We make decisions all day long every day; from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep. Some decisions we don’t think about because they have become automatic behaviors and habits – they are the choices that we don’t put much thought into: what we eat for breakfast, what route we take to work, the foods we buy at the grocery store, our workout routines, the people we interact with at the office. Other decisions are situational, exercises in choice that are accompanied by some amount of contemplation: where to take our next vacation, which colleges to seek acceptance from, how to reprimand a child, which friends we keep closest, how we deliver bad news.
I’ve always thought that the decision to do one thing – be it a habitual decision or a major choice – is really a decision to not do a thousand other things. We don’t have time to look at our lives through that microscope all day long, but by adopting that view when possible, we can intensify our commitment to the decisions we make. The decision to eat a bowl of cereal is really a decision to not eat eggs, toast, fruit, oatmeal, or a hundred other breakfasts – so make sure you really mean to eat that bowl of cereal. The decision to coach your child through an issue is really a decision to not yell, demean, be flippant, or avoid dealing with the issue altogether – so make sure you are really committed to the approach of coaching your child through the issue.
To fully own our decisions means, in part, that we have looked at all of the other things we could have decided to do and all of the other choices we could have made instead, and we chose none of the alternatives. Especially when it comes to the more life-affecting decisions, our commitment to one course of action can have all the more meaning and value to us when measured against the paths we decided to not take. The real contemplation comes from the idea that we might put too much thought around smaller issues and behave too automatically on the bigger ones.
Enjoy the first of a three-weekend October. And here’s to the choices, the decisions big and small, and the courses of action that you’ll take. I think I’ll spend a little extra thought towards the alternative paths that I might want to choose on some of the bigger decisions just to be sure I’m making those decisions on purpose.
Perhaps these few movie quotes that come to mind will make some sense of all of that.
“All I have is the choices that I make.” – Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me.” – Jack Nicholson in The Departed
“Sometimes the hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn.” – Ben Cross in Star Trek
“Ye must lie in yer bed the way ye made it.” – Geoffrey Rush in Pirates of the Caribbean