Today is Tuesday, April 2, 2013.
A while back I wrote about choices. On the face of it, the words "choice" and "decision" would seem to mean the same thing, but in practice, when you have a choice, you have options and you haven't necessarily activated any of those options. When you have made a decision, you have selected one of your options and activated it in such a way that it is no longer a potential, but a part of our shared reality. A decision suggests finality, closing some doors in order to open the selected one.
Tony Robbins, the well-known motivational speaker, reminds us of one important facet of a decision. "A real decision is measured by the fact that you've taken a new action. If there's no action, you haven't truly decided." Action is the key. An action on our part alerts the Universe that our intentions have been put into play, and that we are going to do our part to see to it that our goal outcome is manifested in some way or other. In other words, our level of intention must be high enough to take action. And if we have decided to make a change, our action must necessarily be one we have never taken before; otherwise, we will end up with the same old outcome as before.
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, people generally fall into different categories with respect to making decisions. The Thinking types prefer to analyze information and use logic to make their decisions. Their opposites, the Feeling types, like to make subjective decisions, using their feelings, and sometimes the feelings of others, as a guide. Then there is the Intuitive versus Sensory dichotomy: Sensory types like "just the facts, ma'am," while Intuitive types are comfortable using their intuition or gut feelings, in addition to the facts, to make decisions. Another way to group people is how they receive and process information in the first place. Extroverts like to bounce ideas off of others, while Introverts like to go within and evaluate information for themselves. Finally, Judging types like to get the decision over with. They are comfortable with the finality of a decision; it makes them feel better to know that something has been decided. Perceiving types prefer to keep their options open, and gather as much information as possible for as long as possible before making a final decision. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am INTJ. My personality type comprises only about 2 percent of the North American population. Being an INTJ means I like to go within and study the problem for myself rather than ask for advice. I am comfortable making decisions on the basis of my intuition, in addition to the facts. I like to use logic and analysis whenever possible. I feel uncomfortable and unsettled while I am considering my options; I am at peace when I have finally made my decision. I might end up being wrong, but at least I have made my choice.
A quote going around the Internet these days says, "Decisions are the hardest moves to make, especially when it's a choice between what you want and what is right." I have to say that the further along the spiritual path I have traveled, the more and more I find that what I want is also what is right. Once in a while I feel that I'd "rather" do something, even though I am aware it isn't the best choice. Saying that I'd rather do something seems a little softer than saying I want to do something. It's a recognition that if the situation were any different, then I would choose differently, but at the same time it is a realization of the futility of making myself miserable over a choice not taken.
Once I have made my decision, the best thing is not to look back or obsess over the other choices. Those doors are closed, and depending on the type of decision I am making, they may never open again, or they may open once again at some point in the future. (Here I am thinking of windows of opportunity - a mixed metaphor if you are using doors as your example.)
For years I have had a small framed Mary Engelbreit print that says, "Don't Look Back." The little girl is going in the direction of a sign that says, "Your Life." The road not taken is labeled, "No Longer An Option." This was an important image for me, especially when, at the age of 41, I had to have a hysterectomy to remove a fast-growing, if benign, tumor in and around my uterus. Never had I felt more keenly the doors of choice slam shut in my face. Now I would no longer be able to have children of my own body. Never would I be a proud parent at a class play, a concert, a ball game, a birthday party, or a graduation. Never would I be the mother of the bride or groom. Never would I be a grandmother. This was one of the toughest transitions of my life.
In my high school home economics class –in those days open only to girls – we were asked to make a collage to illustrate our life goals. My collage featured one large picture of a husband and wife with four kids and a big dog. The family was standing by their SUV. The husband was wearing casual clothes and carrying fishing gear. One of the daughters was wearing a ballet costume, while the other was wearing a Girl Scout uniform. The older son was clad in a band uniform and carrying a tuba; the youngest child, also a boy, had on a baseball uniform. Naturally, the job of the woman was to drive all these family members around in the SUV, plus take the dog to the vet, etc. It's funny now to realize that my life has been nothing like that collage, but I realized when I had the hysterectomy surgery that this image had been firmly entrenched in my subconscious mind all this time, and I had been swimming against the current, so to speak, trying to hold open this option that just wasn't in the cards. When I finally realized that I was using up energy trying to hold a door open long after I should have let it close, I formally allowed myself to close that door and found that I had all kinds of energy, which I used in the short term to heal from the surgery.
Now that I'm retired, I have to remember what I learned from that experience. I need to check all my dreams and goals every so often to see whether they are still doable and whether I can still afford to expend energy keeping the door open, or whether I should just let the door quietly close. If a dream is doable, I need to do something to make it happen. If I don't, then it probably won't happen and I need to let it go. Finally, I have to remember not to look back once I have allowed the doors to these impossible dreams to shut for good.
Alexander Graham Bell once said, "When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." That was certainly true when I had the hysterectomy, or more precisely, before the surgery, because every time I saw a mother or a father with a child, I cried, and I mean every time, no matter where I was: at work, in the grocery store, wherever. If I saw an adult with a child on TV or read about an adult with a child in a book, I cried, too. I cried so hard that I royally messed up my sinuses, and almost had to cancel the surgery. I was upset about not being able to breathe under anesthesia, not realizing that before the surgery I would not be allowed to eat or drink anything for twelve hours, and my body fluids would be completely dried up by the time I was wheeled into the operating room. The doctor kindly allowed me to have the surgery with only a spinal block, and although a curtain was drawn in front of my face so I couldn't see what was going on, I was awake, if tranquilized, for the surgery. All that crying turned out to be a total waste of time.
It's much more productive to focus our energy forward, so that everything we do, think, and say in the present moment is in some way preparation for the changes to come. In that sense, we can be much more proactive about how we manifest the decisions that we have made, and we can avoid being forced to make a choice by not choosing, letting valuable opportunities go by and doors shut without intentionally choosing a new door to open.
Whether you relish or loathe making decisions, and no matter how you go about making your decisions, creating a positive mental image of exciting new possibilities is an important step to take. When we think of making decisions as opening doors, we give our decision-making a more positive spin. We make the process of change easier on ourselves. :-)