Primary and Secondary Choices Help Your “Want to”

Do you complain and lose energy for getting out of bed to workout or just go to work or school? Consider using primary and secondary choices. You really need this great principle, because you can turn really good things an obligation. When that happens, it is much harder to do that good thing.

For example, think about an athlete in training or a parent cleaning up after the kids. On a somber note, how about a family giving up an exciting vacation to care for a dying grandmother?

Or, as stated above, it might be a regular event like just going to work or school.

When in those types of situations, you can live in obligation and make life miserable for yourself and those around you, or find a way to live in freedom and have energy to do that obligation.

Primary and Secondary Choices

Don't Like Doing It?

This is an easy question to answer. What are some good things to do, but you aren’t doing them? Everyone has those types of things in their life. For me, I know that a fast walk of at least 45 minutes every day is very good for me, but I seldom "want to" do it. It is more often a "have to" do it.

So, you, like me, manipulate yourself to do what you don’t like doing. The manipulation follows one or both of the following forms:

  1. Use Fear: Beat yourself up with the potential consequences if you don't do it. So, here are your steps: beat yourself up—do it, get tired of beating yourself up and reduce the fear of the consequences, which leads to not doing it or stop (repeat cycle).
  2. Use Rewards: Promise yourself a reward if you do the task. So, here are the steps: get inspired—do it, lose inspiration and desire to do it, which leads to not doing it or stop (repeat cycle).

Yes, both of those work, but they are short-term solutions.

A Productivity Question

That leaves you with an important question - How can you be productive or get something done, when there is no fear or rewards?

Generally, if there is an important enough reason to do something, you will probably do it. But, what about those times where it may not appear, or actually isn't that important, at least right now?

Obviously, self-governing people tend to get things done anyway. Actually, anyone can be productive without the use of fear or inspiration.

Primary and Secondary Choices to the Rescue

Since obligations are real, there are things that you “have to” do. So, how can you live in freedom? The answer comes from understanding your hierarchy of values or wants.

It is very simple, some events or wants in your life are more important than others. Those things are generally important because of values you have. So, you will either choose those values or ignore them.

That is where Primary and Secondary Choices become a big help. In fact, they become a simple organizing structure for your life.

  1. Primary Choice - Main outcome, vision, end result - What you really want!
  2. Secondary Choices - Choices that help you get to the primary choice. These are not necessarily wanted, in and of themselves.

A primary choice is the value you want, the outcome you want, or the vision you want to achieve – your THERE. A secondary choice is what you do in order to reach the primary choice. Now please note this – Secondary Choices are not necessarily wanted in and of themselves.

Look at the picture on the video above. Primary and Secondary Choices use the THP (THERE, HERE, PATH) structure.


If you are an athlete in training, do you train to just train or is there a Primary Choice (THERE) to be achieved? For Olympic athletes, they train to get the Gold Medal. The training is a Secondary Choice to help get them to the Primary Choice. Training is the PATH to THERE from HERE and it is often the "have to" to help them get to the "want to."

Obviously, you have more energy when you focus on the Primary Choice versus focus on training. That is the power of Primary and Secondary Choices. When you engage with Secondary Choices, you may lose sight of the reason you are doing it. That's the time to remind yourself of the Primary Choice. “I may not enjoy this training, but I want to enjoy the Gold Medal!”

You do similar things in life. You probably don't label it as Primary and Secondary Choices, but you understand how this works. But, this principle only works when you have a clear THERE (desired end result). When you have a clear outcome, it gives you the reason to do those mu