The Three Unbreakable Rules of Making Choices
Rule Number One: You are the product of your choices
YOU. Yes, I am talking to you. You are also the sum total of all the choices of your life up until this very moment. This might be a little dose of tough love – wherever you are at this exact point in time – you got yourself here. You and all your many choices. Big, little, good, bad. You, today, are the legacy of a lifetime of choices.
You may be saying how about all the crappy things that happen that I didn’t ask for? Was that a choice? It’s absolutely true that horrible, devastating, unfair things happen. People are born into bad situations - abject poverty, violence, drugs, crime, and neglect. Bad things happen along the way. Moms get cancer. Friends die in car wrecks. People get fired for no good reason. Teenagers accidentally become parents. Loved ones get addicted to drugs. Bad things happen even when you have all your ducks in a row and make all the best choices. No doubt about it.
Certainly things happen that you don’t choose, but your reaction to those things is entirely your choice. You may in some cases have limited choices immediately around the event, but as time goes forward (as it always seems to do), different paths will emerge and your choice of path will determine that event’s impact on your life going forward.
Not doing anything is also a choice
Unfortunately, many of the inactions in our lives are simply another example of poor choices, meaning ones that keep us from reaching our goals and ultimately our vision for the future.
When you choose to turn on the TV and spend the two free hours that you have in an evening watching sitcoms instead of working on your resume. That is a choice. When you choose to read Facebook posts for an hour rather than help your daughter with her school project, that is a choice. When you
choose to sit in your car at school pick-up instead of getting out on the blacktop and connecting with some other moms, yep, that is a choice.
Blaming someone or something else is a common reason behind inaction. People can be awful at times and situations can seem unfair, but using that as an excuse not to act puts you in the position of being a victim. It takes away your power, and over time becomes an ugly habit. In addition to blaming people, we often point our fingers at competing priorities, our tiredness, forgetfulness or fear for our inability to deliver on the promises we make to ourselves. But if we are really being honest with ourselves, we would include our own laziness in the list of blames.
Personal accountability is the only remedy for this disease of inaction. I am going to be direct - don't be lazy, don't look to blame someone else, don't be passive, don't complain. Think through your issue, plan a little, and then do something to make it better. When we think about how we make our choices, we will spend time sorting through all the barriers that keep us from acting on them, including motivation and prioritization, so that you have the tools in hand to select the best choice and act on it.
Rule Number Two: Life is short and your choices matter
Oh my gosh I don’t think I need to convince anyone of this one. Life is so very short. Life is short even when it isn’t cut short by all the tragic things that can happen to moms and dads and kids and friends and colleagues. Because our productive years on this planet are so limited, the importance of each action is amplified. The less time we believe we have, the more important each choice will seem. Is every daily choice we make critical? Maybe not, but I truly believe that each one counts in some way toward who we are and who we become in the future.
So, are all choices huge? Definitely not. Are all choices life-changing? Maybe not. Can you always tell one from another? Unfortunately, no. So I will repeat the second part of Rule #2 above, your choices matter. Even the small ones.
So, life is short, and that makes me sad. But also makes me get really, really serious about milking this life of every single drop of goodness, enjoyment, love, meaningfulness and value that I possibly can. The only way to do that is to make sure that my choices lead me there, to that value, to that good. Every choice that takes me away from the good wastes my precious time and diminishes the joy that I want to experience in this short little blip of time called my life.
Rule Number Three: You can make better choices any time you want
Ah regrets, they are the worst. They drudge up more bitter feelings than simple misfortunes and accidents that have occurred in our past, and that is because of one common, underlying factor – they were a choice. A regret is caused by a choice that was made, a decision to go in a direction or behave in a particular way, or do nothing. You made the choice, you caused your own feeling of regret. The good news is that you are in control of your choices, and if you choose, your next ones can be better.
This will happen when you put forth the effort to 1) Understand your own personal decision-making process and habits, 2) take control of the internal and external factors that are influencing your decisions, and 3) have a plan in place so that you know what you are going to choose before the decision presents itself.