One of the most valuable lessons my father taught his children was how to make a decision. He didn’t rush in to fix things. He guided and allowed us to take care of ourselves and succeed on our own.
Together we would discuss the pros and cons of going one way or the other. We talked about repercussions, cause and effect, what we wanted to achieve, and which direction to go to make our goal happen. And then Dad encouraged us to make that final decision. If we wanted to discuss the end result with him, he was available, but he never criticized or judged what we did, even when we knew he would have done things very differently.
Decades ago, people had fewer things and fewer opportunities, therefore, fewer choices. Although that limited potential in some ways, it omitted the continuous challenge we encounter every minute of every day today. We have so many decisions to make. Our lives our stressful because we begin with which shampoo to use, what outfit to wear, which shoes go with that outfit, and what to eat.
Most of the decisions we stress over are insignificant. How much does it really matter if we have Cheerios or Shredded Wheat for breakfast? If a choice has little impact on our well-being, or that of other people around us, it’s not likely our decision is worth the time and effort to worry about.
Many decisions also can be backtracked. We may go in one direction and find it isn’t working as well as we hoped, so we regroup and go another way.
Then there are those decisions that are life-altering, such as a marriage, a major residential move, or a split-second decision that results in a traffic accident.
In some cases, making a list can be quite helpful. Gather as much information as possible, and then sort the entries into columns showing the benefits and drawbacks. One item may make the decision clear. For example, our child may have an opportunity to develop her interest in music at a particular school, but the tuition is beyond our budget. We simply can’t afford to send her there.
To avoid being on edge all day, every day, we must let go of the little stuff. If we don’t stress over every little move we make all day long, we have more energy for the big things.
And then follow my dad’s guidance by asking yourself:
Do I have all of the necessary information?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of an action?
Am I willing to do what it takes to follow through with this decision?
Am I prepared to accept the responsibility, criticism, or accolades that may come with my decision?
Will this action achieve my goal?
(Photo: My dad, John Doyle)
©2014, Mary K. Doyle