Every day, we have the opportunity to make hundreds of choices. (Whether this is ideal is an entirely different musing.) Whether we are deciding what to wear, what to eat for lunch, how to treat that entitled client, or whether to lace up and go for a run, these choices determine the circumstances of our future. To me, this is a given; a science really. If we eat the healthier option, our bodies eventually perform better. If we go for that run, we will eventually be able to run farther.
However, when it comes to how we FEEL after these decisions, things start to get a little more complicated. I believe the metrics we use to measure the effectiveness of our choices matters just as much as the decision itself. It is necessary to be aware of the results of our choices, so we can decide whether to keep making them or not. Unfortunately, I think the guidelines I have been prescribing to by cultural default, have set me up for not only unrealistic expectations, but confusion and un-productivity.
Our culture is one of choices, and I thank God every day that I know how important these choices are, and that I know I am the one in control of making them. However, I have found that we view these choices as neither "right" or "wrong" anymore, but in terms of what will make us "happier." I know this doesn't seem like a bad thing, but if we make choices based on happiness, then we are using a metric that only provides satisfaction if we feel GOOD...and I just don’t think we are going to feel good all the time.
Really, think about it. How many times have you questioned the decisions you made, because you don't feel as happy as you thought you would after making the decision? When we do this, not only are we attaching expectations to things we have only partial control over, but we are basing the results of our decision on something unrealistic in the first place: consistent happiness. When we realize we are not happy, we beat ourselves up for making the "wrong" decision, when in fact, unhappiness occurs regardless of our decisions. (Please stick with me here...I know it sounds pessimistic, but I really don't think it is...)
If we expect good choices to make us feel good, so we always make the choices that immediately make us feel good, then we should feel good all the time, right? I think most of us agree that this is not realistic. Yet, we play into this thinking every day. As soon as we are unhappy, we think it must be because we made a wrong turn somewhere; but I believe that we could make all the right decisions in the world, and that would not guarantee us consistent happiness all the time. Consistent happiness is simply not realistic.
Before I go on, I would like address what I mean by "right" and "wrong." I really do believe this is a gray area. I know that sounds contradictory, but I think HOW we determine right vs. wrong is less important than WHY we need to determine right vs. wrong. (Am I confusing you yet?)
Let me put it this way: I believe we need a strong foundation to serve as guidelines for our choices. This can come from a book such as the Bible, or it can come from how we were brought up, or it can come from deep soul searching for what is truly important to us as individuals. The point is, we have to have some metric that does not fluctuate. We have to have something constant and true within our hearts, or we won't stick to it. If it doesn't ring true in our souls, we won't buy in.
So, as I keep musing, let's all just assume that right and wrong has been established by the individual in a way that is true to who they really are. No small feat, but I am trying to keep this as concise as possible!
When we make choices based on whether they are right or wrong, we aren't making decisions out of uncertainty and emotion; we are not being impulsive or hopeful; we are making decisions with a foundation, void of fluctuating moods. Humans are fickle. That is why I think it is important to determine our priorities, and make choices based on that hierarchy. When we make choices within this framework, and we make them consistently, we start attracting circumstances and opportunities that are in line with what is most important to us.
Now, this path requires patience. We can't make a decision, and immediately make a judgement based on how we feel right after. I don't have to go into how flawed this is, as I am sure one understands that immediate results are rarely accurate indicators of satisfaction or true progress. Yet how many times do we expect results right away? (Does core work for half an hour, sees no six pack, gives up...)
We have to set priorities based on our own beliefs in what is right and wrong, and make choices based on these beliefs. Then we need to make these choices consistently, and begin to view our happiness or unhappiness as mear indicators of our immediate surroundings - not long-term building blocks.
I strongly believe that basing our evaluations of our choices on whether they provide happiness, is a flawed paradigm. I think it's more admirable to make choices based on our priorities, and ride it out. This means we have to give up immediate satisfaction and control over immediate outcomes; but if we can choose correctly when we can, and let go when we can't, I think we will end up living lives that are in line with who we really are, and what is really important to us...and to me, that is far more satisfying than fleeting happy feelings.
Shit, maybe I am just making all of this up because Mexico didn't make me as happy as I thought it would and I need to make myself feel better about that. Who knows. But I really feel deep down, that even though my life looks very uncertain right now and the control freak in me is raging with her disapproval, that I am on the right path. I am making choices that look unstable right now, but I believe will lead somewhere worthwhile in the long run. I am not making choices based on what will make me happy right now, but what I have found is important to me at my core. My current priorities are as follows:
Myself: Quiet time, some portion of the day to make myself look presentable (was not doing this in MX), and meditation every day. (This can all be done in under 30 minutes btw...so yes, it's selfish, but it isn't taking much time away from other priorities.
My Family: Working on long-term solutions to keep them all secure and safe, in an environment where we all get ample quality time together. (This is only Chris and the puppies right now, but a family is a family :)
My Health: Proper nutrition that allows me to keep energy and positivity (the links are real, people), and pushing my physical body past small limits every week so I can tap into my personal power and remember that I can do hard things - if I stop making excuses.
My finances: A career in a field I can become an expert in (that will not go away if our economy gets rocky again), living well within my means so we can buy our dream property someday, and setting aside enough spending money to enjoy life and travel while we save for said property. This particular priority comes with a TON of sacrifices, but I am more than willing to make them now that I have something clear to actually work towards.
My friends: I want to be in a position to support, appreciate, and connect with the friendships that mean the most to me. Admittedly, this one is hard because it used to be much higher on the list...and it probably will be again someday; but right now while it is still important, it's not as important as my finances, health, and family - and that is just my reality right now. I am told my real friends will understand that...I truly hope that is the case!
So, for now, I am making all my choices based on this list. Where we live, who I choose to work for, how I spend my time...all of it filters through these 5 tiers. In all honesty, I know I won't see results right away, and I will question and not feel sure of it all for quite a while yet. But, I feel confident that patience and persistence will pay off...and if they don't, than this public post might just come back to bite me in the ass ;)