The Conundrum of Choice
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” ~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
It’s great to have choices. We are lucky people who get to make daily choices on how to spend our days. There are many people in the world whose only choice each morning is their attitude. Ironically, attitude is the number one choice we need to consider first before we choose anything: what to do for work, how to play, how to interact, how to live.
So why is it so difficult to make good choices? Why is it easier sometimes to choose the wrong thing rather than the right thing? The easier one rather than the tough one? Because the right one usually comes at some sort of cost.
Roy Disney said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” Yes, Mr. Disney, that is true. So essentially what that means to me is that knowing what your values are is sometimes what is difficult, or perhaps knowing your values is easy; executing them is what’s hard.
I have time in my life now to really make choices in my personal life. For the past twenty-five years, my choices were narrowed very specifically for me: raising my children right, building a healthy family, and keeping a marriage alive. Staying true to that course hasn’t been easy, but even through bumps and bruises along the way, my pathway was very clear.
Now I have a whole new vista ahead and many paths that I can travel. What career do I want to focus on? What hobbies would I like to pursue? How will I best use my financial resources? What goals would I like to accomplish…for myself? It’s scary and exciting at the same time.
Over the past summer, anticipating some changes coming forth in my life with an empty nest and letting go of one of my part-time jobs, I decided that I want to simplify my life. It started with cleaning out closets, getting rid of visible clutter, and opening up space in my days for new career goals, hobbies, and pursuits. In order to find that open space, I’ve had to declutter in areas outside of closets and counter tops.
I have been making progress, but progress is slow. For me, an impatient, task-oriented, results-oriented person, slow progress can be painful. The only person who is witness to my progress is my husband, the closest person to me both physically and emotionally. He’s been my number-one cheerleader and probably the most patient person I know. As I was having a “one step backward” moment last night, he read to me a paragraph from a book he’s currently reading. From Other People’s Habits by Aubrey C. Daniels, he read:
“The most critical skill in changing your own or anyone else’s behavior is shaping…it is more commonly referred to as ‘one step at a time.’ This procedure capitalizes on the fact that change generally does not proceed by leaps and bounds but through a number of small changes that often go unnoticed by the casual observer. Interestingly, the smaller the change in behavior that you can observe and reinforce, the more effective you will be in changing behavior and the faster the change will occur…when you understand this, you will understand Benjamin Franklin’s advice to ‘make haste slowly’.”
I set out to write a blog yesterday about change and choices and realized that I don’t have anything concrete to say or show…yet. But it is happening. I am learning how to say no to things that don’t matter to me and yes to things that do. Saying yes to service, yes to the Holy Spirit, and yes to myself means saying no to other people, activities, and spending habits that waste my time and resources and don’t get me closer to the person I want to be.
What I am constantly reminded of throughout this journey, however, is that I need to start each day at the beginning with the most important choice: attitude. If I accomplish nothing in my day that brings me closer to my goals, if I can choose happiness, joy, peace, thankfulness, and patience, then I am 90% there.
Please share with me how you’ve navigated positively through change in your life.