Make Up Your Damn Mind!
Nothing is more destructive emotionally than the habit of indecision.
It’s equivalent to living Step 0, wherein one merely goes round n’ round the merry-go-round of “other alternatives.” Never making actual decisions, just floating back and forth between numerous potential decisions…
“Maybe this, or maybe that. Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I can, maybe I can’t. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.”
Enough already. STOP. A split mind is one that does not work…
Perhaps the advice of Abraham Lincoln should be duly noted, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
To progress – to change – requires definitive and affirmative action, nothing short of a full decision, a unified mind as it were.
Avoid Augustine’s half-ass but undeniably relatable prayer, “God, give me the purity of Grace, but not yet!”
The Dangers Of A Split Mind
To stress this point I’d like to go Biblical on you. Do not fret, however, just examine the message. James, the author of the epistle bearing his name, writes:
Why can’t he receive anything from the Lord? Because his indecision produces inaction – in other words, he’s incapable or powerless to grab hold of it.
Is It Not Obvious That Life Change Requires A Decision?
First, let’s break down the word “decision.”
A Latin derivative of two words “de” and “cedere” literally meaning “to cut in half.”
Fr. Ralph Pfua of the Golden Books (See Golden Books Review) notes that the brilliance of this word is found in the result of it, wherein a problem is halved.
For instance, if only people lived in a constant state of decision-making that all problems would lessen 50%. This is, in my opinion, taking for granted that those would be good decisions.
Yet, I cannot help but feel that Pfua would still argue that half the problems would immediately cease to exist. The consequence of the raw power behind a decision, he would say.
Though I agree philosophically with the sentiment, I’d like to offer what I believe to be an equally instructive understanding of the concept.
Cutting Away The Alternative
We’ve learned so far that a decision made is a problem halved.
How is this immediately practical? Those on Step 0 need some serious ass-saving application not philosophical speculation. So where do we go from here?
In the last article, we discussed the power of accepting the non-option.
In this article, the focus is first, a brief examination of reservations (the non-option as it were), followed by an overview on how to embrace the habit of decision and living the options available.
What Is A Reservation?
In recovery speak a reservation is “reserving a place in your program for relapse.” Of course, your “program” could be one of many recovery methods out there – however, this still does not bring clarity to the obscurity of this definition.
So what the hell does it mean to basically make an RSVP for a relapse?
It’s indecision, unwilling to commit to a course of action in its entirety. If I make a decision to do my laundry but a year later undone the laundry sits, the only conclusion to be reached is that a decision was never made to do my laundry.
It’s possible the intention was there but conversion to a decision was not. In other words, the other options (the non-option) was never accepted and never cut away.
THE INTENTION-DECISION CONVERSION FACTOR
Intentions Beget…More Intentions
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.” ― Stephen M.R. Covey
Indecisive people usually have a malfunction in their intention-decision conversion apparatus. That is, intentions rarely transmute into action producing decisions.
Hence the addict/alcoholic who time and time again relapses after a brief period of abstinence. They confuse an emotionally charged intention with a decision; yet, with only half of the equation written the problem remains unsolved.
The Focus Needs To Be On The “Doing.”
Reservations are, therefore, failed intentions. But how then do we convert intentions into decisions?
One word: GOALS
⇒ Daily goals produce habits, which are learned behavioral patterns – the outflow of a personal worldview or perhaps more succinctly, a paradigm.
(The following is an adaptation and my understanding of “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People,” Written By Stephen Covey)
Habit One: Be Proactive
Proactive individuals take full responsibility for their lives. As Covey brilliantly noted, “proactive people recognize they are response-able.”
This is what separates the sheep from the goats as it were. Those who respond intelligently and those who react emotionally.
Bill Johnson, the charismatic pastor, once remarked, “the only thing more tragic than the situations we find ourselves in is our response to them,” of course, he is referring to the consequence of the same reactive mindset, which is the attitude that one is at mercy of mere circumstance.
However, if we are not chained to do fates bidding then we must have options…
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space where we choose our response.”
Circle Of Concern Vs. Circle Of Influence
Here are the basic options, which are paradigms in and of themselves:
- Circle Of Concern – the political views of others, the economy, natural disasters, terrorism, national debt, weather, etc.
- Circle Of Influence – health, family, where one lives and works, etc.
Two Types Of Options or Two Kinds Of People?
FreeDictionary.com defines a paradigm as,
“A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality…”
Therefore, we not only have two options that naturally flow from two types of individuals, but we have two different paradigms that radically create two different worlds!
- The proactive focus their efforts, attention, and energy on the circle of influence (things one has control over).
- The reactive focus their efforts, attention, and energy on the circle of concern (things one has little to no control over).
Thus, the reactive is indecisive because their focus is on a chaotic, highly unstable, and entirely unpredictable world. Naturally, the acquired belief system would rest on knee-jerk reactions and impulsivity for survival…do you see it?
Think of habit number one as self-awareness; this is the first step in the intention-decision conversion.
Habit Two: Begin With The End In Mind
It’s important to note that the habits are not necessarily linear but follow a pattern; that is, one from independence to interdependence. The first three are a composite package as are the three following them.
At the outset let’s look at what this habit implies: intentionality. A firm and resolute decision to visualize one’s trajectory and to live it out.
In a way, it’s creating a blueprint of habit one – exactly as it appears in one’s mind…the blueprint must come before the building. This is the principle here: mental creation precedes a physical one.
*Covey suggests creating a personal mission statement**
Think of habit number two as imagination; this is the second step in intention-decision conversion.
Habit Three: Put First Things First
Habit Three is the natural outflow of self-awareness and imagination/vision…which is conscience.
Being able to separate urgent things from non-urgent things, distractions from complete wastes of time requires a metrics of sorts, a value system to measure, sift, and arrange things accordingly.
Thus, what this habit demands is an examination and constant reexamination of values. Not just what matters to us in an emotional sense, but what aligns with us principally speaking.
For instance, try holding a seed in your hand and making it grow by sheer willpower alone…now try harder…keep trying…yeah it’s not happening. This is because certain principles or laws govern the growth of the seed – in a word, it must be placed in right conditions.
Therefore, if we are to expect life change we must place ourselves in the right conditions for growth. We do this by aligning our values with moral principles which Covey posits to be universal and timeless.
Think of habit number three as conscience – your moral barometer – this is the third step in intention-decision conversion.
Habit Four: Think Win-Win
In this habit, we make a clean departure from independence and saunter on over to interdependence. We start to think less in terms of “you must do this for me” (dependence), and “I can do this for myself” (independence), to “we can do this” (interdependence).
Therefore, the journey is from “you” to “I” to “we.”
The premise is abundance. That is, there is plenty of resources to go around. We limit ourselves by believing life is a competitive zero-sum game. What we can find through cooperation i.e. if you win, I win and vice versa, is that productivity will increase, efficiency will skyrocket, and prosperity will be commonplace.
For example, the unified Spartans under King Leonidas – the 300 who almost took down an entire army of tens of thousands. The Persians were fighting as “I” and the Spartans as “we.”
It’s the ability to follow instruction, to work as a unified group, and to experience the massive benefits of being community oriented.
Think being people-centered opposed to self-centered (See Article on How To Recover). Thus, cooperation the fourth step in the intention-decision conversion.
Habit Five: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Undoubtedly, thoughts of empathy, humility, and emotional sensitivity come to mind; however, I believe this habit is targeting communication.
Consider the steps to intention-decision conversion thus far:
Why does communication naturally follow? Let me explain. Once you become self-aware you immediately become aware that your “self” is social or communal in nature. In other words, “self” is only understood in relation to others – the “self” is not alone.
This is easily visualized. The insight necessitates a conscience – a gauge as it were – on how this relationship should appear. Consequently, the survival of the species is contingent upon cooperation. And if we are to cooperate and live successfully together in an interdependent state, we need to be able to communicate.
Therefore, the fourth habit cannot rightly exist without the fifth. I can go on and on about communication but I’ll avoid the redundancy – it’s obvious.
I highly recommend “You Can’t Make Me Angry” by Dr. Paul O. for the basics of communication.
Thus, communication is the fifth step to the intention-decision conversation.
Habit Six: Synergize
This habit is nothing short of a celebration of diversity. It is the understanding that the most effective and creative cooperation only comes by synergizing differences.
A wonderful definition which captures the substance of the concept is “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects (freedictionary.com).”
Not to wax overly philosophical, but in history, this dynamic – or something very similar – is called the “Hegelian Dialectic.”
It’s not as complicated as it sounds…Hegel was a philosopher. A dialectic is the means a philosopher arrives at truth, through rational investigation via questioning – It’s also known as the Socratic Method (named after another philosopher, Socrates).
To Hegel, the dialectic was a contradiction collision; when two opposing or conflicting (contradictory) ideas, theories, etc., merged and formed a hybrid or synthesis of ideas.
Traditionally, the Hegelian Dialectic has been understood in this way:
Thesis + Antithesis = Synthesis.
I believe this more than adequately characterizes the habit of synergism. Rather than always trying to win an argument or the like, we venerate the differences which can unleash the hidden potential of the synthesis.
I hope that wasn’t overly confusing. To make it easier let me break it down a bit further.
Think of that one person that you always disagree with. That one person that clashes with your ideas. That one individual you simply can never arrive at any resolution with…synergy is getting with that individual, celebrating the differences, and experiencing the metamorphosis that results.
Therefore, this habit represents the six-step in intention-decision conversion, synthesis.
Habit Seven: Sharpen The Saw
As is evident with the name, the habit implications constant refining. Ideally, it calls for action; re-creating oneself physically, emotionally, socially, mentally and spiritually on a daily basis.
It’s the willingness and the commitment to invest in your greatest asset: yourself. How is this accomplished? Through interdependence – distilled relationally and communally. But most importantly, through the habit of decision.
Think of this habit as daily re-creation, which is the final step in intention-decision conversion.
Have a problem? Halve it by being decisive. Struggle with anxiety, with reservations about sobriety, with doubts about the quality of life? Perhaps this is due to the fact that you live in a world full of many intentions with little to no decisions.
Are you ready to convert your intentions into life-changing decisions?
Follow the 7 Stages to Intention-Decision Conversion (as adapted from The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People):
So what are you waiting for? Surrender the non-option, make the decision to live free today.
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