Don’t Give Yourself a Choice

I recently had a conversation with a coworker about how I like to run before work.  It was a frigid morning, and they said they could never motivate to do it.  If I don’t give myself a choice, and it’s something that I have to do, it will get done.  It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t give yourself a choice.

When you're trying to build positive habits, don't give yourself a choice.

Working Out

Some people like to go to the gym.  Some people like to exercise outside.  Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, come up with a schedule, and stick to it.

If you want to work out in the morning, set your alarm for an earlier time, and get up.

If you want to go to the gym after work, bring your workout clothes with you, and go straight there after work.

It’s very easy to miss a workout, and say to yourself that you’ll make it up later (will you?) or that you need an extra rest day (do you?).  Don’t give yourself a choice, and stick to your original plan.

(Unless you’re sick or injured, of course!)

Eating Healthy

Eating healthy in the new year is another common resolution, right up there with working out consistently, but bad eating habits can be hard to break.

One easy place to start is to stop impulsively eating out, and cook most of your meals at home.  If you are shopping for your own foods, buy fresh ingredients and cook meals from scratch.  A little bit of planning for the week can save you from stopping at a fast food restaurant because you’re in a rush.  Your wallet and your body will thank you.

I love to eat soup in the winter and have been experimenting with a lot of new recipes.  I’ll freeze extra portions in jars that are easy to bring to work for lunch, or microwave on a night that we don’t know what to cook.

Mr. Farmhouse Finance gets his lunch ingredients organized every Sunday (he brings a salad with chicken in to work every day), so it’s easier for him to pack his lunch the night before.

If you keep healthy foods in your house, and don’t give yourself the choice of going out to lunch or stopping at a fast food restaurant, it will be much easier to make healthy eating a habit.

The less money you spend on crappy restaurants, the more you could spend on a nice dinner out or on other financial goals.

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Saving Money

Do you pay yourself first or do you wait until your bills and expenses have been taken care of before you put money into savings?

If you wait until you’ve paid for your expenses, chances are there won’t be much money left to save or invest at the end of the month.

On payday, create the illusion of scarcity by paying yourself first and making all of your transfers into your savings and investment accounts.  Make it a priority to work towards reaching your financial goals, and you will achieve them that much faster.

You could talk to your HR department about having part of your paycheck direct deposited into your savings account.  If it’s automatic, and you keep your savings account separate from your checking account, it will be harder for you to accidentally spend that money.

Planning for Retirement

Unless you plan on working until the day you die, you will need to plan for retirement.  Whether you have an IRA, 401k, pension plan, or any other investment vehicle, you need to start utilizing it to begin investing money for retirement.

In my twenties, I listened to my mom’s good advice and joined the retirement system at a couple different jobs.  Mr. Farmhouse Finance and I opened Roth IRAs and 403bs, and make it a priority to put money away each month for retirement.

Don’t give yourself a choice.  Decide how much you can contribute to a retirement account each month, and do it.

Even if you can only budget for $100 a month, right now, start with that.  You can always increase your contributions.  Don’t delay planning for retirement.

Once again, if you lack the discipline to make these transfers yourself, you could set it up to make automatic contributions from your paycheck or schedule a recurring transfer.

The Power of Streaking

Recently, we completed the Holiday Running Streak for the fourth year and ran at least a mile a day between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Every morning I went out to run, no matter what the temperature was.  Many of my coworkers thought I was crazy for running when it was in the single digits outside, and claimed that they could never motivate to do it.  I always responded with that I didn’t give myself a choice.  The whole idea of a streak is to do something consistently day after day, no matter what.

This year, Mrs. Adventure Rich encouraged the blogging community to join her in streaking.  Some people completed the running streak, while others did yoga or meditated every day.  No matter what the goal was, for many people it was easier to complete the streak if they didn’t give themselves a choice.

It has been said that it takes at least 21 days to form a habit (although many people say 66 days is a better estimate), so what better way to get started than by completing a streak.

Closing Thoughts

Telling yourself that you’re going to do something, and actually doing it, can be hard for some people to do.  You can make it easier by not giving yourself a choice or a way to opt out of something that you’ve committed to.

If you have an illness or an injury and can’t work out, that’s one thing, but if you’re just cozy in bed and don’t want to get up, that’s a whole other thing.

Don’t give yourself a choice, and you may surprise yourself by how easy it becomes to do the things you set out to do.

What kinds of things do you not give yourself a choice about?

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When you're trying to build positive habits, don't give yourself a choice.

Illusion of Scarcity Worksheet (PDF)

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Download this free worksheet and start paying yourself first.


  • Budget for financial obligations and recurring expenses
  • Prioritize your financial goals
  • Make all your transfers on payday
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10 Comments

  • I really like this framework! I find that when I am training and following a plan (like the marathon!), I’ll end up sticking to it much better because I just do what the plan says… no questions asked. It says run for 60 minutes… I go run for 60 minutes! Haha- I might still delay or hem and haw at it, but I do it 😉

    I have also been doing a lot of soup cooking and saving the leftovers or extras from a big batch in the freezer. Not only has it come in handy during busy weeks, but homemade chicken soup or just plain bone broth has been a lifesaver when we all get sick at once!

    I think I’ll start giving myself “no choice” more often 🙂

  • I definitely need to follow a plan. The running streak was a good way to build a base before I started training for my marathon. If I didn’t do that, it would have been harder to get started on this training plan. Thanks for stopping by!

  • I agree with Mrs. AR — this is a great framework! I’ve used it myself and didn’t even realize it.

    Two examples: a) automatically contributing to Roths and 401Ks/403bs when we were working and b) keeping no junk food in the house (unless Mr. G puts it in a really good hiding place; out of sight, out of mind).

  • It’s got to be a balance for me since being rigid can result in disastrous health consequence but generally, I don’t let myself have a choice about taking the dog for an afternoon walk. I simply say that Seamus MUST go out by a certain time and trained us both to expect that walk to happen. It’s hard to wallow in the choice to be lazy with a large expectant dog staring at you intently, wagging his tail slowly, just waiting for you to get up.

    • Yes, I agree that your health needs to take priority, so flexibility is important at times, as well. Dogs are great motivators for getting outside on a walk. Right now, we have two cats, but once we build our house we are hoping to adopt a dog. Seamus is a great name for a pup!

  • I’ve often wondered why some things were easy for me and other things aren’t. Two things that are difficult: waking up early and exercising every day. I used to wonder how my roommate would go running every single day, no fail. But then I realized it was because she didn’t give herself a choice. She made running part of her everyday routine, as a way of waking up.

    I’ve realized that if something is truly important to me, I’ll find a way to prioritize it. Like flossing every day. There’s no choice–it’s a part of my routine. When it comes to blogging, I need to totally overhaul my approach. When I sit down to write there are way too many choices (going online, checking Twitter, etc.), so often it takes me days and days to complete one post. Thanks for giving me some food for thought!

    • I used to be the same way, but have kind of retrained myself to be a morning person. That’s not to say that I’m springing out of bed in the morning, but I make it a point to get up earlier to get my run in before work. It’s tough to balance blogging with everything else some weeks, but I’m trying to prioritize that, as well. Thanks for stopping by!

  • If I’m honest, and why wouldn’t I be, I’m kinda lazy. So this type of framework has been so helpful in helping me reach goals and make progress. My most extreme example is probably not replacing our second car – that decision has forced all sorts of things like walking more and saving more.

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