The choices we make shape our experience of life. That’s undeniable, yet many of us suffer from poor decision-making, or make choices without fully considering or realizing the consequences.
Some of us were never mentored on how to make choices, but knowing how to make good decisions is one of the most important skills we can possess. Sometimes it feels difficult to choose since there is often an invisible tug-o-war between saying “yes” to one thing, which inevitably means saying “no” to another. When we are caught in an internal conflict over which way to choose, we can feel overwhelmed. This can have a paralyzing effect upon our necessary action. When we succumb to indecision, even in our indecisiveness we are making a choice.
The main issue with decisions is that we know at our core we cannot have it all. It’s an impossible goal to achieve and thinking that we can have it all puts more stress and strain upon us. To think we can have everything we want is a world view wrought with suffering. The deeper truth is we can have anything we want, just not everything we want. And therein lies the rub of being at-choice in any given moment.
“Today I am what I am because of my yesterday’s choices. And where I shall be tomorrow will be decided today.” ~ Unknown Author
Unexamined choices, or going with our emotional state is a recipe for cultivating a life of pain. We can’t move through life thinking that the fulfillment of desire is going to also equal a deeply satisfying life experience.
All of us have stories of living with the pain of consequences we had not anticipated or desired. Our experience of life today, this day, right now, is the sum total of all the decisions we’ve made up until this point, and it also includes the decisions that others have made for themselves. Other people’s decisions have a consequence that we experience as well. This is the pain and imperfection of our human condition.
“We are free to choose but we are not free from the consequences of our choices.” ~ Steven Covey
All of us are connected and interconnected. Every decision we make shapes our experience and as we are not islands unto ourselves, our decisions affect others as well. The decisions we make at work or at home affect more than ourselves. We are confronted with decisions continuously. Even a simple decision to get up in the morning when our alarm goes off, or to instead hit the snooze button. The decision to work late or go home, the decision to take the time to make a healthy dinner, or grab fast food.
Our life experience (health, happiness, peace, weight, education, career, success, etc.) is determined by choices. Even indecision, like I mentioned, is a decision.
How do we make the best choice in the moment? Refrain from putting trust in wants or desires. Wanting something doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Kids want candy for breakfast, and we might want a soda instead of water, but wants to do not equal supporting our highest. Knowing what we value most, and knowing what our top priorities are, these will bring us to our best answers. Choose wisely.
Some tips on making better decisions:
1. Choose based upon consequences. Look at the possible outcomes and work backward. Do you like what you see?
2. Avoid seeking perfection in the choice itself. Instead, look for the perfection of a goal in the inevitable consequences of your decision. You’re not perfect, neither is anything else in this world, so why do we seek perfection in the choices we make? How often do we get caught by fear or overwhelm because we are afraid of an imperfect decision? Be clear about your purpose, your values and your priorities, and you’ll find greater clarity around what to choose that will draw you closer to what you hold highest and dearest.
3. Remember to avoid inaction through over-analysis. Ever heard of paralysis by analysis? While it makes a lot of sense to look at the numbers and make informed decisions, getting stuck in the minutia of the details can lead to a lot of time wasted in the decision-making process. Oftentimes our research and analysis is cleverly disguised as procrastination. If you’re caught in doing your due diligence, make sure you don’t stay there just so you don’t have to make a choice. Procrastination is a choice as well.
4. Base your decision upon what is unchanging, and not upon emotions, desires, or wants that are always changing. Look deeper to a more trustworthy source…your gut. That still small voice that makes you uncomfortable when your wants and desires start pitching temper tantrums because they want something. One telltale sign that your emotions are taking over is if you’re looking for validation or permission from others. “Misery loves company” is not wisdom speaking. If you’re looking outside of yourself for direction, you’re not trusting yourself, and possibly it’s because you’re not listening to the wise self (or you don’t want to listen to the “no” answer your gut is giving you). Desire argues with you, wants are averse to delayed gratification. The truth is, if you’re in alignment with your own integrity, your choices become easier and you won’t need to seek out what other people think because you will already be resolved to doing what you know to be your best decision, for your own integrity.
Embrace and accept that consequences are a natural outcome of choice. Give yourself some margin for error. Mistakes are a part of the human experience. I like to think I’m a spiritual being having a human experience. This means I’m having an experience of imperfection. Forgiveness is as important to offer ourselves as it is to offer to others. Redemption comes when we apply compassion to our human condition, and realize, that in every moment we are all in the process of learning.
This post was adapted from Tamara McCleary’s “Yes Is Also No: The Power of Choice.”
About the Author: Tamara McCleary is a national speaker, business performance specialist, writer, social media expert and relationship economist. She has spoken to over 1,000 audiences, has sold $100 million in products and services from stage and is ranked in the top 1% of global social media influencers.