Your Most Important Choices
As I mentioned, as we head toward our goals we encounter an enormous number of choices that come at us, and each decision we make has consequences. So, the quality of our lives depends on the quality of the decisions we make. We literally make millions of decisions that add up to the consequences that are our lives.
Of these millions, I believe that there are five big types of choices that we continually must make that radically affect the quality of our lives and the rates at which we move toward what we want. Choosing well is not dependent on our innate abilities such as intelligence or creativity, but more on what I think of as character. For this reason, I believe that most people can make the right choices.
The following five decision trees show these choices. I believe that those who don’t move effectively to their goals do the things on the top branches, and those who do move to them most quickly do the things on the bottom branches.
It is a fundamental law of nature that to evolve one has to push one’s limits, which is painful, in order to gain strength—whether it’s in the form of lifting weights, facing problems head-on, or in any other way. Nature gave us pain as a messaging device to tell us that we are approaching, or that we have exceeded, our limits in some way. At the same time, nature made the process of getting stronger require us to push our limits. Gaining strength is the adaptation process of the body and the mind to encountering one’s limits, which is painful. In other words, both pain and strength typically result from encountering one’s barriers. When we encounter pain, we are at an important juncture in our decision-making process.
大自然的一条根本定律是，要想进化，就要突破极限，承受痛苦，方能获得成长，举重也好， 直面难题也好，都不外乎如此。大自然赋予我们痛苦，其实是让我们感受到离目标越来越近， 或已在某方面超越了自己的极限。同时，大自然中物种变得强大的过程也要求突破极限。获得成长是身心适应环境，了解自身极限的痛苦过程，换句话说，痛苦与成长都是克服自身障碍的过程，当我们感到痛苦之时，我们其实是处于做出抉择的重要分叉口。
Most people react to pain badly. They have “fight or flight” reactions to it: they either strike out at whatever brought them the pain or they try to run away from it. As a result, they don’t learn to find ways around their barriers, so they encounter them over and over again and make little or no progress toward what they want.
There are literally two different parts of each person’s brain that influence these reactions: the pre-frontal cortex and the amygdala. They work as though they were two different brains that fight for control of decision-making. The prefrontal cortex is the logical part of the brain that evaluates choices logically and the amygdala is the “animal instinct” part of the brain that triggers emotional reactions like the instinct to fight or flee. When faced with an obstacle or threat, an emotional reaction (e.g. pain) can be triggered that can lead to a fight or flight reaction that “hijacks” decision making away from the pre-frontal cortex, where the rational choices are being made. This can result in our making decisions that produce consequences that we do not want. This typically causes really big problems.
Those who react well to pain that stands in the way of getting to their goals— those who understand what is causing it and how to deal with it so that it can be disposed of as a barrier—gain strength and satisfaction. This is because most learning comes from making mistakes, reflecting on the causes of the mistakes, and learning what to do differently in the future. Believe it or not, you are lucky to feel the pain if you approach it correctly, because it will signal that you need to find solutions and to progress. Since the only way you are going to find solutions to painful problems is by thinking deeply about them—i.e., reflecting — if you can develop a knee-jerk reaction to pain that is to reflect rather than to fight or flee, it will lead to your rapid learning/evolving.
Your very unique power of reflectiveness—i.e., your ability to look at yourself, the world around you, and the relationship between you and the world—means that you can think deeply and weigh subtle things to come up with learning and wise choices. Asking other believable people about the root causes of your pain in order to enhance your reflections is also typically very helpful— especially others who have opposing views and who share your interest in finding the truth rather than being proven right.
If you can reflect deeply about your problems, they almost always shrink or disappear, because you almost always find a better way of dealing with them than if you don’t face them head on. The more difficult the problem, the more important it is that you think hard about it and deal with it. After seeing how effectively facing reality—especially your problems, mistakes and weaknesses— works, I believe you will become comfortable with it and won’t want to operate any other way.
So, please remember that:
Pain + Reflection = Progress
How big of an impediment is psychological pain to your progress?