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Hard choices

Something is a hard choice when we know the probabilistic long-term benefits of following through on an action and the immediate gain (usually a dopamine hit) of a different action and have to choose between one or the other.

It is a hard choice because there is only one right answer and we know which one it is and yet we struggle with making up our mind to ignore or disregard the other choice. Like when we have to decide between focusing on writing that blog post or checking what's new on Instagram. Or like when we have to choose whether to order that salad or a bowl of fries.

When faced with a hard choice, we tend to evaluate in exceptions. Would it really hurt my long term benefits if I just choose the easier option this one time?

When we're looking to see whether the current case can be an exception, then we are opening up a can of worms. Every consequent situation when we are faced with a similar conundrum, we tend to make a choice based on precedent.

I chose the easier option that day and I haven't noticed anything negative yet, so maybe it's alright to choose it again. 

And we enter a downward spiral that will lead us astray and unable to recover meaningfully. And if we are able to, it would have taken away precious time for the recovery.

A no exception policy helps in always making the right choice when we are faced with hard choices.

There are two ways to follow a no exception policy. The first is to not allow any exceptions on specific tasks or behaviours. For example, you could decide that you will never wake up later than 6:30am (whether you sleep at 10 in the night or 4 in the morning). Or that you will never eat meat.

I personally prefer a different approach where I don't define my no exception policies on specific actions, because I'm not too particular about specific actions and have experienced that different circumstances demand different actions and behaviours.

Instead, I define my no exception policy in terms of priority, where I decide that under no exception will I work on a lower priority task when I have a higher priority task that needs my input or time. And I am rigorous in prioritizing the things that benefit me in the longer than in the more immediate term. Well, at least, I'm trying to always be like that.

And it makes hard choices easy.

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