Life is about making choices.
Imagine bellying up to the counter at your local Haagen Dazs and saying to the server, "Put in there whatever you think I'd like".
Of course, you wouldn't do that. With a veritable rainbow of ice cream flavors tempting you, making a choice might be difficult, but you would do it. "Give me Cherries Jubilee and Chocolate Night, put the chocolate on the bottom, and get a scoop with lots of cherries in it for the top."
Granted, not many of life's choices are as lightweight as choosing between chocolate and vanilla, but what you choose and how you make choices, or don't make them, is as central to your self-esteem as taking responsibility for yourself.
Choices come in two flavors:
1. Active — when you make something happen and live with the consequences.
2. Passive — when you "choose not to choose" and continue to live with the status quo, because the stakes appear too high for the changes that choice might bring.
Active choices can be painful; feelings of fear and vulnerability often accompany these decisions. Just because you know what's best for you, doesn't make it any easier. This kind of choice-making is risky business. The most difficult choices usually don't have any absolute right or wrong; there is no perfect solution. It takes great courage to face these types of difficult decisions.
When our forefathers declared our independence from England, this was an active and high risk decision. They focused on the potential of what could be gained versus what could be lost, to help them gather the courage to act on such a big decision. This is a powerful technique to employ when facing big decisions.
On the other hand, the postponement of choice can have serious backlashes in the way of stress, depression, discouragement, apathy, and even physical illness.
Procrastination seldom has any favorable results.
Even though in the end the choice is yours, getting to the place where you are able to make a decision, doesn't have to be a solo trip. Talking things out with another person, especially someone who is on your side but has nothing at stake in your decision, can be very helpful.
Just putting voice to your concerns may help you sort things out, and writing down the pros and cons will give you more clarity than keeping everything in your head. Getting some distance, emotional and/or physical, may make an assessment easier…especially if that distance allows you to see the reality of the situation, rather than the way you wish it could be.
Even with thoughtful consideration, not every choice will be the right one. But, wrong decisions don't make you wrong. Trite as it may sound, one of the ways you learn is through the mistakes you make.
Not every choice you make will have a profound effect on the whole of your life, but the ongoing and continuous act of making choices will. Making choices you believe in, choosing intentionally and with moral deliberation, taking responsibility for your choices…these are some of the markers on the road to self-esteem.
As William James put it, "The first act of freedom is to choose it."
Author’s content used license, © 2008 Claire Communications