Decide: from French decider or Latin decidere, infinitive of decido (“cut off, decide”), from de (“down from”) + caedo (“cut”).

To decide something isn’t to just make up your mind. To decide, in the truest sense of the word, is to cut down or cut away from all other possible choices. Once you cut down the tree, there’s no uncutting it. There’s no undo, no going back.

Practice on the mountainside

As we wind down the year and start preparing for the new one, start thinking about what you’re going to change. More specifically, we have too much right now vying for our attention. Rich or poor, we are being bombarded every minute of every day with demands for our attention, our eyes and ears, our mindshare. Foods manufactured with tons of additives scream for our attention via our tastes. Music and ads blare at every opportunity for just a few moments. Our inboxes overflow with requests for our time.

To make your days more productive and powerful, think about what you can cut out from your life.

Perhaps it’s a person, someone in your life who brings very little that’s positive and a whole lot that’s negative. Examine your previous interactions with this person and consider whether cutting them out would be a relief. In the digital age, cutting someone out is easier than ever. Simply block or remove them from all your channels. Cut them out!

Perhaps it’s a medium of some kind. Professionally or personally, managing and maintaining tons of social networks is draining, especially if you’re making a legitimate attempt to provide unique value on each. Would you be more effective if you laid one or two channels down to rest and simply paid them no heed? Cut it out!

Perhaps what you need to cut is some busy-ness. Time is most easily recouped from mindless habits that we have. We might turn on our favorite video game or television show. We might fill our days with strings of mindless tasks that we do purely out of habit, such as compulsively checking email or vacantly surfing through friends’ Facebook profiles. Look at what fills your days, find the least valuable thing you do, and cut it out!

Cutting effectively requires commitment. Anyone who has ever cooked and used a knife in the kitchen knows this to be true. You can’t half-heartedly saw at a cut of beef or a baguette and expect to get any kind of worthwhile results – you have to commit, exert some force, and make the cut.

Here’s the secret to all of this: pick just one thing and cut it out. In the martial arts, using a blade against multiple attackers is one of the most difficult skills imaginable, requiring years or even decades of practice to be able to do effectively. Real life is no different! You can’t cleanly and effectively cut 10 steaks at once without insane skill. You can’t clean 10 rooms in your house at the same time without a robot army. Pick one target, one habit, one negative influence in your life, and cut it down. Once you’re sure it’s finished off and isn’t going to get back up and fight you, move to your next target, but don’t try to tackle a whole horde of them.

Are you ready to begin cutting? Have you picked your target for 2012? Sharpen your blade, firm your resolve, and draw your sword!

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