We make decisions constantly, ranging from trivial moment-to-moment decisions to momentous, life-altering decisions. Sometimes we have adequate information to make decisions that we feel comfortable with, but more often we must make decisions without having enough information or enough time to really process our feelings and the data available to us. Even the best-considered decisions sometimes turn out poorly and lead to regret, while some of our most impulsive, poorly thought out decisions work out beautifully. Life seldom unfolds the way we expect.
Some decisions we make are conscious choices—whether to take this job offer or another job offer, whether to repair our old car or buy a new one. Other decisions are responses that must be made to unexpected events or crises in our lives. Someone in our family dies unexpectedly or we are injured and can no longer work, or we get “downsized” out of a job we planned on sticking with for many years. We also sometimes make “non-decisions”. We make a choice without realizing that it is a choice; for example, getting married and having children without realizing that it is an option to have relationships without getting married or that we can choose not to have children if that choice doesn’t fit for us.
It can be both interesting and emotional to reflect on key decisions we have made that have shaped our lives in particular directions. From time to time, perhaps when we are struggling to make current decisions, we may reflect on past decisions and feel either satisfaction or regret. It is also intriguing to speculate about the choices not made, the paths not chosen and how profoundly our lives would be different if we had taken one of those other paths. Let’s talk about a few of the most significant decisions, chosen and unchosen, that have shaped our hearts, lives, and psyches.
- What goes into your own way of making major life decisions? Are they patterns of expectation taught by family or mainstream culture? An attitude of duty? Personal desire?
- Name one or two of the most significant decisions you have made in your life. Were they made consciously, by choice or in reaction to circumstances and other peoples’ opinions?
- Few actions are made from any single, pure motivation. Our motives are complex and often contradictory. What motivated you to make some of the key decisions you made; for example, ambition, loneliness, fear, codependency, desire, embarrassment?
- What decision have you made that you were most satisfied with? That you were most disappointed about?
- Are there any important decisions you are facing right now? How might you approach making this decision?