Good Choices

Today is yesterday’s future and tomorrow’s history!

I heard a well known doctor tell his patient, “you are where you are today because of the choices you have made in the past.” The patient appeared taken back by the comment. She was hurt. She thought, “I came here for help and you are telling me what I already know. I made the wrong decision.”

When a person asks for directions, telling them that they made a wrong turn is not really useful. They already know they made the wrong turn. They are lost. They want directions to get them to their destination. Clearly, if they came by again asking for the same directions, you may want to focus on the wrong turn issue. If they come back the third time, you have to focus on their willingness to accept directions…to make the right decision.

The doctor understood that the patient was coming back again and again asking for directions. Rather than accepting the directions, the patient chose to repeat the same mistake…the wrong choice…hoping for different results. The choice was to resist change rather than embrace change.

But we make changes every day. We change the temperature in a room to achieve comfort. We cross the street because we can get to our destination sooner. We change jobs, change lanes, change diapers, change drinks, change clothes, doctors, and even spouses. Change is part of life, part of growing up, and necessary for survival. If you walk into a pond, best to quit walking and CHANGE to a swim stroke.

Change is a tough human encounter. We evaluate change based on our perception that we will have some benefit.

If you are unhappy with where you are today, look to the past and the decisions that you made that got you where you are today. Ask, “Were these good decisions?” “Did I know then what I know now?” We can’t change past decisions nor their ramifications, good or bad. But we can learn from them and not make the same mistake again.

There is an interesting parallel in golf. There are many parts to the golf swing. The more the golfer masters the many variables in the swing, the more consistent the results. Consistency leads to swing confidence, which then introduces the variables beyond the swing, including stance, lie, loft, target, strategy and emotion. The better golfer works to master the basics and then builds on the basics.

I have seen golfers who forget the basics and move right on to target and strategy only to miss the target and spoil their strategy. Rather than go back to basics, they simply change the target and modify their strategy. Not to different than the person who can drive the car but can’t follow directions. In golf, it is not polite to comment on another golfer’s swing even though you may see what is wrong. What’s worse is when the golfer hits a bad shot and then reports to his fellow golfers that ‘I know what I did wrong’. By the time he gets to the next shot, he forgot what he did wrong and repeats the bad shot…and the report.

Some golfers get so focused on just doing something that they continue to repeat to process that gets them the bad results. Like the driver, they continue to go in the wrong direction. Like many people who keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

It’s interesting that average golfers warm up before a round of golf, but after the round, they head to the clubhouse to socialize. They program their brain with the good and bad shots of the day. Better golfers and the pros, warm up, and then practice before the round. After the round, they go back to the practice area to program their system to remember only the good shots. The choice is to make doing the right thing (the swing), automatic.

Making the right choices
So let’s look at how we make choices each day. If we are automatic in making choices, we will get as much info as possible so that we can make good decisions. We acknowledge that the outcome will be a function of the information that we have at the time we make the decision AND the decision that we make based on that information.

Once a decision is made, it is history. To change it requires a new decision. To change it requires new information that was not available when the first decision was made. An old saying: today is yesterday’s future and tomorrow’s history.

Sometimes, we hesitate to make decisions for fear that it may be the wrong decision. Not making a decision, is, in itself, making a decision. Critics have it easy. After you make your decision, they look at the information that you did not have and then critique your decision. So what! Spectators assess outcomes. Players determine the outcome.

People who can make decisions affect outcomes. They make the choices that they and everyone else must enjoy or endure. As an individual, however, we not only must make choices, we must be willing to be accountable for those choices.

When the person came back for the third time asking for directions, he was not being accountable for his actions. When the doctor said, “you are where you are today because of the choices you have made in the past, “he was asking the patient to accept responsibility for his choices…his decisions.

If we are not willing to be accountable for the decisions we make, our decisions will lack integrity or credibility. We cannot complain about the results of the decision. Even though people will complain about their situation based on the choices they have made, we cannot help them until they make the decision to be accountable. Until the person asking for directions is willing to accept directions…willing to change…willing to make right choices, they will not make right choices. They will not get to their desired destination.

The pilot makes decisions that get us to our destination. Wrong decisions get us to the wrong destination. A really bad decision and the plane crashes. The pilot gets one chance at a really bad decision. Fortunately, in our lives, we can make some pretty bad decisions and still find help…but we have to be ready to change. Bad golfers repeat bad decisions and make bad shots. Good golfers replace bad decisions with new information and good decisions and make good shots.

Make good choices.

Be accountable for your choices.

Learn from every choice.

Make it a great day…it’s your choice.