Decisions. Life is quite literally jam-packed with them. We make them all of the time; literally one after another after another. Hardly a single minute passes where we’re not thinking through and making some sort of decision. Some decisions are huge and sweeping, amply possessing both the power and scope to impact our lives for the rest of our lives. Others are small and passively demur, doing little more than impacting the few brief moments that follow the decision.
Some decisions follow a predictable and patently obvious course, being crisply and closely dictated by the laws of nature, or cultural expectations, or a set of values, or the tutelage of a mentor, or an established tradition of some sort. These decisions are frequently more reflexive than thoughtful as they have naturally established boundaries that provide an automatic guiding function. Other more complex and intricate decisions may not as easily adhere to such established boundaries, demanding degrees of accommodation, various levels of modification, or some measure of generous reassessment that calls on reasoning, thought processes and wisdom rarely accessed. Regardless, we all make decisions and we make tons of them.
Missing the Impact
However decisions come, we make so many decisions that they can become reflexively habitual. And in becoming habitual, we often pay them little mind. Or we may view decisions as part of a general progression that serves only to move us to the next place. Therefore it is our sense, either conscious or unconscious, that both the value and the impact of the decision ceases to exist at the point that it has moved us to that next place. Or at times we may view decisions as necessary evils, and we therefore make them so as to get them off of our backs. Once we have removed ourselves from them or them from us, we leave them behind with little thought as to what impact they might have now that they are behind us. Or we may be forced to make decisions we’d prefer not to make and therefore we readily defer any negative consequences because circumstances or situations forced us to make decisions that we would have not otherwise made.
In whatever way we do it, we somehow dispose of decisions as some sort of consumed article bereft of life and wholly expended because they have served their purpose. We errantly assume them to be spent because they have achieved their goal, or we imagine them neutralized because the task for which they were determined has been completed. Yet, decisions remain very much alive.
The Impact Outside of the Decision
Regardless of the manner in which they are made, we often make decisions not nearly comprehending the full impact of the decision beyond the decision. Too often decisions are made for the sole purpose of making the decision and in making the decision, bringing whatever the situation is to a conclusion. We may consider the long-term implications, but we typically do so as they apply directly to the decision.
Seldom do we consider the broad and far-reaching implications that lay out beyond the decision and the situation that prompted the decision. We take too little time to realize that the biggest and most potent impact of our decisions are often not related to the decisions themselves or the situations that demanded those decisions. It seldom dawns on us that a decision holds to no walls, has no boundaries, and it will linger in ways both passive and bold long after the decision has been rendered.
The biggest impact of any decision is often the repercussions felt outside and far beyond those situations and corresponding decisions. Life is not so rigidly cloistered as to be confined to a single space or a solitary place. Such is the case with every decision that we render. In fact, it is often the case that others entirely unassociated with our decisions can be dramatically impacted by our decisions without knowing who or what or where the repercussions came from. Situations that seem entirely unrelated and that lie so far out on the horizon of life that we can’t even see them from our vantage point can be unalterable effected. Even time itself can be impacted for all time. Eons after the decisions are made and the situations that demanded them have fallen deep into the catacombs of history, the implications of our decisions can remain potent and impactful.
Little do we realize that decisions made over situations now long dead may in fact demand other decisions that would be entirely unnecessary and wholly irrelevant if more care had been taken in making the original decisions in the first place. We so myopically focus on the moment, the perceived needs of the moment, and our desire to rid ourselves of some problem that we render decisions without considering the frequently cataclysmic implications of those decisions for the future. Indeed, do we dare to understand the power and reach of our decisions, and out of that understanding do we begin to approach each decision with much more caution and much less ambivalence?
Decisions to Thwart Decisions
Often we have to make decisions to thwart previously made decisions, most of which were poor conceived and even more poorly executed. If we were sufficiently brave to inventory our decisions we would quickly discover that many of our decisions were made to thwart decisions we had previously made. It may well be that the incessant busyness and increasingly demanding nature of our lives may be a direct result of all of the decisions we are currently forced to make that serve to counter other poor decisions that we previously made. It would behoove us to understand that one bad decision can spawn a hundred other decisions that serve to correct the original decision. And so in order not to heavily frontload our future we would be wise be judicious in back-loading our present.
Deciding About Our Decisions
We need to understand that in making a decision today we are creating a legacy for tomorrow, and that no decision is bound solely to the moment within which it is made and the people for whom it is made. We can touch lives that we will never meet and impact situations that we don’t even know exist by a single decision that we feel is limited to the single moment that we make it in. Likewise, we cannot be so remiss as to miss the reality that what is done in the present is capable of geometrically amplifying itself in the future, leaving our lives consumed and taxed with making decisions that only serve to counter other poor decisions that we made.
Our decisions cannot be reflexively habitual. They are far more than decisions that simply serve to move us to the next place. They are not necessary evils, and we therefore make them so as to get them off of our backs. Nor are they things we’d prefer not to make and therefore we readily defer any negative consequences because circumstances or situations forced us to make decisions that we would have not otherwise made. Instead, decisions are the shapers and crafters of our moments and our lives. They will add to our lives if we made them wisely, or they will demand everything we have to correct them if we made them poorly. And finally, they are never isolated to us alone, therefore every decision must be made understanding our responsibility to larger humanity. Should we persist in such terribly limited notions that have defined our poor decisions, we are certain to hurt ourselves, handicap others, and negatively load our future.