I’ve been thinking about choices a lot lately. Well, I am always thinking about choices and wondering why it’s so hard to make sound ones.
And wondering whether most of us realise how lasting the legacy of our daily choices is.
Let me give you an example.
Deciding what to eat at supper time may seem like a very simple thing. How could it affect your legacy, your children’s children, you wonder?
The thing is, it is every day that you decide what to eat and making similar choices consistently becomes habit. Before you know it, this is what family meals look like as far as your children are concerned.
And guess what? When they have kids chances are this is what family meals will look like for them too. And so it goes on.
Sixty years from now, a young woman will be filling in forms in her doctor’s rooms and the answers to questions about diabetes and heart disease will have been wrought on your dining room table today.
The choices you make today will affect generations and you are passing on blessings and curses to people you will never meet.
One of the complaints that I used to hear regularly when I worked in events is that Zimbabweans don’t RSVP to invitations – they either turn up or they don’t, but you as the host won’t know which it will be until it happens!
Talking with a number of event managers we were always trying to figure out why this is so. At one stage we concluded that it is because we are afraid to commit to one thing in case another, more attractive offer comes along.
Or we are afraid to commit in case we “can’t” make it on the day, then people will be inconvenienced.
This logic is really bizarre because you surely inconvenience your host more by not responding anyway? And once you have committed, then you should surely ensure that you can make it.
If we applied this logic to other facets of our lives we would never marry, in case you meet a better prospect the next day. We would never take up jobs, in case one with a better package crops up soon, and we wouldn’t buy houses or cars or anything for that matter, in case we find a cheaper one tomorrow.
This kind of vacillation is crippling and impedes progress. The solutions is simply discipline; to take the plunge, make the choice, commit and stick with it.
The thing about making choices is that you really do make them. In her book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers writes: “Taking responsibility means being aware of the multitude of choices you have in any given situation . . . As you go through each day, it is important to realise you are at that very moment choosing the way you feel.”
She encourages readers to pick the choices that most contribute to their aliveness and growth.
One of the reasons people put off making difficult decisions is because they are afraid of what they will lose out on.
But if you think win-win you will realise that in each option there are benefits and losses alike. So whichever choice you make will bring some gains. Make the choice and enjoy the gains.
And as for the losses, the risks, the potential hazards, Jeffers advises: “All you have to do to diminish your fears is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way.”
Learning to trust yourself is a key attribute in learning to make winning decisions — and being able to live with the consequences.
This will also help avoid the syndrome where we blame others for our own poor choices. Many of us want to pass on the responsibility to someone else.
Iyanla Vanzant in her book In The Meantime writes about people who “take a passive approach to their happiness and then blame other people for their misery.
What they are actually doing is making excuses for themselves . . .” How often have you heard someone say, “I had no choice”, “He made me do it,” “Everyone else was doing it,” or “It just happened”?
Often this happens when we postpone the decision to a point where life simply moves us on. For instance, how many times do you hear someone say they are not sure whether they should move to another job.
Next thing you know, the job has gone to someone else and “It was out of my control.” But for a while there it was in your control — you simply chose not to take control.
The lesson here is putting off a decision because you can’t face the consequences doesn’t actually protect you from consequences. It will only make you feel more powerless and helpless when the consequence hits you.
Yes, it can be frightening to think about negative outcomes of decisions, and yes we all procrastinate up to a point.
But if we want to retain control over our lives we will have to be active participants in directing how our lives go. We will have to live by choice, and not by chance.
Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to email@example.com. Follow Thembe on www.twitter/localdrummer