From chore to a choice

I wrote this in a newsletter last year and thought it would be good to have it here permanently on the blog too!


This year I have read and listened to more books than I have for about the last three years put together. I have thoroughly enjoyed this and while there have been a few fiction books in my reading list the bulk has been non fiction.

A recent one I have finished is by Charles Duhigg titled Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. I loved Duhigg’s first book  The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and was looking forward to reading his latest one. It is a great book, but just not quite as great as his first.

There was however still much for me to take away in Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, but if I had to choose one key finding that has helped in my personal life it is a lesson that was contained in the first chapter: Motivation  Reimagining Boot Camp, Nursing Home Rebellions, and the Locus of Control.

It is summed up well in this interview with Duhigg in 800-CEO-READ:

“The key to self-motivation is realizing two things: First, to trigger the parts of our brain associated with motivation, we need to feel like we’re in charge. We need to feel like we have some agency and  control over our lives. That’s why making a chore into a choice is so powerful: Because it gives us a chance to assert our control. But control, on its own, often isn’t enough. It needs to be accompanied by a sense that we’re pursuing our deepest aspirations, our most important goals.

The way we achieve this is, oftentimes, by taking a moment to ask ourselves why we’re doing something—and how we can assert our sense of choice. ”

This makes so much sense when you see it written down like this and for things that I have sorted in my life that pattern is there:

  • Menu planning – I choose to do this so meal time isn’t so stressful, therefore never really see it as a chore.
  • Weekly food prep – I choose to eat well and this is just part of what I do to make sure I eat well.

I don’t however naturally transfer this chore over choice mentality to everything. But since reading the book, every time I catch myself thinking I have to do something or dreading doing a particular activity I try the mind switch of making it a choice not a chore and while I may not be jumping for joy to do whatever it is, I get over the procrastination or it just helps me get rid of my negativity.

In the book Duhigg writes

“When we start a new task, or confront an unpleasant chore, we should take a moment to ask ourselves “why.” … Once we start asking why, those small tasks become pieces of a larger constellation of meaningful projects, goals, and values. … [R]eplying to an email or helping a coworker, on its own, might be relatively unimportant. But it is part of a bigger project that we believe in, that we want to achieve, that we have chosen to do.”

Here are some recent examples of this in action in my home situation:

  • Cleaning out the kitchen cupboards – really didi not want to do it, but reminded myself it fits into my bigger goal of decluttering to allow for more space in my life as stated in my goal for this year.
  • Taking the kids to their soccer matches – I know this sounds terrible, but recently after many weeks standing on the edge of soccer pitches for hours on end, I was dreading having to spend another three hours watching the younger boys playing soccer (my husband is playing football so this has been left to me most weeks). I asked myself why do I like them playing sport? Being active is important to me and I want the kids to be active too. I decided to look for the joy in their faces as they played as opposed to watching my clock and be happy that they want to play and love playing soccer. I was still cold, but I did enjoy the games much more for taking my new attitude not my dread to their games.
  • Making the kids lunches – So many lunch boxes, so many weeks on end of lunch box making! Reframing the making of lunch boxes back to my goals to want the family to eat well, makes me realise that I have a choice. I could buy a heap of processed stuff and make my life easier, but I don’t want to do that. I am choosing to make their food and that keeps me going with this repetitive task.

Of course moving from chore to choice, isn’t a magic wand and it takes work, but it does really make a difference if you are prepared to make the mind switch.

If you haven’t consciously done this before and give it a go I would love to hear if it works for you too!