Reality Check: Every Little Choice

Different stages of our lives bring the opportunity to make different life-changing decisions. Who to marry, where to live, what career to choose, where to work, what house to buy; those decisions, among others, can have significant consequences.

Big choices can be difficult, and I think that many people put considerable thought into their big choices.

We also make little choices. In fact, we make a whole lot more little choices than big ones. Every day, perhaps even every waking hour, we’re making choices. And even though any small choice is not as consequential as a big one, each choice still has an effect on our lives.

For example, it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Will I choose to lounge outside in my lawn chair for a few hours or sit at my computer and work?

Here’s another choice: I haven’t spoken to Marcia in a while. She’s probably ok, but she did have that thing that she was worried about last time we talked. Should I pick up the phone? Or should I wait for her to call me?

How about this choice: Will I pack a sandwich for lunch or pay ten bucks at the diner?

Should I ask that person who seems to be having a hard time if they’d like some help? Or should I mind my own business?

Finally, should I serve myself a second piece of cheesecake? That first one was pretty good.

We make these, and many other tiny choices, every day and each one by itself doesn’t seem to amount to much. However, every little choice we make sets us on a path in a particular direction.

Stephen Covey, among others, suggests that it’s helpful to think about your direction ­your purpose­in life. When you have put thought into what’s important to you, it becomes easier to see that each tiny choice either helps you toward that direction or it pulls you away. When making choices, it helps to know where you want to go.

For example, let’s say you are on a mission to improve your health. If so, the decision of whether to pack your lunch and forego the extra cheesecake may be clearer.

If you have a goal to save money for something that’s important to you, then the choice of packed lunch versus diner may likewise be clear.

If you have chosen a mission to reduce suffering, then you’ll step in to help a person in trouble and you’ll call Marcia to check in.

And if your values include getting a defined level of work completed, then the decision of lounging versus working on Saturday makes itself.

A one-time, extra piece of cheesecake decision doesn’t necessarily set us irretrievably on a path that ends with eating the whole cake and then feeling miserable. However, each little choice does set us on a slightly different path.

If you have clarity about your direction ­and that direction includes a balance of various activities­ then each tiny decision may not be completely clear. However, having clarity of direction can at least help you decide among your activities.

Do you think about your little choices? Or do you let them pretty much make themselves?

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