Unleash Your Artistic Optimist, Part VI: Act on Your Values

I hear the blaring alarm clock at the homeless shelter. It’s time for me to get up and prepare breakfast for the residents. I know that I should pop up and help, but I want to fake sleeping so I can rest longer. I know what I should do, but I’m tempted to act otherwise!

When you recognize that there’s tension between the right thing to do and an impulse to do something easier, you have an opportunity to move towards – or away from – your values-aligned self.

Arguably the most important choices we make each day are Snowball Choices. Snowball Choices catalyze a chain reaction of actions and consequences. Take when your alarm goes off as an example. If you pop out of bed, you’ll have plenty of time to get ready, which means you’ll likely begin the day with a sense of calm and control, which sets you up for a productive and enjoyable day. If you procrastinate waking up, you’ll likely feel rushed and perhaps panicked, making it more likely that you’ll be forgetful, short-tempered, unobservant, and less creative. This simple but important choice can snowball into interconnected actions that move you towards or away from your values.

Your next challenge as an Artistic Optimist (If you missed the first five steps, start here) is to recognize Snowball Choices and practice acting on your values instead of your impulses! It’s similar to the old cartoon where there’s an angel on one shoulder a devil on the other. By learning to acknowledge these competing voices, you can recognize opportunities to grow towards that ideal you, who always answers the angel.

How can you spot Snowball Choices and make values-aligned decisions?

  1. See and welcome the struggle. Whenever you feel a tug between acting on goodness and acting otherwise, you’ve spotted a Snowball Choice. Greet this as an opportunity to grow towards your values.
  2. Answer the devil, then the angel. First imagine what it would be like to take the devil’s advice. How would you feel about yourself? How would it affect others? Then picture heeding the angel. How will cause you to see yourself? How might it impact others?
  3. Choose, then notice. After you choose an action (hopefully the values-aligned one), notice your in-the-moment experience as well as the consequences. Did you feel good? Did you do good? How does this speak to your future goals for yourself as a person?
  4. Keep score. For each Snowball Choice in the day, give yourself a +1 for answering a values-aligned action, and take a -1 for values-undermining action. Tally the score at day’s end, and aim to increase your score over time.
  5. Keep practicing. Whether your score is high or low on any given day, continue to work on improving it. Be a realistic optimist by recognizing that you’ve got a lifetime to grow into your best you. Practice patient with yourself and your progress!

With consistent practice, you’ll find it gets easier to choose values-aligned actions. Eventually, your Snowball Choices will create a track record you can be very proud of!

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