People Power: Don’t let the power to assert choice limit your choices - Aug/Sept 2021

By Sam Allman

You see, I want my remaining years to be filled with adventure-traveling the world, learning about and meeting people of different cultures. I can’t do that if I am dead, incapacitated or ineligible to enter a foreign country. In addition, I am not sure how much longer I will be physically able to do that. I want nothing in my way that would inhibit my dreams. So, I chose to get vaccinated.

I struggle to understand those who are reticent to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, especially when I see that the heavy majority of those currently hospitalized and dying of Covid are the unvaccinated. I am saddened to see the news stories of some infected patients who are realizing too late that they should have been vaccinated and speaking out in support of the vaccines on their deathbeds.

Nevertheless, I recognize the right of the unvaccinated to use their “independent wills” to choose for themselves. This is the freest country in the world. The power to choose and decide the direction of our own lives allows us to “pursue happiness.” It’s cathartic, provides us with the means to reinvent ourselves when life’s not working for us and to change our futures. Even more importantly, it allows us to powerfully influence the rest of creation. I hope the pandemic will soon end, so the government will not take away our choice to be vaccinated or not.

The fact is, our choices-the decisions we make-define us. Everything that happens to us-every experience, every person we meet, every bit of knowledge we gain-can influence us, but we have what Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning calls “the last of the human freedoms,” which is the power to choose how we respond and are affected by these influences. We may want to blame what has happened to us for what we become, but ultimately, that responsibility rests on our shoulders. We can’t control the wind, but we can always adjust the sails, said Thomas S. Monson.

We all have regretted some of the choices we have made, like those who regretted not being vaccinated. Our decision-making can profoundly affect us. Thankfully, I have had friends or family there to bail me out of some poor choices I made. I have made good decisions that didn’t turn out so well, and I have made stupid decisions that worked. Thank goodness that the results of most decisions are not permanent but temporary. Temporary gives us the ability to modify a result of a bad choice. Not all decisions are life or death choices. But many can certainly be life-altering, affecting personal happiness, health, relationships, wealth and quality of life.

We make thousands of decisions each day-when to get up; when, what, how much to eat and drink; what to wear; how to use our time; to exercise or not. The reality is that the actual number is almost innumerable. Many of the decisions are habits and are governed by the subconscious mind, and therefore require little thought. Others require critical thinking and forethought.

All decisions, big or small, come with risk. Though we can control the choice we make, we can’t always control the results or consequences. Environments, situations and people change, so what worked yesterday can’t always be depended on to work today. Our motivation for making a decision is usually to get a result that is personally beneficial. The risk is that the consequence may be other than that. Our challenge is to make sure our small, reactive or ill-thought decisions do not sabotage our personal wellbeing or happiness. Some of these unexpected consequences can be permanent and irreversible.

Life is difficult enough without our choices increasing our suffering and stress. We have all made choices that have caused us pain and suffering. The trick is having the awareness that our choices were the cause; otherwise, we’re clueless. That’s why children and teenagers need wiser adults around to be protected from themselves. Progressing from infancy to adulthood generates a higher level of choice-making wisdom. When I was a young adult, fresh out of my teens, I thought I knew it all, especially more than my parents. Now, as a senior, I know how little I knew.

Generally, when we face a big decision, most of us will use critical thinking and take the time necessary to consider the pros and cons of the choice and the impact on our lives. Whom will I marry? What career will I choose? How much education do I need? What institution will I attend? Where and with whom will I invest my retirement? Big decisions require serious consideration.

But all the little daily decisions count too, and may be as important as the big ones. A successful day requires many good daily decisions.

While we put the time and research in on the big decisions, many of our little daily decisions are made quickly without considering the potential long-term impact of the possible consequences.

Research by Edward Banfield of Harvard University confirmed that the most financially successful people considered the potential long-term impacts or consequences of their decisions before making them. We will introduce pain and suffering in our lives if our daily decision-making isn’t grounded in long-term thinking. We must consider the impact some of our daily decisions made today could have years from now.

The problem is that our daily, in-the-moment decision process can be swayed and enticed by our emotions and appetites. We only live in the moment, so it is natural to “grab the gusto” while we can. Sometimes, our emotions motivate us to give up what we want most for what we want now. And that is how we cause much of our own pain and suffering. I believe we should immerse ourselves in life and enjoy ourselves in every moment we can, but we can’t allow our decisions or choices to sabotage what we really want for our futures. To the extent that we give up on what’s most important to us to gain pleasure in the moment, we work against ourselves and undermine our personal sense of harmony.

By making the foundation of our decision-making process long-term thinking, we can acquire and develop self-discipline to control our emotions and appetites. It is a core skill of successful people. It’s the ability to decide what to do, when to do it, whether one feels like it or not. Self-discipline gives us the strength to not make quick decisions that may hurt us, like doing risky and dangerous things, wasting our future security by squandering our assets, doing things we would not normally do and thinking no one will notice, and doing things that we might regret and be embarrassed about later.

To increase your self-discipline, advanced decision-making is very effective. It’s about keeping promises to yourself. You can decide right now what you would do in a given circumstance. It took me a while, but I have decided I will never again text while driving. Long ago, I made the decisions to not smoke, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. Since then, I have never been tempted.

I have made many other advanced decisions, like being loyal to my spouse and family, being honest and living with integrity, keeping my promises, taking care of my obligations, being thrifty and frugal, exercising often, eating healthy, and living within the law. I have not been perfect, and, once in a while, I have succumbed to my emotions and my appetites of the moment. By and large, making these commitments in advance to myself has saved me and my family much suffering and pain. In many ways, advanced decision-making is deciding and planning what kind of person you want to become.

Despite a firm foundation of advanced thought and a long-term perspective, there will be times when choosing and deciding will not be easy. It is easy when there are only one or two choices. What happens when there is a plethora of good choices? That’s why successful people, those who live life their own way, are self-disciplined prioritizers. With so many choices, we must figure out what to ignore. When our daily choices are consistent with our highest priorities, we can usually sense a feeling of inner peace. It’s about choosing to do the right things right.

I am what I am and have what I have because of the choices and decisions I have made in my life. I decided to be vaccinated because doing so fit with what I want and my highest priorities. Deciding on the kind of person you want to become allows you to clarify what’s important to you, and that provides you with a grounded foundation of long-term thinking, a method for prioritizing and, most of all, criteria for making decisions. After all, we want to eliminate ourselves as the causes, as much as possible, of our own suffering.

Copyright 2021 Floor Focus