The Other Choice – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, April 26, 2018

If we want to make any progress in life, we need to make decisions and take action.

Decision making around the important things in life is tough work.  It requires thinking and it requires making judgments with limited information.  At times, many of us would just prefer a checklist that requires little to no thinking and just a robotic like obedience to achieve a certain goal in life.  The reality is that the important decisions around family, education, career, and areas we choose to serve, are all complicated.  The decisions are rarely between right and wrong, they usually land somewhere between “pretty good” and “maybe a little better.”

Even though making decisions in the complex, important areas of life is not easy, one of the potential barriers to our success in the decisions we have made is the time we spend pondering what could have been with “the other choice” not taken.  The “what could have been” debate if we had taken the other path like in the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken, can hinder our progress.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, how we deal with “the other choice” will be critical to our emotional health and the eventual achievement of our hopes and dreams.  

Psychologists say much of the mental strain they see today is brought on by our tendency to struggle with the “what could have been” debate in our lives.  As these were big decisions in our lives, there is most likely a fair amount of emotion and perhaps pain associated with the choices we have made in the past.

I will state the obvious – There is no rewind button or do-over rule in life.  Our capacity spent trying to hope for a rewind or a do-over is an unfortunate waste of our limited resources.  A more effective option is to productively face the “other choice” concern that we all encounter at some point in our journey.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Reality: We will never know the full outcome of “the other choice.” We have a tendency to overemphasize the potential positives, but disaster also strikes on The Road Not Taken. This is one of the great mysteries in life, we only know for sure what we have in front of us today.
  • Understanding: Our most productive use of “the other choice” should be on understanding our thought process around the decisions we made at the time – What drove our decision? We will become more self-aware of our weak points and our strong points that will help us in many aspects of our life.
  • Growth: We can only press the forward button in life.  There is no pause and there is no rewind.  Our most effective efforts on dealing with past decisions is to grow from them so we can apply those gains to be more effective in our present set of choices and perhaps share our learnings with those closest to us.

As we reduce the emotional burden associated with the “what could have been” debate and focus on growing based on learnings from our past decisions, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to reach our full potential.