“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Steve Covey
On what do you base most decisions? Do you consider the consequences of your actions before you act? Are you often conflicted about whether to please another person or yourself? Are most of your decisions good ones?
This week I’ve been particularly aware of the consequences of decisions people make and the effect they have on others. In the news, the most obviously bad decision was GM’s decision not to fix accelerators that were sticking and making cars uncontrollable. This has resulted in many deaths. The only excuse they’ve given so far is a lack of communication between departments related to the cost of fixing the problem.
Fear Is the Source of Bad Decisions
Bad decisions, the ones that hurt us or others, are often a result of fear. We fear we won’t get what we want or need. No doubt the GM employees responsible for the ongoing problem with the cars were more afraid of others knowing they had failed than they were afraid of being held responsible for many deaths. Did they really believe that they would get by with this indefinitely?
In GM’s case, the consequences of their decision are obvious. Often, though, we make decisions without being aware of the consequences or exploring what those might be. I was once in a relationship with a man who lied to me about his relationship with another woman. I sensed he was hiding something from me, and when he told me the truth, I was amazed. His lie was disturbing but the truth wasn’t. For some reason, he was afraid the truth would upset me. It didn’t, but his lying made it impossible for me to trust him.
We Must Consider Consequences
It is always important to consider the consequences of actions that affect others. Sometimes the difficulties that appear in our lives are opportunities for us to grow and examine our values. We must always ask what is more important in this situation: doing what we want by asserting ourselves or pleasing the other person? Is there a way to please ourselves and the other person?
Decisions Are Often Based on Values From Childhood
Growing up in a traditional family, what was good or moral behavior was clearly defined. I was taught to be honest, respectful, loving, kind, to always consider others, and to do well in school. It was not difficult to live by these rules as a child and teenager because most of my friends lived by the same values. As an adult, though, following the rules became more challenging.
As a southern woman, I had been taught not to be outspoken, always be pleasant, and always put others’ needs ahead of my own. There was a huge clash between this image and the person I felt I really was. What was wrong with putting my own needs ahead of others when I needed to do that to take care of myself? Why wasn’t it okay for me to have a career just as the men did? Why should I always give up what I need for others? My mother had done that and she was not a happy person. She had given away too much of herself.
We May Have to Displease Others In Order to Be Ourselves
Over time, I stayed true to myself, following my desire to be a modern dancer. Although my decision to be true to myself created tension with my parents and eventually with my ex-husband, I know I made the right decision. That decision led me to find a life I loved instead of just doing what everyone else expected me to do. It also helped me develop confidence because I discovered I could survive having others not accept who I was.
Being True to Self Leads to Good Decisions
Ironically, my selfish decision to follow my own path helped me develop the strength I needed to meet life’s challenges, especially in health and relationships. As a teacher, it gave me an understanding of life that enhanced my ability to help students find their true paths in life and to guide them on how to meet difficult challenges. I hope that I helped them to have the courage to face their fears and become who they wanted to be. As Les Brown commented, “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”
The most important thing that I’ve learned in this life is that it doesn’t always have to be an either/or situation. We can take care of ourselves and help others. We can be who we truly are and support others because we don’t need everyone to think like us or act like us. We can support who they truly are without wanting to force conformity onto them.
Nor are we required to do what someone else wants if it is unwise or unhealthy for us. We can be of help only when we are well, and any relationship that requires us to harm ourselves is abusive, and we need to let it go.
Our Decisions Transform Us
In one way or another, the decisions we make transform who we are, even when the consequences of our decisions are negative. We learn what works and what doesn’t. The circumstances of our lives, particularly our childhood, are only one aspect of our lives. Although it is a powerful one, it does not have to define us totally.
The challenge is perhaps more difficult for those people who have grown up in abusive or alcoholic homes. Their challenges to find a healthy life are so much greater than those of us who grew up in relatively healthy environments. Many continue the pattern of abuse because that is all they know. Others find the courage to separate themselves from the dysfunction and become healthy. There is always a choice and the decisions we make are reflections of who we are at the moment we make the decision.
Good Decisions Improve Life
When the decisions we make create a healthy and happy life, even some of the time, we are clearly on the right path. It sometimes takes many small steps to take us to our goal and each decision we make is another step for which we must be thankful. Being thankful for each good decision is a wonderful way to develop our confidence and create the good energy that will draw to us what we need.
© 2014 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5