“Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.”
― J.E.B. Spredemann, An Unforgivable Secret
Should I stay or should I go?
Should I turn left or should I turn right?
Should I pick up the phone and call or should I just remain silent?
Should I stay in school or should I drop out?
Should I marry him or keep searching?
“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Sometimes choices we face every day are of little consequence or so it seems and sometimes we know deep inside that the choices we make have a great impact on our lives and those around us. I believe that every time we are faced with a choice to make the decision and choice matter very much. So how do we know when and how to make the right choices?
In his book, The Traveler’s Gift, author Andy Andrews tells a story of the 7 decisions that determine personal success. In a nut shell here they are:
1- “The buck stops here. I am responsible for my past and my future.”
2- “I will seek wisdom. I will be a servant to others.”
3- “I am a person of action. I seize this moment. I choose now.”
4- “I have a decided heart. My destiny is assured.”
5- “Today I will choose to be happy. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit.”
6- “I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself.”
7- “I will persist without exception. I am a person of great faith.”
I think, for right now, the hardest item for me is number 4. I don’t yet feel like I have a decided heart about some really important issues in my life like what to do about my son not wanting to get a job and also his decision not to go to college right now. Ultimately I know he has to make his own choices about how to live his life – but while he is living at home and affecting the lives of those he lives with, I am faced with a choice.How do I teach him what his responsibilities are, not only for himself but to the people around him and the world at large? There are several choices I can make here but which one will get me/us to a good place now and in the long run? The choice I decidedly want to make is one of helping him to become a victor not a victim of his own mind.
“I find that the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.” – Steve Maraboli
There are some things that I am decided on like the fact that I love, love, love my children and they will always be what makes my day worth living, I will always leave myself in a position of learning every single day, and making G-d more of a central focus in my life grounds me. Those are the things I know for sure and am absolutely decided on. Everything else, well, not so much.
Indecision is a scary nowhere place to be and I can feel deep inside a pull to get decided on things like my life relationships, my 5 year plan, and exercise. What I know for sure is that once I am decided I not only make room to expand on the depth of the decision but my sense of self-worth grows from the inside out. At times I feel so desperate to just know the choice I’ve made that I get impatient to get to the choice already. But then I take a deep breath and forgive my impatience as best I can and decide that time is my friend and it is assured that when the time is right I will be decided about many things.
“We face an endless string of choices, which leads us to feel anxiety, guilt and pangs of inadequacy that we are perhaps making the wrong ones.” –Renata Salecl
So why does it take so long to make a choice and how do we know we are even this close to making a good, right, guilt free choice/decision?
I think it’s because we have the heavy job of letting go. We need to let go of bad choices of the past and forgive ourselves. We need to let go of the regrets and mistakes we made or think we made, we need to let go of the things we thought we wanted but didn’t get and we need to let go of the idea of being stuck. Really, what we need to do is make a choice to either hold on to the pain of the past or choose to forge ahead with enlightenment and hope for a better future based on lessons learned from previous choices.
As for me, I want to take what I have learned about old choices and use the information to make better choices going forward; whatever I would have done in actions and decisions needs to be my guidepost of what not to do the next time or at least what to consider in a better light this next time. Basically, use my heart to guide me toward the best right choice for this now moment.
“Before you can live, a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently. You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours. When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others. From this point you will finally be free.”
― Shannon L. Alder
There are concrete steps you can take toward making good choices/decisions but keep in mind that there will always be the possibility, whether now or down the road, where hindsight will make your choices even more clear. This is a good thing because decision making and choosing is a skill that needs to be honed constantly. So where to begin?
1- Think clearly. The act of thinking clearly simply means to stay as calm as possible. If there is too much emotion revolving around a choice that needs to be made then step back, create space between your emotions and the choice to be made and wait awhile. Don’t be impulsive. Put off making any choices until you can think and see your options more clearly.
2- Research. Collect as much information as you can about what you need to choose. Consult the internet, a trusted friend or mentor, take a poll, or whatever works for you. A rational, logical mind is what is needed to feel confident of the choices you are facing.
3- Pros and Cons list. This is my ultimate go-to action step. I love this step. This step weighs risk and reward and lays out possible outcomes either way. Making a pro and con list for each choice needing to be made gives such clarity to not only the choice but to your heart. If you get to a point on your list where you can feel where your heart belongs then you eliminate the high risk of regret now and later. HOWEVER, try not to get too caught up in every pro and con because over-thinking things can create more problems than necessary. It really is a heart thing so listen carefully. Your heart and your gut won’t steer you wrong.
4- Options within options. This one is really cool. Do you have a plan “b”? I was reading a book recently where the spy was giving advice to a new recruit. The advice was to always have at least 2 ways into a situation and 3 ways out. Create a plan “b” or a plan “c” or even a plan “d” if possible. You win the battle of making good choices by expanding and finding new choices to make. It’s fun and kind of like creating a safety net underneath you. It helps you feel protected and safe in whatever choice you then have to make within the options you’ve created.
5- Be responsible. Eventually you have to make your choice. Be responsible for the choice you ultimately make. Don’t make a choice out of fear or time running out or any kind of outside pressure. Accept responsibility from the inside out when it comes time to look at the choice you made.
Call to Action
On the list of 7 decisions, what are you working tirelessly at making part of your personal success?
What is very hard for you to start working toward and how would you choose to accomplish that?
What do you think would be the hardest step to really get the hang of?
What choices are you facing now that could use a little bit of the 5 key steps toward better decision making?