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Spirituality Essay:

Win - Win    ( March 2011 )

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We make decisions all day long. Most are easy, routine, and inconsequential. What to eat for dinner? ... exercise today or kick back? ... what Netflix should I order?

As the decision's importance increases, we usually put in more energy and attention to getting it right: should I buy that stock? ... spend my savings on a nice vacation or keep it for a rainy day? ... take a more demanding, higher income job or stay in my less stressful job that gives me more free time?

As the potential for negative consequences of a bad decision mounts, so too does our anxiety. We've probably developed some good decision making skills over the years, especially if we've led a growth-filled life in which we've pushed our comfort zone and had to make some riskier decisions. But life is always throwing new problems and opportunities at us. "what should I do?" situations that can seem overwhelming and take over the rest of life. How often have you had a problem needing a resolution that kept you up at night?

It's usually not the magnitude of the decision that's so hard to deal with. getting married is huge, but if we know it's right, it's a relatively easy decision. What throws us is when the pros and cons of different alternatives seem balanced - when deciding one way or the other creates different but equal benefits and downside risks.I equally want the more-money job and the comfort and extra time for life of my current job.

How to decide? ... We want to make the right decision. Our instincts - and maybe training - tell us one is right, or better; the other wrong, or worse. And so we analyze, we get advice, we pray, we stew and worry. We want to get it right.what should I do?

But suppose we let go of believing there's just one correct decision? ... one better outcome? Could that possibly be?

I have a friend who had to make one of the most difficult decisions of her life a few years ago. Her diabetic sister needed a kidney transplant or would likely die within the year. My friend had the best kidney match for her, but was a single parent raising a young child. You can imagine the wrenching agony she faced.the reasons for and against either decision seemed so equal, the consequences so dire.

She wrestled with this for over a month, until an epiphany occurred: that there wasn't necessarily a right decision, but that either choice could be right. A positive outcome would depend more on what would happen after the decision got made than the decision itself. It wasn't choosing the right one, but making sure that whatever got decided became the right one.

How can we engineer that positive outcome? When the pros and cons of two choices seem so balanced, either decision can therefore work out.

The key is to make the decision - as best as one can - and then commit to that decision: fully letting go the other alternative from your mind and then investing oneself in creating success on the chosen path . . . i.e. making sure all the `pros' of that decision become reality.

My friend wound up making a decision and fortunately never needed to look back, as the positives she'd wanted from that decision began showing up in her life.

Making decisions is such an important part of life; in fact who we are today is largely the result of our past decisions. It's nice knowing that when we come to those major forks in the road and need to make a life- altering decision that we can create a winning outcome with either choice.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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Read more about the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast.

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