The quality of our life is based on the quality of our decisions. Whether you are aware of it or not, the choices you make have a ripple effect. Your decisions can affect you for months, years, or even the rest of your life.
Sometimes we give a lot of thought to the decision making process, such as when we decide where to live or whether to take a job you have been offered, However, often the consequences of the small decisions we make every day are overlooked, such as deciding what to have for dinner.
Let’s focus on the decisions we make when we don’t make a conscious choice. Often we don’t realise that if we float though life like a leaf on the wind, going wherever it takes us, we can end up in places we don’t want to be. The scary part is, sometimes we don’t even know how we got there.
In my case, it was almost two years ago when I was asked “Do you want to keep doing the same things you have done for the last 20 years for the next 20 years?” This question was the wake-up call I needed to start thinking about my choices.
I stopped and reflected on what I was doing with my life and if I was really happy to keep doing more of the same. I asked myself “Where am I?”, “How did I get here?”, “What do I want?” and the most important question of all… “Why?”
The major choices I had made were easy to identify. My jobs, marriage, kids and houses… yet I was not entirely happy with where I was. This is where my journey of self awareness began.
First, I went to a seminar. Then I read some personal development books. After that, I went to some more seminars and events. The more I learned, the more I realised there was to learn! I became fascinated with why we do the things we do and how to reach my full potential.
One of the many things I learnt was that we all need to stop and take time, every day, to reflect on our thoughts and actions.
- What have I done with the last 24 to 48 hours?
- Have I made good choices?
- Have I responded or reacted to situations?
- Have my actions been congruent with my values and move me toward my goals?
- If not, what can I learn? How can I make better choices? What actions do I need to take?
The constant drip of choices (watch TV or read a book, write this article or browse the web, tell your loved ones you love them or think that they know) can either wear away the rock of your life or deposit wonderful colour in your cave.
Are you depositing more than you erode? Is spending 20 minutes with your child, spouse or parent a better choice than what you did after dinner last night? Did you do something today that will move you closer to your goals?
Now I know how important it is to ask myself these questions. However, for the last 20 years I didn’t think to ask myself. Now my goal is to answer them every day. If you think you are too busy to spend a few minutes each day doing this, think about what it is costing you not to do it.
In business there is a mantra of Plan, Do, Check, Act. Why treat your life any differently? Plan your goals and map the steps toward them. Do the things that need to be done. Most importantly, Check how you are going, then Act to correct your path.
A wise man once said to me, “There are 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. What are you doing with them?” I believe everyone can find a few minutes every day to stop and reflect on the previous 24-48 hours.
Start with a short meditation (there are plenty of free apps and YouTube clips to sample). This will help clear your mind of the chatter and allow you to ponder what’s important. Then write a journal about what has happened since your last entry and how you feel about it. If you are not happy, write what you will do differently from now on.
It’s a good idea to do this first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed, so you make a habit of it. For me, it’s my morning ritual before the rest of the house wakes up. It sets up my day with awareness of the choices I make when I don’t consciously choose.
So, pause, take a deep breath and decide when is the best time for you to reflect on the last 24 hours. Remember, your options are only limited by your thinking and your choices. That is, if you stop to actually consider them first.