Command of Your Life

Strategy Requires Conscious Choice

It is a practical question: do you have a conscious choice about what you do? If you don’t, discussions about developing good strategies are useless. There are those that hold a mechanistic view of the universe, seeing everything as action and reaction. The brain is a machine. Most of its processes are subconscious. Today psychologists even argue that consciousness is an illusion, redefining consciousness as an “attention scheme,” that is, a way of paying attention to certain things and ignoring others.

All of this misses the point. The reality is that people decide what to do, a lot of this process is unconscious, but the key decisions are conscious. We make choices. We all decide from moment to moment. In making our choices, we compare alternatives. Too many factors affect a competitive process for us to analyze them all consciously, so we train our minds so that our unconscious processes have the right information on which to work, developing a “feel” for our alternatives. How those alternatives “feel” may be the result of unconscious processes, but our ability to experience feelings gives use the power of conscious choice. In choosing our actions, we must be conscious that others are also free to choose their reactions. If you choose not to believe you can control these choices, strategy is not for you.

What we can command is limited. Our limited command starts with our physical bodies, which we learn to command as we grow. But our command over our bodies is limited. We cannot wish ourselves to be taller or to float off the ground as we do in dreams. As we develop a strategic position, our command can extend beyond our bodies, to our property, but most importantly to our relationships with other people. One goal of any practical strategy is to increase the influence of our position over the decisions of others.

A trained subconscious mind can analyze the complete characteristics of a situation and develop a feeling for alternative choices. It can also construct courses of action and bring them to the attention of the conscious mind. The role of the conscious choice to transform those feelings into action by choosing among alternatives. respond instantly. Some people are simply better trained and better equipped by nature to make these decisions.

When we make judgments about people, one of the key things we must compare are their decisions-making abilities, how well their subconscious minds are trained, how quickly they are willing to act. We can know who we can trust. We can predict who will make good decisions and what mistakes others are likely to make. As Sun Tzu said, “We must know ourselves and know our opponents.”

  1. Command is the responsibility of the individual. 

    We all must make our decisions alone, and we must individually assume command within of our own lives. In other words, we all are the producers of our own position path of time. Event and the actions of others are just the raw material with which we must work. Life offers both good material and bad, but our lives depend on what we do with them. Strategically, there is no such thing as a group decision. Groups can only concur with a decision made by an individual. The individuals within a group each make their own decisions about whether to agree or battle with a suggested decision.

  2. We must care about our own goals and the goals we share with others. 

    Mission guides every decision, consciously or subconsciously. Even when we are following the command decisions of others, we usually find ourselves making decisions that affect our personal position through the course of the day. Even when following an organization's rules about how those decisions are to be made, we are using our own judgment in each moment based upon our goals within that organization. The organizations that we are part of must serve our personal missions or we must leave them. When we lose track of our mission, our decisions must lose their way.

  3. What people see as intelligence is not IQ as much as good decision-making.

    Our success depends on winning the support and discouraging the opposition of others. People judge us primarily, not upon our thought processes or our words, but upon the actions we choose to take. They also judge us by the kinds of alternatives we identify and how we compare them. People who consistently make good decisions are seen as more intelligent than others, no matter when their level of academic learning.

  4. Command requires the courage to decide and act instead of delaying decisions.

    A decision is never the end of the story, but only the beginning of a new one. Making a wrong decision quickly is the fastest and often the only path to the discovering the right decision. While some decisions should be avoided or delayed, even the decisions not to act now should be a conscious choice rather than an act of indecision. The decision not to act is also a decision and sometimes the most courageous one. The decision to continue doing what we have been doing is a decision as well. Courage is also required for us to recognize when we have made a bad decisions and need to correct it.

  5. Command makes decisions to respond to events. 

    While we tend to think of "events" as the actions of others, more broadly "events" simply represent the discovery of added information about conditions in our environment. Our senses are constantly picking up information from the environment, but not all of it is new. It is the latest information that triggers the leader's decision-making machinery. Some information is generated by change. This is information from the changes of climate. However, other information has been there all the time, but it is new to us because we discover it for the first time. This is information from the ground, specifically information from learning more about the value of our position.

  6. Command requires earning the trust of others by being trustworthy.

    Our strategic positions require the support of others. We can only grow our strategic position by winning more trust over time. This requires consistency and dependability. Focus on our mission, especially our shared mission with others provides consistency because it provides a guiding light that allows us to correct our path over time. People judge us by our actions. Our words are only valuable when they correctly predict our actions. When the outcome of those actions are not what we desired, our ability to recognize failure and change our actions to adapt to the new situation also earns people’s trust.

  7. Leaders must rely upon developing a subconscious feel for sitautions.

    Our senses are exposed to a flood of information during the events of the day, and we are not necessarily consciously aware of it all. Our brains work on the pre-conscious level filtering that information to select the ideas that are important enough to penetrate our awareness. Our brains are continually making low-level decisions about what information is important enough to bring to the attention of the higher-level decision-making processes of our conscious minds. We can, however, train our subconscious minds to be more aware of the key aspects of mission, climate, ground, command, and skill so we can maintain a working mental model of our situation that produces the right feeling for alternatives.

  8. We must discipline ourselves to consciously look for ways to improve our decisions.

    The subconscious mind is a valuable machine, but the subconscious mind always chooses to do what it has done in the past. Success is less about the quality of each, individual decisions that it is about the general course of our decisions over time. No matter how well we analyze and train, we are going to make plenty of mistakes. The key is to learn from them. If we do, many individual decisions, even those that seem very insignificant at the time, can have an enormous impact on the course of our lives over large spans of time. To stay in command, we must decide what is the best use of our time at every moment of every day.