One of the hardest things we do in life is making choices and decisions. But it’s also one of the most powerful. Choices are the hinges upon which the paths of our lives turn. You can probably remember a choice you made sometime in your life that set your life on a completely different course than if you had chosen one of the other options available to you.
We’re faced with choices every day. Some are big, life-changing choices, but many are small, day-to-day ones. So how do you approach these different types of choices? How can you make the day-to-day choices without getting caught up in minutiae? How can you deal with choices in the moment while keeping the big picture in mind? When you’ve thought out the larger choices, which I’ll call fundamental choices, you create a context for choosing that allows the smaller choices to fall into place more effortlessly.
Fundamental choices are based on knowing who you are and what truly matters most to you. These are the kind of choices that take time and contemplation. Who are you? What makes you really happy? If you could do anything with your life, what would it be? What do you need (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) to thrive, not just survive? What do you value, both in terms of what feels morally right to you and what makes you feel whole?
As I contemplated these questions, these are some of the fundamental choices I came up with:
~ I am someone who needs diversity.
~ I am someone who needs a creative outlet.
~ I am someone who needs to be stimulated and grow intellectually.
~ I am someone who needs to be physically and mentally healthy.
~ I am someone who needs to explore and be in touch with my spirituality.
~ I am someone who needs to be challenged.
~ I am someone who needs community.
~ I am someone who needs to feel loved and valued.
These choices provide a sort of compass upon which to gauge the choices that come up in life, something solid to balance the “shoulds and oughts” that bombard us and throw us off course. With these fundamental choices in place, I can go on to make specific choices about how I want my life to be:
~ Although I am ambitious in my work and have plenty to keep me busy, I make time for spiritual pursuits, fun and exercise.
~ I choose to pursue a variety of endeavors rather than focus on one, although I may never be as great an expert on any one.
~ Although I can get caught up at my computer till the wee hours, I also need a certain amount of sleep to function well, so I choose to turn off the computer at a certain time even though I want to do more.
~ I make my friends a priority because it feeds me emotionally and provides the community I crave.
~ I choose to live a balanced life rather than go for achievements and accolades at all costs.
Having thought these through, when a friend calls me to come out and play, I have specific criteria by which to decide whether my needs and values will be served better by spending time with my friend or getting some work done. It can help me see if I’m focusing too heavily on one area at the expense of another, and I can make choices to restore balance.
Choices can be challenging and demanding, and sometimes you feel like you’d just like to sit back and let someone else tell you what to do. But choice is a gift, and when you practice it regularly and see the ease with which your life begins to fall into place, you’ll welcome it.
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