“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” – Stephen Covey, author of self-improvement books and seminars (1932-2012)
Looking at the future, if your vision is clouded by uncertainty or worry, there’s something you can do to change that. Take action. A little appreciated but very valuable truth is that you’re not destined to be molded by what happens to you or even what circumstances you’re born into. You are, however, very much a product of the choices you make and the actions you take. Quite simply and beautifully, you decide what to do.
Then, of course, you need to do it. Nothing will change in your future – indeed, even today – if you fail to act. Making the tough choices is sometimes difficult, but not impossible. The way you get there is to map out a plan, figure out a timetable, enlist appropriate and available resources, and get to work.
Sounds simple, right? Maybe it seems too simple. For those having a bit of trouble getting around to and making decisions, here are a few suggestions:
- Determine what is most important. Having too many conflicting demands on your time is a quick recipe for frustration that often leads to procrastination. With so much going on at once that requires a decision on your part, how are you ever to hone in on making any of them? The answer is to figure out what really matters and needs your attention now. List these items in order of priority – or desire, in the case of pursuits you want to go after. Once you’ve determined what is most important and have prioritized these choices, then you can begin to tackle them one by one.
- Weigh and balance the options within each prioritized items. There are generally several ways to approach a project, task, challenge, issue, hurdle or want on your list. Some require more time or extra resources, additional help or have to follow a cadence – other things have to be done first. Go through the options available to you at the time and determine which approach fits best with your current situation. Some decisions may be able to be put off for a while, but this doesn’t mean you sit idle. Tend to what you can and should take care of now. Remember, you decide what to do. It’s within your power to make these decisions, so exercise it.
- Keep a list of workable approaches. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you have a decision to make. If some approaches have worked well in the past, make use of them again. You may be able to adapt or revise them to fit current challenges or opportunities. The point is that you have had a number of successes in making decisions and carrying them out. Tap into this resource. You’ll feel more self-confident and less anxious about the decisions you need to make now.
- Do a self-check mid-way. Suppose you’ve made a decision and embarked on the project. In the middle of taking action something changes, causing you to wonder if you made the wrong choice. Do a self-check on your plan on the spot, taking into account what you’ve already accomplished on the task or project or endeavor, what’s happened that may require some change, and craft a plan that accommodates new developments. Again, it’s you that makes the decisions. You have the power. Remember that and use your well-developed skills to figure out where to go from here.
- Own your decisions. After making a number of decisions, some of which turned out the way you’d hoped and others, maybe less so, it’s important that you own each and every decision you make. Keep in mind that no one forces you to take action and they can’t take the credit for what you do either. By owning your decisions you reinforce the power you have over your choices. Learn from everything you do and this will increase your ability to make and carry out future decisions – especially those that you deem of greatest importance.