to work when I decide to allow it to work. When I can fully embrace the mind of my future self, the one who did the thing I wanted to do, I’m able to see a clearer path in front of me. I understand how that future self must feel and do my damndest to not let the influences of my inner and outer world sway me from that path.

“Believe in yourself” is a cliché for a reason, because powerful truths are always the things that become cliché over time. They lose their general shine and allure, but they do NOT lose their potency.

The sooner we can all understand that and use this power over our decisions and our lives to better ourselves, the sooner we’ll be inhabiting a world where are goals are already reached and our dreams continually realized.

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I write a lot about self-development and personal growth. I want to help people uncover their authentic selves through creative expression and in the process understand their place in the world a little better. I also enjoy writing screenplays, short stories, and poetry. All of which can be found at

Imperial Beach, CA

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