Choices. Every one of us, every day, are presented by choices. Some more weighty than others.
So what makes some of those choices so difficult to make? The above choice really is quite an insignificant one by comparison to some we are required to make in life. So why is it so difficult to make the choice and, more importantly, to stick with the decision that we have made?
We can make a choice in good faith, we can absolutely know that we want this thing with every fibre of our being. But then we change our minds, we let it go or we move away, through justification or change of circumstances, and leave that choice behind. And that’s OK. Sometimes it is necessary to change our minds, we may have some new evidence to support some different choices, we may need to follow an alternative path, and things beyond our control may have made some of those decisions for us. So what about the choices that we should absolutely stick to, that we know will bring us lasting happiness, that will change us and our lives? How can we ensure that we stay the course?
Beyond the now
I know with certainty that I should go to the gym; the health benefits of fitness and exercise are well documented, I have seen and experienced the physical changes associated with toning, strengthening and building fitness. I also know that cake tastes good, it’s comforting, easy, and takes very little effort on my part to enjoy the benefits. The critical part of the decision lies beyond the now. Cake will provide immediate gratification, the gym will take sustained effort and commitment, so short term of course I would choose cake. What directs my choice lies beyond now, it lies in something that I can’t yet experience, touch or see. Human beings are gifted with an intelligence that allows them to rationalise, the ability to make a judgment, to apply logic and to construct solutions to problems. My intelligence allows me to understand that as much as cake is appealing in the moment, my power lies beyond that because I have the ability to shape my future my taking decisive action today with the evidence based faith that it will bring rewards tomorrow.
We hear a lot about living in the moment – which I fully endorse. We should surrender ourselves to the moment when we can, but don’t confuse that with abdicating responsibility for creating your future. Make decisions now that may not bring instant results, but will bring the greater lasting joy.
The most important thing
I want to be the shape and size that I am now, I want to improve my life expectancy and quality of life more than I want to eat something sweet. It is more important to me, therefore, to go to the gym than to eat the cake. Sometimes we forget to ask ourselves the most basic question, we get side-tracked by whims and fleeting desires, we fool ourselves into ignoring what we already know. If we take the time to really make friends with the thing that is the most important, if we engage with it and keep working towards it then we are much more likely to be able to make choices in line with our end goal.
Ever had an argument with a loved one? Make the choice to keep rowing or find a solution. Is it more important for you to win this argument or to sustain and build further this relationship? If you truly value the relationship then you will want to find a way forward, for both sides to be heard, maybe even be prepared to do what is necessary to move forward. That might mean that you apologise, that you take control of your emotions so that you can carry out a calm discussion, maybe a compromise is necessary. If you are not prepared to embrace the fact that the health of the relationship is more important than ‘winning’ this argument, then you have to ask yourself honestly how important really is this relationship? Make sure that you understand fully why you are making the choice you are and be honest and thoughtful about it – you owe it to yourself.
Do something about it
Once you have decided what it is that is supremely important to you, you need to create movement towards whatever that is. If I decide that I do want to get fit then I might need to start taking actions towards becoming fit. As soon as we move from thinking to doing we begin to create the reality that we seek and the choice is validated. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The trick is working out what is essential and what is the priority. Sometimes writing a list helps – do I need to buy trainers, or book an exercise class? The list is good, but to make it even better you must commit to dates; timeframe every action you intend to make, diarise and let other people know what you are doing. Successful people know that we need to take small consistent actions in line with the goal; we rarely are able to go from nothing to achieving it all.
Once you begin to embrace your choice and start reaping the rewards it will become easier and easier to make more choices. Decisions will look less frightening and more exciting. Don’t allow fear to outweigh the excitement, stop procrastinating. Remember that even when things don’t work out the way we expected them to, we can learn from that experience, and make more effective choices in the future.