Making good choices might be the only resolution we need
Every year at this time, I cover making resolutions. It means we make a serious decision to do or not do something with the goal of making our lives better.
I’ve written about habits and breaking old ones and making new ones. It only takes 21 days of consciously deciding to drop the negative behavior and choose the right behavior.
I’ve written about how to examine your life by looking at its parts: body, mind, spirit, and social relationship, and deciding if you’re happy with them, and if not, making a choice to do something that would make you happier.
As I was thinking about what to write, I remembered a time when I was 12. My social studies class took a field trip to New York City to see the movie “West Side Story,” study Chinatown, and then see Kabuki Theater performed by authentic Japanese musicians and actors. We were studying different cultures. We ate dinner in a Chinese restaurant. It was my first time. I actually learned how to use chopsticks. We didn’t order the dinner, and I remember looking incredulously at a sea slug. Couldn’t do it! Everything else was great, though!
At the end of the meal, the owner pointed us in the direction of a statue of the Laughing Buddha. We were told we could rub his tummy and ask for either happiness, wealth, or wisdom. I remember thinking that it was a bit of a no-brainer. I’d ask for wisdom, because if I was wise, I would be able to have wealth or happiness.
Bringing that kind of thinking to the present, I still love wisdom. When I distill what being wise means, it is making the best choices I can make with whatever information I have in the moment presented to me. I have learned to ask for time to consider decisions.
As a child, it used to be that the decisions were for myself, friends, and family. Later, I prayed for my community and my country. Now there’s proof that a butterfly’s flight can affect world weather patterns, and that every person impacts the world either positively or negatively. Scientists have proven that other planets affect our weather patterns. I imagine that the health of our planet may affect our solar system and beyond.
Making good choices is an important task of adulthood. It begins by being clear about what it is that we really want. There are short- and long-term goals. Remember to consider your different selves. What do you need now to make yourself and others happy, and where do you see yourself 10 years down the road? Your short-term goals should lead you to your long term goals.
It helps to have a kind of life value that overlights all your goals. Doctors have “Do no Harm.” Marines have “Semper Fi.” (always faithful, as Fi is short for fidelis.) Our Kauai police force has “Serve and Protect.” Many of my friends value love, so they want all their decisions to be to increase love in the world. For others, it is peace. For a long time I had a friend, Paul, who used, “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.” (first attributed to Emile Coué in the early 1900s in France). I’d ask Paul how he was doing, and he said, “Better.”
Sometimes to make a good decision I have to gather more factual information than I’m given, and because I can’t see the consequences of my decision for “All,” I pray to my Creator for a wider perspective. I’ve learned to ask for time to consider my choices and give answers to potential employers, committees, friends and family. Better to take the time, and get the choice as well as possible, than to snap out an answer that will be regretted and have to be undone later.
My kids thought it was funny when I told them I was taking a “time out” for myself to think about something, or to just recharge when I began to feel an edge to my voice. But I figured that I was letting them know that “time outs” were a good thing, and could be used productively by thinking or resting.
When people with anger issues are learning to make better decisions, they are encouraged to wait, and act, and not “react” to something that someone said to them. Remember, “The madder you are, the dumber you get.” Take some deep breaths. Focus on your heart literally and mentally. You are loving and lovable at your very core. We all could practice saying that any time, especially when we are not in a stressful situation. From that loving place what would your decision be? If you can’t get there, use your imagination to think about how a very loving person you know would respond: Tutu, Mom, Dad, Uncle, two-year old Kekoa, whoever makes you feel most loved in their presence.
And there is the very popular “What would Jesus do? Use it for your own faith founder, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Guru Nanak, etc.
We also benefit from a plan for if the right choice doesn’t work out. Some people feel like victims and get angry at the person they think caused difficulty or very depressed for awhile. Others have learned how to “self-soothe.” Our culture is so afraid of failure, but it’s often from failure that we learn wonderful things we didn’t know about ourselves or others.
I mentally, and yes, sometimes use the phrase, “Well Annaleah, you just didn’t see that coming” when I’ve misjudged a situation. It doesn’t mean that I think I’m dumb, I just didn’t imagine someone reacting in a certain way, or didn’t understand what was expected of me, or something like that. I’m still me. I make mistakes. Sometimes I feel I need to apologize right away. Sometimes I wait awhile and hope another person will see things differently first. I may eat ice cream, or meditate.
My brother-in-law Dave’s catch phrase is “It’s all good.” It’s his choice to see things that way and it works for him. Attitude helps! Everyone loves him! So in 2017, may your choices be wonderful ones, and serve you in the very best way. Happy New Year!