Life is simply a series of decisions. You wake up each morning, face your day, make choices as necessary, and then live with the outcome of those choices. Each decision affects the next to some extent, and one day at a time, one choice at a time, you build your life.
You start out with simple things like choosing a book to read, shoes to wear, or a snack to eat. You pick favorite colors and yummiest flavors. You decide who to invite, where to go, and what to buy. Eventually, you’re volleying study habits, college applications and future career options. Throw drinking, driving, dancing, dating, and dieting into the mix and you see where I’m going.
And, it’s really fun! At first it’s fun because it’s just you, and it’s pretty easy to be happy with the choices that affect only you. You decide how late to party, what to do the next day, what classes to take and what classes to skip. You decide where you want to eat and how much you want to spend. You buy your own clothes and groceries. You pick your first car and your first job. Then, maybe you meet someone and it’s still fun. You go on vacations, spend crazy amounts of time together, fall in love, make wedding plans, tell stories and decide your future. You have a baby, name her, love her, play with her, and imagine how boring your life would be without her. You have another baby, and make those decisions again, and again, and again. And it’s still fun.
But, now it’s also kind of hard too. Now your decisions aren’t just about you and your life. Now everyone’s watching and judging. It’s hard because your life is intertwined with other people’s lives. You’re bombarded with other’s interactions, other’s decisions, and other’s outcomes. You compare your life with those around you, and begin to second-guess whether you made the best decisions earlier in your life. Sometimes you might feel guilty about how your choices affect your family, your career, your friends, your income, your future…and so on. Each decision seems much more complicated, more important and more stressful. Um, it's not so fun.
As we get older, it becomes more important for us to be happy with the decisions we make. And it’s more difficult to be happy. I used to think I could just choose happiness, but I now know that it isn’t that simple. Happiness is a balance of choices, and if the balance is off, you just can’t quite be happy. You want to be happy, you think you should be happy, you try to be happy, but you can’t. And I think to get that balance you have to make decision-making fun again. It's true that your choices will still affect your family and your future, but if you can focus on what matters in your life, and decide what you want to do, who you want to be, and how you want to live; if you can block out the comparisons to other people's lives, you can be happy. It has to be a little bit about you!