Reality Check: To Choose or Not to Choose?

In recent public service ads, a teenager says something like, “My parents didn’t tell me that driving while high was a bad idea, so it must be ok.”

One logical response is, “If your parents didn’t tell you it’s a bad idea to jump off the roof, does that mean it’s ok?” (There’s also the opposite view, “If my parents said it was a bad idea, then it must be awesome!” But we know that teenagers don’t think like that, right? )

Fact is, what some of us consider obvious and “common” sense is not obvious and common to all. It’s surprising what people don’t know! So the ad encourages parents to give information—tell your children specifically that driving while high (or working while high, or coming to school while high) is not ok.

This column isn’t a rant about teenage behaviour, though; it’s about choices!

Taking action is a choice. But inaction is a choice, too. Speaking to your kids about drugs is a choice; not speaking to them is also a choice.

A common justification for inaction is, “I’m planning to do it. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.” That may be valid; we can’t do everything at once.

However, if the intended action is, “I will speak to my kids about the dangers of getting high,” then waiting till they are 40 years old with kids of their own is pretty similar to not doing it at all.

Procrastination is a tough behaviour to change. If you find yourself putting something off till the ideal time comes along, here are a few tips.

  • Ask, “Am I really going to do this?” If the action is something you’re not convinced you really want to do, procrastination often rears its ugly head. Perhaps it’s uncomfortable or you’re not sure how to get started. You might wonder, “Why bother?” It is your choice: Are you going to do it? Or not?
  • If you choose “no,” then you may as well stop torturing yourself. For example, you’re not going to talk to your kids about drugs. OK. Interestingly, just making that choice may change your perspective. You could announce to your children, “I had planned to talk to you about drugs, but I have chosen not to.” (That ought to start a conversation, eh?) It may also free up your worried energy to think of alternatives to that difficult conversation.
  • If you choose “yes,” and still keep putting it off, break it into small tasks. Make the first task something you can do right now. If it’s a conversation, the first task might be to set up a time. Yes, even if it’s with your kids. (Text them, they might even respond.) What’s the next task? Come up with an opening sentence or opening question for your conversation.

Whether you choose to take action or not is up to you. It’s more satisfying to be aware that you are making a choice either way, rather than letting opportunities slip away, believing that you had no choice.

What do you think?

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