It’s been said that adults make about 35,000 decisions a day. From the trivial to the more important – from what shoes to wear to where to live – that’s a lot of decisions! Most of the decisions we make each day don’t require much thought. In fact, many decisions are made 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. There are some areas in my life where I’ve realized I need to be more mindful and I’ve started implementing more conscious decision making for these times. It takes effort, but the results seem to be worth it so far! Here are some ways I've challenged myself to break old decision-making habits.
- 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, at some point, 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”? This has led my family to embark on out of the way canoeing adventures, adopt our third kitty, as well as take frequent trips to see my oldest son who is stationed up at Fort Gordon, oftentimes driving 12 hours round trip for a one-night visit. Give it a try for yourself. There are always many reasons to ask “why” – stop and search for the “why not” sometimes.
- 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. Recent subscriptions to Hulu and Netflix have changed all that. Now I log off at eight o’clock every evening and catch an episode or two of a show that my husband and I are hooked on. Previously, I considered watching TV as a serious “waste of time”. Now, it’s time that I look forward to spending with my husband every evening!
- 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. I have recently had a girlfriend who needed a sounding board. We’ve had some deep, insightful conversations that I would have missed out on if we hadn’t spent time talking on the phone. Give it a try; it’s much more satisfying to hear the emotions behind the words!
- 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!
- 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.
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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