For many years, I operated under the illusion that I could make good decisions on the fly and was simultaneously frustrated that I wasn’t getting the results I was looking for. I never realized the two were connected.

Cue the virtual 2×4 across my forehead.

It easily ranks as one of my top 5 self truths. Let’s break this down.

First, we have to acknowledge that we don’t often make rational, logical decisions. Instead, our decisions are heavily (even primarily) influenced by the design of the situation itself.


Here are some examples:

Organ donation rates double when the form is changed slightly.

– Similar effects can be seen in 401k participation. When employees are automatically enrolled (and must take action to opt-out), participation is significantly higher. Further, most participants joining under automatic enrollment retain both the default contribution rate and fund allocation even though few employees hired before automatic enrollment picked this particular outcome.

And a fun one (with a hat tip to Carlos Miceli for the find):



Convinced yet?

I am.

It’s clear to me that the choices I make are significantly impacted by the way the situation is designed. I like to use a running analogy. Essentially, my success in a given race is mostly influenced by the design of the course, not how well I was able to run that day.

So, I’d say the formula looks something like this:

.80(course setup) + .20(running the race) = result

On the surface, that doesn’t seem like a very positive revelation. Agreed.

However, there’s one more factor to consider: you can choose to design your own course.

If your race is getting healthier, you can setup a course with few obstacles, removing all the processed food and sodas from your house. You can even make it downhill by planning your meals ahead of time and buying the needed groceries.

Or, you can make your course look like Mount Everest, with challenges galore – ice cream here, Dr. Peppers there, rushing to feed the family at the end of an exhausting day.

Same runner, different race. Still think they have the same odds of success?

Here’s the big idea:

Success depends far less on how good of a runner you are, and far more on how well you can design your course.

Why does this matter?

Most of us are focused on being better runners. We’re pouring our time and energy into factors that won’t matter much, ignoring the things that would make a difference.

Beyond that, most of us are running on a course we didn’t even pick. (More on that later.)

Now, you know better.


Next week, I’ll release my newest guide about how to jumpstart yourself. Essentially, you’ll learn how to design your own course and make sure you get off the starting line. Once you get the hang of it, you can apply the principles to transform every area of your life. Pretty nifty, indeed.

In the meantime, I have 5 inaugural memberships left in habitHQ. It’s a purpose-driven community of mutual improvement, focused on the driving forces in our lives – our habits. It provides encouragement, accountability, and the resources needed to reprogram our habits into the building blocks of success. We start each day with an affirmation and a Proverbs reading. We’re also developing the first draft of our Daily March, providing a customized blueprint for consistent progress. We’re gathering into smaller groups based on priority areas for habit development: health, productivity, leadership, and relationships. These will turn into “masterminds” that meet (online) at least monthly to brainstorm, facilitate connections, and provide accountability. The subscription is $29 per month and provides access to customized coaching and every related product that I develop.

I’ll be closing the inaugural memberships at 5pm CST today, so be sure to jump in if you were considering it. You can click here to sign up. After it closes, you’ll be able to join a waiting list for when we’re ready to reopen membership in a few months.