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While routines are necessary, we must on occasion evaluate whether or not they are in our best interest.

Decisional Complacency: Identify and manage routine decisions to ensure your best path forward

This is the last in our 5-part series on “How We Do Hard.” By reading this, you’ve made a decision, and it’s a good one. Continue reading for 5 steps toward your next, better decision.

You are exceptionally good at making decisions. In fact, you make roughly 35,000 decisions a day; an impossible, staggering number considering you only take 23,000 breaths in a day.

Most of these decisions are unconscious, automatic, and rote. They are shunted to a part of your brain that requires no conscious thought to carry out. Regardless, activities such as getting out of bed, getting dressed, brushing your teeth, driving, walking, going to work or school or shopping will require thousands of decisions.

Most of the time, your decisions are spot-on.

But some require consideration.

What do you choose to eat for breakfast? How fast or aggressively do you choose to drive? Are you deciding to yell at your kids and loved ones?

How do you choose to manage your interactions with life overall?

How often do you simply feel bad, as your life unwinds day after day after day?

What portion of your life do you live on the island of regret, guilt, or remorse?

How often are you angry?

Everything that makes you feel anxious, envious, angry, jealous, insecure, frustrated, dejected, lonely or any other negative, unhealthy emotion, is very often tied to the decisions you make. And these decisions are very often tied to your routines.

While routines are necessary, we must on occasion evaluate whether or not they are in our best interest.  If we don’t evaluate them once in a while, we risk devolving into:

Decisional Complacency

Decisional Complacency describes when we have come to rely on a routine without any thought to its merit. We have come to rely on our routines as the best path forward, which it may or may not be.

Now, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that the vast majority of decisions we make are fine! We get dressed, brush our teeth and navigate our days with nary a thought.

The bad news is that if we don’t think about, question, pick at or otherwise evaluate some of our most important decisions, our routine and dumb luck may leave us at risk.

So, what can we do to overcome Decisional Complacency in favor of better decision making?

The answer is straightforward, however will require a certain level of commitment.  (I have a client who has a painting on their wall which reads, “Happiness is a discipline,” indeed, it is.)

Steps to managing Decisional Complacency for a happier life:

  1. Get a notebook and pen.
  2. Think about areas in your life that both:
    • Cause you pain.
    • Are related to your relationships or your attitude towards challenges.

For now, don’t consider challenges that have to do with habits like weight loss, smoking, drinking, etc. Do include issues or disconnects with loved ones, co-workers, clients, anger issues you may have, insecurities, etc.

  1. On the top of each page of the notebook, write down one of five areas in your life that cause you pain. One challenge per page.
  2. There are a variety of tools within the Alternative Response Method that we can use at this stage, but for now we are only going to talk about two: Mentors & Self-coaching:


Find some mentors! For our purposes, mentors are those people who know you, have your best interest at heart, and who are fundamentally kind and are successful in their own right. The have perspective and information that you don’t. These types of mentors can be traditional (unpaid), such as teachers, other parents, clergy, co-workers, friends, business associates, family, etc., but be selective! Friends sometimes make good mentors, but not always. Choose wisely, Grasshopper. Show them your five challenges and ask them for their thoughts and suggestions and start to write them down. You are beginning to develop your flipchart*, which is an ARM tool that leads to change.

Consider paid mentors as well, such as therapists, social workers, and coaches. This may be difficult. Hang in there. Do it anyway. The perspective you gain from mentors is invaluable in your journey to better decision making.


Take a look at each page of your notebook and pretend that the challenge is not yours, but that of a very close, dear friend or family member – someone you love deeply and care about.  Then, write down on the sheet the advice you would provide them.

  1. Look over the results. Chances are you will begin to see some patterns in your choices that you will want to revisit.

Is this easy? No.

Is there much more to it? Of course there is.

But it’s a start.

This is the last of our 5-part series on “How We Do Hard.” I hope the concepts found in the Alternative Response Method and my book, The Art of Quality Decision-Making, have added some value to your life.

Please share your thoughts in the comments and reach out to me anytime if you’re interested in learning how to live a more intentional life by learning how to make better decisions.

*In ARM, a flipchart is simply a notebook, app, or pad of paper where you collect tips, tools, and nuggets of insight that resonate with you in regard to specific situations you are seeking to improve, to help you think more clearly in any given moment (for example, you might have a Staying Calm flipchart or a Stop Procrastinating flipchart).

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