Life is filled with choice points. They are what gives us free will in a clopen world where we simultaneously have and do not have free will (more on this in the book).
When faced with a decision, or choice point, it is imperative to perform a short, mindful pause to ensure you make the right decision.
This blog posts explore why choice points are important and what happens when you perform a simple mindful pause, like Stop, Take a Breath, Observe, Purpose, Proceed (S.T.O.P.P.).
In order to move forward in life, whether it to pursue our passions or figure out what to watch next, we need to make decisions. In these moments you are face with a choice point.
Choice points can be challenging and even stressful. But, a useful trick I found is to ask yourself:
What would past me do, what would present me do, and what would future me do?
Of course, this is dependent on what you want for future you! Then, give a completely arbitrary weighting to each of the three “you” and the path will be clear. A great tip for what future you would want comes from guru Naval Ravikant, “Play long-term games with long-term people.”
Figure 1. How to deal with choice points.
In the moment you notice a choice point and ask yourself what you want, you are taking a mindful pause. It is vital to perform mindful pauses, because they close an existing idea space and allow new one to flourish.
For instance, when faced with a challenge or if you need a break, you can do a S.T.O.P.P. This stands for:
STOP. Stop what you’re doing. Stop thinking. Stop getting distracted. Just stop.
TAKE A BREATH. Take three deep breaths. Breathe so there is no pause between breaths.
OBSERVE. What do you notice? Your breath? A thought? A sensation? Simply notice.
PURPOSE. What do you want to get out of this show? Learn something new? Up to you.
PROCEED. Now that you’ve achieved beginner’s mind, we can proceed.
Let's see what happens to your idea space when you do a S.T.O.P.P.
Imagine you have an idea space, filled with thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions.
Figure 2. An idea space.
Step One: As soon as you stop, your idea space vanishes.
Figure 3. During the "stop" phase, your idea space vanishes.
Step Two: When you focus on the breath, the only appearances in consciousness are sensations.
Figure 3. During the "breath" phase, your sensations appear in consciousness.
Step Three: The mind is a fickle beast as a thought enters the mind, in turn, triggering an emotion.
Figure 4. During the "observe" phase, thoughts and emotions appear.
Step Four: Set your intentions to choose which thoughts and emotions to focus on and which to let go.
Figure 5. During the "purpose" phase, negative emotions can disappear.
Step Five: As you proceed, a new idea space is formed with everything you want inside of it and everything you don’t want outside of it.
Note how perceptions don’t form quite yet! Thus is the beauty of beginner’s mind: you take everything as is.
Choice points are the spicy salsa of life, adding flavor and excitement to the decisions we make every day. To really savor these moments and make the best choices, we need to sprinkle in some mindful pauses, like our trusty S.T.O.P.P. technique.
Choice points might be tricky, but by hitting the brakes and giving ourselves a moment to breathe, observe, and set our intentions, we can navigate them like a pro! It's like spring cleaning for the mind, sweeping away distractions and negativity, and creating a fresh, organized space for our thoughts and emotions.
So, go ahead and embrace the power of choice points and mindful pauses. Dance to the rhythm of life with a more lighthearted and fun approach, and don't forget to bask in the awesomeness of the beginner's mind. After all, life's too short to not make the most of every decision and enjoy the journey along the way!