Friday, October 24, 2008

Taking the Worry out of Making Decisions

© Beverley Paine 2008

I used to think that we only get one chance at getting things right and that the decisions we make today are set hard, as though in concrete, and would take a jackhammer to change, with resulting chaos and mess. But life has taught me otherwise. At the age of 50 I can easily see that most of my decisions - both big and small, insignificant and important - are nowhere near as critical as I think they are at the time of making them.

Life generally dictates what needs to be done, as well as how it is going to be done. It is best summed up in Reinhold Niebuhr's 'Serenity Prayer' (original version sourced from

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

For most of my life I've been working hard to accept that each and every moment of my life - the things that I encounter and the situations in which I find myself - are there to teach me valuable lessons about life and how I need to live so that I can be a better person, both for myself and to and for others.

I sincerely trust that mistakes are simply learning experiences - in fact, they are positive learning experiences. By learning to see the very important lessons that can be learned and taken forward from each 'mistake' I feel that I am acknowledging that I am on the right path, that each step and decision I make will ultimately lead me where I need to be... It's a self-correcting process.

This also means that I don't fall into the trap of blaming myself for screwing my life up. Sometimes I slip and lose confidence and start blaming myself, but it is mostly for things that are clearly way beyond my control - both back in the past when I made decisions and right now when I feel the urge to 'fix' things. Often it's only my perception that says they are broken or not right in the first place - they aren't really!

This practice of accepting the fallibility of my decisions from the outset, of being open to quickly adapting to better ideas - of being able to take advantage of changing circumstances and not making decisions rock hard - has meant that I have yielded to a higher wisdom than my ego. I've learned to let go of my need to be in control all the time. I can now see that I am not responsible for how everything turns out - there are lots of factors at work over which I have no control and don't even know about in the first place!

It is definitely like this with the future - even the near future. I also like the saying by Alexander Graham Bell that goes:

"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

With our own homeschooling I have found this to be the case many times. For sure, I would have done things differently if I had the hindsight I had now but would the outcome have been that much different? It is too hard to tell. Often I think how my children have turned out is due to something I did or didn't do, when in fact it is a product of who they are, and that, amazingly enough, is largely genetic. We give them the tools to make the most of life - they decide how best to use them.