Making decisions can be challenging, especially ones that we think are life setting. That’s why when one of our daughters completed her undergraduate degree in Montreal, I responded strategically to her query. “What am I going to do now?” she asked. “I don’t really know what I want to happen in my life.”
A preconception for me in working with people, is the belief that each one of us has the information we need to make healthy and good decisions. Helping others, I’ve found, is best practised by first realizing that withholding suggestions validates the other person’s awareness. Recognizing that each of us needs to use our own resources is essential. Asking the right questions, therefore, inspires others to self reflect. Sometimes information we already have becomes overwhelming and confusing. It simply needs to be organized differently. This tool is meant to organize information.
Shira was confused.
“Well”, I responded, “What’s the most important thing for you right now? Is it person, place or thing?”
From that point I created an organizational tool for decision making that I have found very helpful over the years and I’ve used it in many different situations for coaching others.
The way it works is simple. First is an understanding that all three components are important, and at different times in our life, the priority shifts.
For instance, when I became old enough to make my own decisions and left home, I was 14 years old. At that time in my life place was the most important thing. I wanted to live in Israel, on a kibbutz, so I could farm fresh food and live in a communal environment where people took care of each other and created healthy cooperative living. I also escaped the United States at a time of war. Richard Nixon was President. The U.S. was heavily into Viet Nam. My brothers were both eligible for the army, and both of them could be deferred because we had enough resources to ‘get them out’. I was uncomfortable, even then, with the inequity of that situation, where those with enough resources could escape the draft, while most could not. I lived in dark, heavy, dirty New York City and craved the lightness and brightness of nature.
I also needed to go to school, so thing became the next priority. Instead of a kibbutz, I found a ‘mosad’ - a boarding school environment in Israel that focussed first on school and second on agriculture. There I finished High School, acquiring American qualifications that would enable me to complete post secondary education and acquire teacher certification. At that time people didn’t rate at all since I didn’t know anyone in Israel anyway and quite frankly it didn’t matter.
For the past 40 years my priority has been person. My children are what drove my decisions. Proper schooling, appropriate accommodations and comfortable living motivated my decisions once I had kids. Thing came second, because I had to support them, and getting a job was important. So finding the right place to teach and share my skills was also a priority. Place was significant only insofar as the children needed to be close to their father from whom I was separated.
As I transition in to a new stage of my life, person drives my choices. I will go anywhere in the world, and do anything, as long as it is with my partner. It’s person, too, because together we never want to be far from our kids. Place is second because living on Gabriola is, for now, an adventure we welcome and embrace. Travelling is another inspiration as I am still inspired by learning about diversity in our universe and welcoming new adventures while I still can. Thing is least important right now, as we transition into retirement. What we do and how we do it is made much easier with the flexibility and possibilities we have with our new found freedom.
Our daughter has thrived since her initial dilemma. She settled in Toronto with her (then) boyfriend and got involved with work that inspired her to pursue higher learning. She now has an MBA and is happy living in Toronto creating the life she carves for herself. She embraces change regularly, unthreatened by the challenges of difficult choices and possible slip ups.
Life offers us the adventure of change. When we are thrown off our familiar course, it is not unusual to feel confused, uncertain, and extra cautious. I want to welcome change and not be afraid. This coming year, my 61st, will be an adventure, and mindfully, I want to embrace it with joy and understanding, surrounded by the love of people in my life, settled in to the places that help me feel good, engaged in those things that contribute to my state of bliss! For now…