Decisions and How They "Happen"

by Peg Coleman

Walk into any major hospital emergency room at 1:00 am on a Saturday night and the place is electric. There are knife wound victims, gun shot victims, car accident victims, sick kids, overdosed teens, suicides gone wrong. People are crying, calling out for help, shouting orders. If you have never witnessed this, you wouldn't be the first to think the place was in chaos with no one in charge.

But you would be wrong. As a former nurse, I was familiar with what, to the outsider, seems so chaotic. And I know that those situations are exactly what the staff had trained for and were prepared to handle. So although it may not be obvious to the untrained eye, decisions are being made and actions taken every moment according to a detailed plan set in place long before the events of this night happened. Nothing is left to chance. Reviewing the events of the night in the light of the next day, if things had not gone according to plan, changes were made. Each detail would be examined and changed so that the next time these sets of circumstances occurred, we would be prepared, to the best of our ability.

Is your life anything like that? Do you sometimes feel like the inside of an emergency room at 1:00 in the morning with things happening all around you that seem completely outside of your control? What are you doing about it? Do you have a plan? Have you ever sat yourself down and worked out the things in life that are most important to you? Have you thought about your goals, the way you would like your life to be? Or are you like so many people, for whom "things" just seem to happen?

Have you ever heard this saying: "those who are not planning to succeed are planning to fail"? That was a powerful statement for me the first time I heard it. The truth of it brought me face to face with a reality about my own life that I had never thought about before. It meant there was no one to blame if I sensed more failure than success in my life. It meant that the circumstances in my life that I did not like would continue to do so unless I chose to change either them or me.

The more I thought about it the more I began to understand that there is actually no such state as the state of indecision. I began to see that when I had difficulties making decisions during the day the heart of it was the lack of a goal. What purpose did the day have other than to get through it? The lack of personal goals meant that each day was an end in itself and just "getting through it" was more than enough. But it somehow never was enough. It was empty. There was always the knowledge that the next day would be exactly the same; things coming at me from all sides, each seemingly as important as the other. But having a goal, and plans -- to achieve that goal, changes all of that chaos in an instant. It becomes so much easier to decide what to do next because it either is taking you nearer your goal or away from it. It removes the indecision because the indecision was generated by the lack of a goal.

A goal provides us with a focus that abstract thinking does not. And a goal thoughtfully laid out, with steps to achieve it, brings us such rest and ease. It is hard to grasp until we being to actually live that way. It is what made functioning in the middle of a Saturday night in the emergency room possible. It is what helps to bring sense and order to our own lives. So rather than spending our days being overwhelmed by all the decisions we don't seem to know how to make, we can make decisions because we know where we are going and what we want to achieve.

Because goals allow us to focus our attention, we bring more energy to the things we do throughout the day. With a thoughtful plan as an integral part of our lives, we take ourselves out of the role of "victim of circumstances." Oh yes. Just as there are victims in that emergency room we, without a plan for our lives and goals to focus our attention, are victims of our own inaction. But, in the same way in which they took the proper steps toward wellness and wholeness, so can we.

It can make an enormous difference in our lives when we realize we do have a say as to how things go, and we choose to live in the reality of that truth. When we realize that many of the things we face, which may not be easy for us, are things we can do something about, it brings such a sense of freedom. We are not at the mercy of fate, we are only at the mercy of our own indecision and lack of purpose. The good news is that we have been given the precious gift of choice. We are able to make choices this very day that can change our situations completely. We do not have to put up with indecision and inaction in our lives.

Think for a moment about this. If there was one thing in your life -- that you could affect, that you would like to be changed over this next month, what would that be? Now we know as surely as we know anything that the days of this month are going to pass one by one. And each day is one in which you are free to make changes, or free to settle for things just the way they are. Which would you rather it be? The difference is simply in the choice you make and the actions you take or do not take. One month from today your situation can be different. Remember the saying "the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step?" So does the changing of the direction of our lives. Once we begin to see the difference a thoughtful plan can make in our lives, the first step has been taken, and the journey begun.

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