How to Make More Good Choices

I just got off the plane from Amman, Jordan where the Jordan Tourism Board invited Sean Ogle and I to spend the week adventuring around the country. In the last 7 days, we’ve crammed more amazing experiences and stories than I’ll be able to tell for quite some time. If you want them all, you’ll have to track me down in person at WDS, but over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing them both here and on Sean’s Blog – Location180, but first I want to talk about choices – and how to make better ones.

One thing I began to notice though is that as the week progressed, Sean and I began to make some seriously good choices. That might sound weird, but we began taking advantage of opportunities available and made up some of our own as well and every time we did – we came out with an incredible experience. After each of them, we found ourselves nodding to each other, “good choice.”

Here’s 4 quick examples from our trip:

#1) Shisha or Sleep

We got out of the airport in Jordan around 6pm last Wednesday after 25 hours of travel and 10 hours of time change (we left 6am Tuesday in Portland). It would be fair to say we were tired. We checked into our 5 star hotel and could have gone to sleep. We were beat. Instead, though, we went out to a cafe, had some tea and smoked some shisha (hookah) while listening to arabic music and watching arabic music videos on the street in the middle of Amman. The weather was amazing, the culture as awesome and it was the perfect start to our trip in Jordan.

We could have gotten some more sleep, but we started things off right instead. Good choice.

#2) Passing out or Petra

The second day we spent all day hiking through the Roman ruins of Jerash in sweltering heat. After walking for 4-5 hours around these ruins – and driving a few hours to PEtra, we arrived around 7:30 at night. Once again, we were exhausted, but there was the chance to Petra at Night – where a few nights a week, they do a night tour of Petra.

We weren’t going to go. We got to our hotel rooms, showered and were planning on going to dinner, but decided to give the 2 1/2 hour tour a shot anyways and have a late dinner – even though all we wanted to do was eat and sleep at this point.

As it turns out, they light up the canyon paths to the treasury and have around 1,000 candles in front of the treasury. Sean and I moved to the front of the group in order to take photos and came away with some spectacular photos (well Sean did, mine were more like ‘meh).

We could have done the easy thing and slept and ate, while waiting for our day tour tomorrow, but we decided to do it anyways – and it was incredible. Good choice. 

Sean Ogle Petra@NightHDR 2

[Sean Ogle's incredible HDR photo of Petra at Night]

#3) 900 Steps or Nada

petra

The next day we did our day tour of Petra and it was just as incredible as the night tour. The treasury (the main thing you see in most photos) is huge, but the city is much larger. After walking in the dead heat for multiple hours, we had the opportunity to climb to the monastery – a similar engraving to the treasury – with only one difference – it’s at the top of 900 stairs – another 2-3 hour hike round trip.

Ooof

900 steps sounded daunting, but at this point, we already knew what our decision would be. It took us a while and I stopped timing ourselves halfway through the trek, but it was worth it. As we rounded the corner at the top of the mountain, we saw the Monastery – equally as compelling as the treasury only minus the tourists who didn’t want to walk the 900 steps (a lot of them), and plus a viewing area where we could actually get some really incredible photos.

Good choice.

While we were up there, instead of going right back down immediately, we also decided to climb an overlook – another 20 minutes – where we took some more amazing photos.

Once again, we had to choose between calling it in early or going the extra mile. The extra mile (or miles in this case) is worth is – always. Good choice.

petra monastery

#4) Watch TV or Go ATV’ing

We went skydiving in Wadi Rum – a giant desert reminiscent of something like mars. It was awesome – and I look way less stupid in these photos than I did last year (photo evidence coming up in another blog post) – but while we were waiting for the photos and videos for an hour or so – we were just sitting around on couches in the area, watching other people’s skydive videos.

wadirumatv1

Earlier, I had noticed some ATVs sitting outside and decided that I wanted to find out more about them. After walking around outside in the heat for 20 minutes, and looking like a lost tourist (which I basically was) – I finally found the rental office and found they only cost $35/hour – so we decided to do it.

It was an absolute blast – probably one of the top 2 experiences on the entire trip for me – and it wasn’t even on the itinerary to start – but we wanted to do it, so we changed the intineary.

We could have just sat around and waited but instead we went ATV’ing across the moon. Good choice. Good choice indeed.

I noticed that both Sean and I never hesitated on these decisions. We just did it. And, invariably, after each adventure, we turned to each other, nodded and simply said “good choice.”

But this isn’t just how great decision makers we are – we still make plenty of bad ones, but here’s how you can make more good choices as well, next time you have to decide.

How To Make More Good Choices

When you’re faced with a decision, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions. Some of the ones

  • Is this Life or Death?
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • When’s the next time I’ll get a chance to do this?
  • Will I regret NOT doing this more than doing this?
  • Do I Really Want To do this?
  • Is fear the reason I’m thinking about not doing this?
  • Which decision will make a better story? (my favorite question)

I tend to find that in adventure situations, this works the best for me: “if you get the option – take it”. In fact, by the end of the trip, it was my motto. If you’re looking for adventure – here’s your answer to every question.

“If it’s an option, then yes.”

(Of course, unless the question you’re being asked is “Do you want to sit, do nothing and watch Grey’s Anatomy all day?”)

The mantra is similar to my YES policy – if you’re trying to do more things, live an adventure and tell better stories, there’s no better way to find it than to say to yes to impromptu adventures.

Try it – it’s really simple – “If it’s an option then yes.” Or, if you’re feeling crazy, you could just use the simpler version and say YES.”

Now I realize that not all things are as easy as ATVing or sleeping. You’ve probably got a few questions…oing nothing.

What if it’s not an option, there are no options or all my options suck?

THEN YOU’RE SCREWED! HAHA. Sucks to be you! Just kidding, there’s a few ways to go with this and they’re all easier than you think.

Ask

By simply asking, you open up all sorts of doors that you never knew existed. If in doubt, ask. The worst someone can say is no. Are you really afraid of someone telling you no?

If you are, why?

Is that tentative fear worth not even considering the option?

The word “no” can’t hurt you.

Ask, see what they say. You’ll probably be surprised how often they say yes.

Rearrange Your Priorities

If you want to do something bad enough you can. Nothing can keep you back from doing what you want if your priorities are in line with what you want. The problem comes when you have priorities and goals that are incongruent or don’t really work together to achieve the same thing.

Here’s a few examples of incongruent priorities and goals:

  • I want to eat cheeseburgers 12 times a day and get a six pack!
  • I want to travel the world on $1,000/month but I won’t stay in anything less than a 6 star hotel!
  • I want to do something impossible, but I only want to do stuff I think is easy.

Most of these boil down to idea that “I want my life to be different but I don’t want to have to change anything!”

Guess what? Tough. You’re going to have to choose your priorities. Sometimes, you just have to do the work and stop complaining.

  • Do you want your cheeseburgers or your six pack?
  • Do you want to spend $1,000/month or stay in 6 star hotels?
  • Do you want to do the impossible or something easy?

You can make whatever decision you want, but you have to choose what your priorities will be and those priorities will direct your goals.

Through our Jordan trip, the decision was often: “Do we want to get a couple extra hours of sleep or take the odd chance of experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event?” We almost always chose the experience.

(side note: This fits nicely with one my unofficial mottos: “I can sleep when I’m dead.”)

Stuck on choices that don’t seem ideal? Change your priorities, figure out what’s really important to you and act accordingly. Your best decisions come when they’re aligned with your priorities.

Get a Partner in Crime

One of the reasons we kept doing what we did was because Sean and I were on the same wavelength. It was easy because we never hesitated on these things – we just did them. This is standard mode of operation for both of us.

“We’re up for it. Lets do it. Let’s go.”

If you have someone willing to go, it helps make things easier, but note that this isn’t a requirement, it’s a bonus. Don’t use “I don’t have anyone” to justify not doing anything.

If you don’t have anyone around you like this – find some – you’ll have way more fun. The impossible league community is a great place to start.

Make It One

You underestimate what you’re capable of. If you want something to be an option – just make it one. Decide that you’re doing it and see who stops you (you’ll be surprised at how few people will).

ATV’ing wasn’t even on our itinerary – we joked earlier as we drove by them that they would be fun – so after skydiving, I took it upon myself to find out more information, walked around for 20 minutes, and then decided to do it.

I wanted to do it badly enough, so I did.

Beg Forgiveness

A consequence of taking charge and “making it an option” when it’s not one is that you should be prepared to beg forgiveness down the line and deal with the consequences if necessary. You might hurt someone, offend someone or endanger yourself. But, you’re a big boy/girl and you can decide what to do with your life so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. If you want to do something, take responsibility for it (including the consequences), and be prepared to beg forgiveness if necessary.

Looking back on them, all of our choices sound like no-brainers. ATV’ing or doing nothing? Local cafe or getting some sleep? They don’t seem like hard choices now, but at the time, I can’t tell you how good of an option sleep sounded. Unfortunately, your perspective is a little tainted before your decision – and way too instead of choosing what will make the better story, you end up choosing what’s easier. This is the same instinct that either convinces you or keeps you from running windsprints in 40 degree, rainy weather.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

Opportunities are options and sometimes the best opportunities are stories are missed because people are scared they’ll be hard – so they make poort choices. Do them anyways.

Remember, better choices make better stories so make more of them and start having more adventures. Have fun out there.

When’s the last time you made a “good choice?” What are you going to do to make more of them?

*Massive thanks the JTB for having us out to their incredible country. I can’t wait to come back.

**Thanks to Sean for being an awesome travel partner. Thanks for always being up for an adventure.

Comments

  1. says

    Your trip looks absolutely awesome. The treasury must be so breathtaking to look at in person.

    I’ve had those little times before when you just did in for a little while. Sometimes when you’re training and just decide to give it 10 more minutes, or 3 more reps.

    Nice article.

  2. says

    This article pumped me up man. I guess my take-away is when the option is “go out and do awesome sh–” or “sleep more” then go with option A.

    The crazy thing to me is that a life of mediocrity is merely the accumulation of a bunch of mediocre days. That means if I don’t take advantage of today I am heading down the path of mediocrity. This is scary and really exciting.

    It is exciting because it means if I do awesome things today, then I am heading down the path to do crazy sh– and live an awesome life.

    This post does a great job of showing how that plays out in the moment.

  3. says

    “What decision will make a better story?”

    BAM. That’s it. The question I need to ask myself every day, at every opportunity.

    My last good choice was moving to the other side of the country on a whim. About 12hrs notice. It was the first time I listened to my instincts and drowned out the white noise from others telling me it was ridiculous. Two years later and it’s still the best decision I’ve ever made.

    My next good choice? Tonight, when I get home from work and I’m tired and cold and want to switch off from the world, I’m powering up my laptop and working on my blog and my business. It may not be as glamourous as jumping out of a plane or moving across the country, but when someone asks me ‘What did you do last night?’ I’ll have a more interesting answer than ‘oh, just veg’d out on the couch… had a really quiet night…’. BORING.

    Thanks for an awesome post!

  4. says

    Wow I’m jealous what an amazing time!

    Great questions you’ve asked here, I especially like the “will this make for a better story?”

    We live through story and narrative, it’s what makes us human. Kudos to bringing this to light for your readers Joel.

  5. Sean says

    I only clicked the link because of how bad the title was. I would have gone with something more like:

    “How To Make Better Choices More Often”

    The article still got it’s point across.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] day I got back from my trip, I read the post on Joel Runyon’s Blog of Impossible Things on how to make better choices. His main point was to say yes more often, yes to impromptu adventures and yes to seeking out more [...]

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