Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hour 1: Decisions

In the first hour of The 24-Hour Turn-Around, the authors pose a question to the reader: Is it possible that one's life can be dramatically changed in one day? They respond not only is is possible, but probable.

As I've mentioned before, this books is split into 24 chapters, each to be read and considered. Each chapter is a small step toward your ultimate goal. I don't know about you, but I'm a little fuzzy on what my goal should be...

If you think about it, making a ''life change'' is no small task! And, well frankly, it's a little daunting. I personally like change. The way I feel about change is that if I don't like the way things are, they aren't going to change without, uh... change. I've learned the hard way that if I wait for things to change around me, they either won't, or they'll change in ways that I don't exactly want them to.

I look at it like this... Life is like an airplane. For starters, it's big, it's... a miracle that it's flying in the first place. I'm in the passenger area and the plane is going... Somewhere. I have some options. For starters, it has to be moving to get somewhere. But if I don't know where it's going, it could either be going in circles or headed for Belize. And I won't know until I get there. Not that I know how to get to Belize, but I can figure out how to keep from going in circles... If I find my way into the cockpit, I can steer this life, uh, I mean plane, where I want it to go. (Or keep it from going where I don't.) Of course, if it's been flying aimlessly for a while, I don't exactly know how to fly the damned thing. But hey-- I'm smart enough to know if I push the lever down and it nose dives, well then, maybe I should pull back a little. A little. If I pull back too much, I have the opposite problem. After I practice driving my life for a while, I get better at it. Hey-- I may even figure out how to get to Belize instead of just avoiding that dreaded circle. But unless I'm in the cockpit, not only do I not get to choose where I'm going, I might not like where I end up. What if I land in the middle east? (OH they wouldn't like me there... I am WAY too outspoken...! Lol!)

So I really don't mind change so much. And I don't mind being the one calling the shots, deciding what changes in my life, either. But at the moment, when it comes to picking that one thing that will impact my life...? Wow. I guess the pressure comes from trying to put my finger on just what precisely is the core of the issue.

When I consider what needs changing, I can consider their first point:

What needs to be changed, and where do I begin?

Well, if we continue with the plane analogy... The very first thing I need to do is accept that my plane is where it is as a result of my past decisions. Hey... Even if it's going in circles, that's still my doing, right? I mean, I was the one who decided not to get into the cockpit before now. It would be pretty easy for me to say that I wasn't the one who directed it into the circle path, but if I am the only one who can steer my plane, I'm the only one responsible for pulling myself out of it.


We are all responsible for our life. Where each of us is in our life is a result of our own decisions. And this is precisely why we have the control to change our life.

You know, there are a lot of people who take responsibility for others' lives, but that is a losing battle if you think about it. Someone else can radio to me to ''Pull back! Veer left!'' but it's up to me to actually do the driving. What if I heard the directions incorrectly? I've heard of people trying to be responsible for others who will refuse to go into the cockpit in the first place. Actually, I've also been that person sending the radio messages. It sucks.

So I think the most important thing we can do in each of our lives is to take responsibility for where we are, here and now. And once we're in the cockpit, the next trick is to say, ''Um... So, where am I anyway?''

In order for us to make a decision about what to do, what to change, we have to take a look at where we are. I think a lot of people are in denial about their life. They try to convince themselves that things are ''ok enough'' when, in fact, things really need to be different. (I've been that person too. That also sucks.) So I think the first steps can be broken down into:
  1. I am responsible for what my life is like today.
  2. Because I put my life where where it is today, I also have the control to re-direct it.
  3. Before I can decide what to change, I need to know where I am in my life.
  4. When I know where I am in my life, I can accept that this is where I brought myself.
  5. Because I know I where I am, and I know I got myself here, I have the control to drive this plane to a different place.
The book makes another excellent point. (Well, it makes many of them...) The only way we learn to make decisions is by making decisions. The more decisions we make, the better decisions we make. In order for us to ''get better'' we must first make some not-so-great decisions.

As I type this, something comes to mind. In #5 one might be inclined to respond ''well, if my decisions got me to this place, why should I think that if I continue to make decisions, I will get to a better place?''

The answer is simple: You have already made your not-so-great decisions. If you don't like where you are, you are already a step ahead of the game. If you have heard about when an individual goes through the stages of learning, of competence, this may sound familiar:
  • First is unconscious incompetence
  • Then comes conscious incompetence
  • Next is conscious competence
  • Finally is unconscious competence.

What all this means is that at first we don't know what we don't know how to do. These are people without experiences, without exposure to those things which they must learn. The kids who graduate from college and have to go into the real world, the stay at home mom who has to work for the first time... You get the idea. Then we become conscious of what we don't know. We say ''oh crap! I'm clueless! I don't know how to do this!!'' I think this is where people are when they find themselves at a point when they say ''I haven't been making decisions because I'm afraid I'm going to make the wrong ones.'' That's an understandable fear. But there's really only one way to get past that, and that's to try. The good news for people stuck in that second phase is the next phase. The very next place to go from where you are, is straight into competence. (Albeit, conscious competence, but that's ok...!)

The next step, conscious competence is when we are steering that plane and it's actually going up when we want it to, down when we want it to... You get a little practice, and then you find it's actually fun just to steer it and feel the control. You think about what you want to do, you do it, then you see you did it, and that feels good. It's a conscious thing. And at this point, where we're going isn't that important, at least not for the moment. What's fun (and important, mind you...) is showing ourselves that we really are making that big flying miracle go were we want it to. He have proven to ourselves that we can steer the damned thing. And the more we do it, the easier it becomes. You aren't over compensating anymore, and it's smooth-sailing. When the newness wears off, we point it to where we really want to go. Our destination. Because by now we have been looking out the windows enough to see what looks good. Decisions come easily and naturally, and before long we are on auto-pilot. That's unconscious competence.

Speaking of decisions, I have one to make. What will I change?

I have to admit, I started this blog yesterday, and I couldn't answer that question. This morning it hit me. Has yours hit you yet? If not, think about it...

Think about where your life is. Consider your station. Your job, your relationship/s. Your family and friends. Think about your spiritual connection if you have those beliefs... Consider the way you spend your time, your money, your efforts and your energy. When you think about your life, what strikes you most? What is the one thing that keeps coming back in your mind that you wish was different?

Maya Angelou says something wonderful. This quote has brought me through some pretty rough times:

"You did the best you could at the time.
And when you knew better, you did better."

Don't beat yourself up if you don't like what you come face to face with. I can say from personal experience that it's the natural thing to do, and tough to pull away from, that guilt or self-anger because you don't like what you've done to yourself or your life. But now you know better. You didn't know there was a cockpit. Then you knew it was there but not that you could get in. When you learned you could, you weren't sure of how, and then you got some ideas. After thinking about ways you might or might not, you tried a few times, After all, you want to pull that plane out of the nose-dive, or your getting dizzy from the circles.

Finally, after wearing yourself out by beating on the door, you stepped back, took some deep breaths and saw the funky lever on the door. And now you're in the pilot's seat going ''oh shit. I don't know how to fly a plane." Now is not the time to be thinking about all the things you did before you sat in that seat. Who cares about what happened before now? Now you are sitting in the pilot's seat and you are at the controls. If you spend time thinking about the past, you are wasting time, wasting your opportunity for your future. Just pull a lever, see what happens.

The first step in making a change, is the decision to change. It's the hardest part, it's the scariest part, and it's the part that takes the longest. But when you make the decision to change something in your life, the change will come.

I don't know what your decision will be, but as for me... I'm going to Belize.

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