Monday, 9th November 2009
Choosing Better Step 1: The Hard Decision
Making the tough decision to do the hard work doesn’t happen naturally for most of us. In fact, if my children are any indicator of what is natural human behavior, our first impulse is to look for any way to get out of work.
When I announce dish duty at the beginning of a chore season, I sometimes get tears and debates about why dishes are not appropriate for that particular child. Either they already learned the dish-doing skill or another sibling hasn’t had as much opportunity to do the dishes. They will say and argue whatever is necessary to avoid the task.
How many of us are exactly like that when it comes to . . . let’s say . . . tax season? We feel like we shouldn’t have to worry about this. Or we wish we didn’t have to mess with that. Although my children don’t like the consequences when they don’t do the dishes, I can tell you that the consequences of not paying your taxes are worse.
Choosing Better Step 2: Figure Out What is Motivating the Decision
Most things that are set before us aren’t as clear cut as taxes. Most law-abiding citizens complain when taxes are imposed on them, but then they pay them and work like a workhorse to recover from the damage. The same level of fear of consequences generally isn’t there for other decisions in our life. When I chose to take the harder route for my education, I wasn’t worried what would have happened if I took the easier route. The thought never entered my mind that I would be building more brain cells, nor was I thinking about how this choice would affect my later years in things like college or my professional life. None of those thoughts entered my head—although my decision did affect all those areas. Nope, my only real thought was that I didn’t want to be stuck in that “stupid group” in junior high.
I know. I hear gasp of shock for my lack of political correctness, but back then, in seventh grade, if political correctness was around I hadn’t heard about it.
I didn’t want to be stupid. That was it. That was enough motivation to kick me out of bed early in the mornings so I could study more for tests. It was enough to kick my shyness in the stomach, driving me to either raise my hand for help or to get in line to talk to the teacher. It was enough for me to avidly write down any extra credit opportunities and to complete every last one of them. (The worst, by far, was seeing the dead cadavers in high school. I got sick and passed out on that one, but still earned my bonus points.)
I chose hard out of the desire to “not” be something. It worked. It drove me on. But if I would have had more self-awareness of what was driving me to succeed, I could have worked on my motivation to be more positive.
What will it take for you to choose hard and start to live the life you truly want? Not wanting something? Wanting something?
Sometimes the choice to choose hard or easy comes tiptoeing in our lives, looking innocent and harmless. Sometimes it presents itself as a simple choice, like whether to get as much sleep as needed or to get up and do some exercise or meditation. Other times it looks like there really is no choice, like eating a great dessert or a salad. On impulse, most of us would choose the great dessert. It wouldn’t be until we got a bigger picture of what exists down the road that we ever make the decision to choose more salad in our lives.
Sometimes fear of consequences motivates us. Oftentimes this happens when something we thought harmless makes too big of a presence in our lives—for example, food. If we continue to choose the desserts, the carbs, and the fats, we might have a couple of spare tires around our middle, or we may be hearing the warning alarms sounding off in dramatic ways, alerting us to decreasing health.
Usually choosing hard doesn’t happen naturally. We must will it at some point.
Choosing Better Step #3: Immediate Satisfaction
Choosing hard doesn’t usually reward you with immediate satisfaction. In fact, when I chose to go into the mainstream of school, I was laughed at by others when they saw the grades I’d get back on assignments. “That was so easy. How could anybody not get it?” was their chant.
I’d turn red, sink in my seat, and hope that no one would pay attention to me. I would forget that I had dyslexia and that I had made the choice to be in mainstream education. Instead, I would sit there and wonder what was wrong with me and why everyone else got it and I didn’t. I would tell myself that I was stupid. Yep, the very thing that motivated me to choose hard, I labeled myself. I had help. My delightful younger brother would join in with the others and chant that I was stupid on a daily basis. He would try to recruit other cheerleaders to join in. Oftentimes he was successful.
Would it have been easier to escape all of them and feel good about coloring a paper? I seriously doubt it. Sometimes it appears like one route is so much easier than the other, but once you’ve traveled down the road, you realize that that road wasn’t so easy after all. Sometimes you will run into difficulties, no matter which road you take.
If I would have chosen resource (that’s what they called it then), I would have been laughed at, mocked, and demeaned probably in a much bigger and more dramatic way than I was in mainstream. I wouldn’t have been developing the tenacity to push through hard things. That choice would have hurt me on many levels and impacted the rest of my life.
Did I know, when I made that decision, that it was going to be so important? Uh, no. Do you know which decisions that you are making on a daily basis are going to be the important ones? Would it help if you did?
Are all of your choices going to be correct ones? Of course not. But fortunately—at least from my experience—life grants you the ability to goof up and then go back and try to get it right. Life is really patient that way. It will give you plenty of chances.
Choosing Better Step #4: Stay On Own Path and Stop Detouring
When I would peek over at the papers of other students and see the beautifully formed letter A sprawled across the top of their homework, my heart would immediately start twisting. I would struggle to take in air as I waited to see what would be written on the top of mine. I knew that there was a great chance that I wouldn’t be getting an A to match theirs, but I always hoped I would.
If I did get that A, it would be one of those times where I’d run the assignment home for Mother to look at instead of what I normally did, which was to rip the paper to shreds and find the nearest trashcan.
When I became focused on what others were doing, and how they were succeeding, I would sink into a depression, feeling stupid and hating myself for having put myself in that position. I was embarrassed and would develop terrible headaches. In class my mind would be filled with dreams of escaping elsewhere where I would be accepted. That, of course, did not help my retention of what I was supposed to be learning.