When we talk about decision making, we have to learn where to begin. For that I am going to use an example that James Clear has used in his blogs very successfully. In the early 20th century, a lion tamer named Clyde Beatty learned a lesson that is so important that it impacts nearly every area your life today.
The Lion Tamer’s lesson
Clyde Beatty famous for his “fighting act” in which he would tame fierce wild animals. At one point, Beatty’s act included a segment where he brought lions, tigers, cougars, and hyenas into the circus ring all at once and tamed the entire group. Notably, Clyde Beatty was one of the first lion tamers to bring a chair into the circus ring.
The simple innovation
The classic image of a lion tamer is one of the entertainer holding a whip and a chair. The whip gets all of the attention, but it’s mostly for show. In reality, it’s the chair that does the important work. When a lion tamer holds a chair in front of the lion’s face, the lion tries to focus on all four legs of the chair at the same time. With its focus divided, the lion becomes confused and is unsure about what to do next. When faced with so many options, the lion chooses to freeze and wait instead of attacking the man holding the chair.
You don’t want to end up being the Loin
How often do you find yourself in the same position as the lion? How often do you have something you want to achieve (i.e. lose weight, gain muscle, start a business, travel more) … only to end up confused by all of the options in front of you and never make progress? This is especially true in health, fitness, and medicine, where every person and company seems to believe it is their duty to make things more complex. Every workout routine you find is the best one. Every diet expert says their plan is the optimal one. The end result is that we feel like we can’t focus or that we’re focused on the wrong things, and so we take less action, make less progress, and stay the same when we could be improving.
Better focus or just better decision making?
Anytime you find the world waving a chair in your face, remember this: all you need to do is commit to one thing. In the beginning, you don’t even have to succeed. You just need to get started. Starting before you feel ready is one of the habits of successful people. Most of the time, the ability to get started and commit to a task is the only thing you need to do to focus better. Most people don’t have trouble with focusing. They have trouble with deciding.
Want to lose 10 kg? Awesome. Eat real food (anything that doesn’t come in a package or a box is a good start) and exercise more. You don’t need more information. You don’t need to learn how to focus on the right things. You just need to commit to the fundamentals. Build good habits first, there will be plenty of time to figure the details out later.
Want to perform like an elite athlete? Great. Quit dreaming and start living like one. Get to sleep earlier. Organize your day around your training. If you have to miss other commitments, then you have to miss them. If it’s important to you, then stop gazing at the other distractions and commit to it.
Want to start a business? You can! Sure, you’ll be uncomfortable. Every entrepreneur is uncertain. You don’t need to learn a new strategy or figure out how to focus better. You just need to commit to making it happen. Take the first step and trust that you’ll figure out how to take the second step when you need to do so.
We all have the ability to focus and concentrate, but only if we decide what is important to us and what we want to commit to accomplishing. The only wrong choice is no choice.
Look at the Tamer, not his chair
Most of the time, we sit quietly, gazing at the chair in front of us, silently debating about which leg is the most important. If you have somewhere you want to go, something you want to accomplish, someone you want to become… then make a decision. If you’re clear about where you want to go, the rest of the world will either help you get there or get out of the way. Both those are useful.