It’s been said that adults make about 35,000 decisions a day; from the trivial to the more important – from whether to have that dessert to whether to accept that new job – that’s a lot of decisions! Most of the decisions we make each day don’t require much thought at all. In fact, several decisions we make either unconsciously or very quickly out of habit. But are the quick decisions made from habit what’s best for us? Have we become so complacent in some areas of our lives that we don’t even realize we have a choice anymore?
Being mindful to situations where we can, and should, focus on making the right decision is a big step. Below are some areas in my life where I’ve realized I need to be more mindful. I’ve started implementing more conscious decision making for these times. It takes effort, but the results are worth it!
1. Deciding to ask, “Why Not?” more often. When I was growing up, my mother’s knee-jerk reaction to any adventurous request was often to ask “Why?”. I believe it became such an ingrained habit, that she never really heard the questions we were actually asking. I challenge myself daily to find moments to ask, “why not”? If it won’t harm myself, or others, physically or otherwise, I consciously give the idea or request careful consideration before uttering the question, “why”? Give it a try for yourself. There are always many reasons to ask “why” – stop and search for the “why not” in some situations.
“I haven't lived a perfect life. I have regrets. But that's from a lifetime of taking chances, making decisions, and trying not to be frozen. The only thing that I can do with my regrets is understand them.” Kevin Costner
2. Deciding to waste time. One of my biggest pet peeves is wasted time – whether it be me wasting my own time or someone else’s actions resulting in my time being wasted. Because of that, I have a hard time stopping and just doing something that I might perceive as being nonproductive. Now I make it a point to do something that makes me happy every day – things that I might previously have considered wasting time.
“I think most of us are raised with preconceived notions of the choices we're supposed to make. We waste so much time making decisions based on someone else's idea of our happiness - what will make you a good citizen or a good wife or daughter or actress. Nobody says, 'Just be happy - go be a cobbler or go live with goats’.” Sandra Bullock
3. Deciding to pick up the phone more often. I am a texter, not a talker. I’d rather shoot off a one-line response than settle in for a half-hour phone conversation (see “wasting time” up above”). But I am trying to change all that. Hearing the emotions behind the words is so important.
“Sometimes it is a great joy just to listen to someone we love talking.” Vincent McNabb
4. Deciding to write more letters. Letter writing is becoming a lost art. I have family members who remember what it was like to get actual letters and not just advertisements and bills in their mailbox. I love to send friends and family a card or a letter as I know it will brighten their day. Honestly? I also love to open my mailbox and find a hand-written envelope inside waiting for me!
“Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly. It's disappearing. My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. And there's something visceral about opening a letter - I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.” Steve Carell
5. Deciding to say “I love you” more. I had a friend tell me once that he’d never heard anyone say “I love you” as much as I did. I’ve always been a hugger and expressive person, but it amped up a bit when my father-in-law was in the hospital for open-heart surgery. I realized that I’d never told him or my mother-in-law how much they meant to me. And I wanted to make sure that they knew before it was too late. So, I forced myself to hurdle over the awkwardness and start saying it. And the more I said it, the easier it became. If I leave this earth tomorrow, my hope is that everyone will know what they mean to me.
“Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” Keri Russell
Life is full of choices. For the sake of time, many of those choices are simply made from habit. Shake it up every once in a while by consciously making a decision that is counter-intuitive. You just might find that you are better because of it!
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“When you wake up every day, it’s like a new birthday: it’s a chance to be great again and to make great decisions.” Poo Bear