Decisions, decisions. If you’re a woman and reading this, the first thing you think of is the Winners store ad campaign, right?
While we make numerous small decisions on a daily basis – what to wear, eat, buy at Winners – I’ve been thinking about big decisions lately. The life-affirming, life-changing ones. That’s what happens, I guess, when you’ve had decades of life experience. Underneath all of the wrinkles and wattles and DUMB decisions I can see, with the benefit of hindsight, the GOOD decisions I’ve made that have led me to this wonderful life.
Here are three – a magical number – of mine, all made because life insisted I step up:
- I decided to go back to Jazzercise, in my early 40s, despite a knee injury. I’d cranked both knees on a black diamond in Blue Mountain, one worse than the other, and I’d been going to physio regularly, but the one knee still really hurt. I felt out of shape. I’d accepted that I needed to buy bigger clothes, but it was when I saw the size of my legs in a picture of myself, in shorts, that the decision took hold. I bought a knee brace, got to a class the next week, started going regularly, built-up the muscles around the knee, ditched the brace, decided to become an instructor and voila! Because I teach classes, I have no choice but to work out at least four times per week. A GOOD decision a decade and a half ago led to me being in great physical shape today.
- Some of you have read my book Long Climb Back. For those who haven’t, just know that the saying “into every life a little rain must fall” doesn’t cut it. It was more like “into every life a lot of heavy rain must fall”. All along, as downpours persisted, I told myself suffering would not define me. It was a decision with no action though. It wasn’t until I found myself cowering in my vehicle barely able to speak to my brother Ray on my cell that an active decision was made. Ray invited me to his place for “10 Days of Healing”, whatever that was. I accepted, which put into motion the continuous pursuit of my own personal spirituality. When I came home I was strong enough to make other decisions, the BIG CRAZY GOOD one being to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. When I look back now, I clearly see how that 20,000 feet divides my old life from my new one. I thank my Higher Power often for the intuition to climb that mountain.
- This next one pales in comparison to climbing Mt. K, but what doesn’t? Have I told you I love food? And not good, healthy food like my fiancé B. I like potato chips and chocolate and licorice and coffee. In abundance. As a friend says of her granddaughter, I’m “highly motivated by food”. So, a couple of years ago when I decided to give up all the good stuff – bread, dairy, sugars – because of skin rashes on my hands, well, it was a pretty big deal. The rashes still flare up from time to time, but I do cheat from time to time. I guess what is noteworthy about this GOOD decision to control my eating habits (most of the time) is awareness. When I eat properly I feel I am my best self.
So, chatting with a writer friend the other day, about my memoir and decision-making, I said, “All of these great things have happened to me because I made a decision.”
And he said, “Yes, but you must have commitment to back it up.”
Oh. Good point. Then me and B were chatting further about decision-making and B said, “Yes, you must make a decision, then commit to it, but you also have to have the strength to see it through and faith, too, in yourself.”
Wow. “And a plan,” B added. Geez. Making a decision – like going to the gym, quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol – can be hard, you know, if you need all of these other key ingredients.
But let’s back up. Eric Barker, a neuroscience researcher and writer for Business Insider agrees. “Deciding can be hard,” he says. What does neuroscience say? “Make a “good enough” decision. Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. And brain studies back this up.”
So, I guess it’s okay then, that I’m not a perfect eater?
I once read somewhere that nudging habits out of the bad and into the good can be as easy as deciding one day to turn left instead of right. Just decide. I like this image because it’s a simple directional shift that can lead to so much positivity, but without a lot of pressure. The commitment, strength, faith and plan can follow, as you see itsy bits of progress.
According to Barker, brain science has proven that your ability to make decisions, which includes creating intentions and setting goals, reduces worry and anxiety by engaging your prefrontal cortex in a positive way. He quotes from The Upward Spiral: “Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world – finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.”
What “good enough” decisions have you been putting off?