Why Choices are Killing Your Performance

The Illusion of Choice: Why Choices are Killing Your Performance


 The Illusion of Choice

 April Theme: Decision-Making


If you want to be great at something, you have few choices. In fact, you may have no choice. Choices are just an illusion for those who want to be great at something.


We all love having choices. From the food we pick on a menu to the videos we watch on YouTube; we all love choices. But at some point, can giving ourselves too many choices actually work against us?


In the area of mindset, one thing a growth mindset or a positive mindset does not account for is the number of choices we give ourselves.  What if having too many choices actually prevents us from being great?


Who Can Benefit

Whether you are already an elite athlete, an aspiring future star, a coach or athletic director, or a person who is simply motivated to do better and be better: we all have a tool in our tool bag called, “choices”. Choices are not just about “good” and “bad”. What if the number of choices we give ourselves stopped us from reaching our goals?


 "Choices are just an illusion for those who want to be great."


Why it Matters

As a mental training consultant and coach in the field of sports psychology and high-performance, I often see high performers struggle with choice overwhelm. It is a psychological obstacle that results in mental delay or “performance pause”. That momentary delay causes us to scan our minds searching for the best possible options and their implications. Depending on how we are feeling that day, our answer will often be unpredictable.

But elite performers don’t have the luxury of deciding in every moment what they will do. They’ve already decided. (You can read more about “pre-deciding” here). Elite performers pre-decide, freeing themselves from having to make decisions in the moment. Therefore, they have no choice to make in the moment: they understand that having choices is just an illusion. They, in fact, have no choice if they want to be great.


Mental Minimalism

Perhaps the concept of keeping ourselves mentally unburdened, or “mental minimalism”, can help us with our mental performance and mindset. How does removing choices help us?

  1. Removing choices unburdens us to focus on performance rather than decision-making.
  2. Removing choices creates the mental space to focus and be creative about execution.
  3. Removing choices removes “performance pause” and frees our mind to perform at an exceptionally high level.


If You Want to Be Great

If you want to be “average” at something, you have a lot of choices on the road to get to the destination called “Average”. Let’s take exercise for example. If you are pursuing “average”, you’ve got lots of choices. You can choose to exercise when and how much and how hard, because all you aspire to be is “average”. If you want to arrive at destination “Good”, you’ll have to exercise at a “good” level. You will need “good” exercise habits. But if you want to be a “great”, you don’t have a choice. You will have to exercise one way: “great”. Therefore, in a single moment when you think you have a choice, you actually don’t have a choice. You’ve already pre-decided your one choice in advance: to achieve “great”.

So, in any given moment:

  • “Average” is the goal = lots of choices
  • “Good” is the goal = few choices
  • “Great” is the goal= no choice (by pre-deciding)


If you want to be great at something, you don’t have a choice. There are behaviors that you must do and must NOT do. There is a price to pay for the destination you are pursuing. And that choice is proportionate to your desired destination. Your choices must be aligned with your desired destination. Choices are an illusion for those who want to be great.


Do you want to win a championship? Then there are a series of systems, processes, and choices that must be pre-decided that are proportionate to the ultimate goal of winning a championship. What do championship players, teams, and programs do? Championships don’t happen by accident. They are carefully orchestrated. Your current systems and processes are perfectly designed to give you the results that you are currently getting. Need different results? Time to change your habits, processes, and systems.


3 Ways You Can Remove Choices to Increase Mental Performance:


  1. Pre-decide once. What do you really want? If you want to win a championship, you must have the heart, soul, determination, stamina, physical regiment, resilience, mindset, and optimism of a champion. If your habits, processes, and systems do not match that of a championship team, you will never get there.


  1. Remind yourself of the benefits of pre-deciding often. Remind yourself of the benefits you’re seeing when you feel like you’re depriving yourself of something you think you want. Ask yourself “what do I really want?”. If you really want to be great, you’ve already decided. Move on from the internal debate you’re having with yourself. The case is already closed.


  1. Invest your time in the habits, processes, and systems that will make you great. Too much time is wasted in debating with ourselves and others. Decide what you want to excel at. Pre-decide as many things as you can. Commit your time and energy to anything and everything that will make you great. You will go further than you ever thought you could. These kinds of players, teams, and organizations are very hard to beat. You will be hard to beat, even on your worst days. You will have been so committed and worked so hard even when you didn’t feel like it (because you had no choice) that your opponent will have to play at the top of there game just to defeat you. You’ll be very hard to beat.



Choice is an illusion for anyone who wants an elite mindset. For those who put in the work, a confident mindset is far more powerful than a positive mindset because confident people give themselves reasons to be confident. A positive mindset is inconsistent and unreliable. Likewise, a growth mindset can be helpful, but it is not crucial for performance. What is crucial is your mindset that aligns an ultimate goal with the habits, processes, and systems necessary to get to your ultimate goal. The motivation is progress. I do not know a single soul that isn’t motivated by progress, even if it’s slow.


Remove choices. Pre-decide once. Remember the benefits of living and performing with an uncluttered mind. Focus on habits, processes, and systems. Your reward: PROGRESS! Celebrate progress! You may not win a championship every year, but you’ll have the heart of a champion that will overflow into every other area of your life.


Elite Mindset is a sports psychology and mental training practice designed at helping high performers and those who coach high performers be at their very best. Gary is available for coaching, consulting, and speaking at your next event. 

Don't forget to sign-up to receive Gary's free Monday Morning Mindset text message to get your week started off in the right mindset. You can sign-up on the front page of this website. 


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