Sixth Habit: Be Decisive
The foundation of our life is a triangle. Each point supports—or detracts from—the other two. Each point represents an essential quality of our character that needs to be developed and matured throughout this lifetime:
Our job is to keep these three points of the triangle in a state of balance. It is like standing on a three-way balance board and keeping the triangle level throughout all of the varied circumstances of life. This is how we build character.
Each time we come to a point where we need to decide, and we fail to make that decision, our brain is compelled to run endless scenarios on all the possible ramifications of that decision. Then if we are indecisive about another issue, and then another, our brain keeps going over all those possible scenarios and choices.
By the time we are indecisive about five or six issues or more issues, processing all those scenarios takes up so much bandwidth that they slow our brain’s processing speed to a crawl. We can hardly think. Indecisions act like viruses in our computer-like brain.
Imagine putting a four-way stop sign where two busy freeways intersect. Imagine what that would look like in rush hour, all that traffic backing up for miles, all that frustration. That’s how our thought processes are affected when we leave a lot of issues undecided.
Our character is just the culmination of our habits. When we make procrastination and indecision our habit, the clarity of our thinking is always somewhat impaired, overwhelming us when too many things stack up.
The moment we decide—about anything—our brain quits running all the possible scenarios. Once an issue is resolved, the brain stills, becomes calm. We experience spaciousness, creating space for inspiration, peace of mind. We have the freedom to contemplate other things that may be more important or just be still.
When we fail to make our own decisions, someone else makes them for us, and that rarely turns out the way we want. The trick is to decide consciously instead of unconsciously. After all, we live in our own unique world, not someone else’s. We have free will, but also an obligation to make the decision.
Many people are quite decisive about big issues in their lives, while letting the little issues pile up. They assume little issues don’t matter. A wife might ask her husband, “What do you want for dinner tonight?” If he answers, “Whatever you make is OK,” all the meal planning and shopping decisions fall to her.
She ends up feeling frustrated, having no idea what her husband actually wants to eat. If he does not like what she has cooked, she experiences anger or resentment, and wonders why she even bothered. The emotional undertow from little indecisions creates seemingly unrelated outbursts in other parts of our life. The frustration has to blow out somewhere.
Women can be just as indecisive in relationships, but for different reasons. They often defer to their husband or children, putting other’s dominate needs ahead of her own. By not letting her family know what she needs, what she wants, she is actually hiding out, depriving them from getting to know the real being she is. In this situation, it is important to realize that everyone's opinions, wants and needs are equally important, including hers.
Saying Yes to Life
When we love something or believe in the truth of something, committing to it develops our courage. It takes courage to be decisive. The weak don't stand up for what they want or believe in.
We build character by saying a resounding “yes" to the lessons that come our way. Being decisive is every bit as crucial to our character as being honorable and cherishing others. It’s a triangle.
Our own spirit and soul create most of our lessons, even though the illusion of time and space makes them appear to come at us. Saying a joyous yes to all our lessons, making decisions and acting quickly when difficult situations come up lets us operate from a higher level of spiritual awareness. Facing life with a joyous attitude enhances everything we do. We are more empowered. Life is a lot more fun.
When we are indecisive about the little things, the big picture of our life will always be fuzzy. The clarity of our thinking can be like television in the nineteen-fifties, when there was so much “snow” it was really hard to see the picture. Indecisions keep us wrong-footed. They sap our life force.
Years can go by while we putter around on the sidelines of our own life. The only reason this doesn’t seem totally weird is because most of the people around us are doing the same thing. But that does not make it right.
The Power of Commitment
There is a poem by W. H. Murray that hung on a wall right next to my adjusting table for about fourteen years. I read it about twenty times every day while I was working on patients. It affected my life quite profoundly:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that never otherwise would have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
I have come to have a newfound respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Over the years, as I continued to read this poem, a deep understanding of the underlying principles of creation began ripening in my mind. I began to see clearly that commitment is the access key that unlocks the goodness of the universe. Without commitment, you're stuck. You just sit there. Even with all the possibilities and potentials surrounding you, you just sit there, not moving.
The greatest tyrants in history were single-minded, so there are serious warnings to this section. When you desire something, ask yourself tough questions like an investigative reporter would: If I get this, will it be beneficial to me and my family? Will getting this be good for my soul development? Why does this have to be done by me? What is my purpose in doing this?
Remember, you are a spirit living in the material world. Just because you can have or do something doesn’t mean you should.
We all have conflicting thoughts about things, and we really should. I think about something I want and conflicting questions immediately arise, like: How would this affect my practice? What would my wife think about it? Will having it be good for my spirit/soul development? Is this taking me the right direction for my life? And dozens of other relevant questions.
As kind loving people we should have conflicting thoughts when we are contemplating the directions and acquisitions of our life. Conflicting thinking is good for the soul. But there comes a time for single-minded thinking too. Our faith can move mountains, but our doubts put them there.
We are creators. Our bodymind is a creator. Our spirit is a creator. Our soul is a creator. We are essentially creators to the third power. We just need to learn how to use our innate tools.
Once we have done due diligence and made the decision—we do not allow our mind to generate competing images, fears, worries or reasons why we can’t have it. We single-mindedly focus the awesome power of our attention and intention on the outcome we expect. Then feel all the fears that inevitably come up. The habit of single-minded focus allows us to make powerful changes in our life and in the world.
Living in the Universe
The universe is like an interactive computer game where our own spirit and soul project all our desires—and fears—onto our pathway as we move through the game’s maze. When we commit to something we want, or want to do, the doors of opportunity in our present situation begin to close off to us. Simultaneously, the doors of opportunity blow open in the direction we have committed to. Our life is then mysteriously propelled in that direction.
Until we make the commitment, all those opportunities are only vague possibilities. Without commitment, very little changes in our life. But on a positive note, as we become more decisive, especially about the little things, our life experiences change quickly and significantly. We progressively fulfill more of our hopes and dreams.
Because we are spiritual beings, living in a universe that has spiritual rules, all manner of assistance from the spiritual kingdom occur as the direct result of our commitments. The entire universe aspires to help us.
The Gift, the Teacher, and the Mystery
When we commit, our life takes on a trajectory, a definite direction of movement. This is important because when we are coming toward the intersections of our life, the spiritual world hustles to have the mystery, the teacher, and the gift at those intersections. They are always there at the intersection points of our life’s lessons. Start noticing them.
The teacher may be someone who angered us so much that we stormed around getting things done—things our heart wanted to do all along—but we would not have done them if we hadn’t been so blasted angry.
The gift can be someone who later becomes a friend. It can be realizing how fortunate we are to be involved in a situation as rich and rewarding as the chore in front of us.
The mystery that is there at every major intersection of our life can be an epiphany or a breakthrough in our understanding that carries over into many other avenues of our life.
Life has a definite timing. When we make a commitment, that starts the cycle. The spiritual world immediately starts setting things up for us so that when we get to the projected intersection, everything is primed for us to have a rewarding experience.
But if we procrastinate—or second-guess ourselves so that we delay moving in the direction we committed to—the lesson, gift and teacher all made it to the intersection. But we do not! We are oblivious that yet another golden opportunity passed us by. Life can appear dull and boring when we make a habit of being indecisive.
What we tend to think of as obstacles are actually building blocks, intelligently placed there by our own spirit and soul to lead us in the most direct pathway toward our heart’s desires. We often fail to recognize blessings because they come dressed in work cloths.
When we rail against life’s lessons—direct results of decisions we made—life can seem unfair. We may get to the intersection on time, but if we are thinking “this lesson should not be happening to me,” we can be so distracted by our own protestations that we are oblivious to the gift, teacher and mystery that were right there. The goodness the Universe has for us at every intersection of life is so much greater than most of us comprehend.
So, next time a lesson comes up, say “yes” to it. “Yes, yes, YES!” Then don’t lollygag. When you pay attention, you will see that there—just beyond your normal depth of perception—is the mystery, the teacher, and the gift. When you're looking for them, there they are.