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Fri, Apr

Decisions, Decisions!

VOICES

ACCORDING TO LIZ - For those who have chosen to vote in person this California primary election – and the inevitable vote-by-mail procrastinators – the pressure to make rational selections may be overwhelming. 

The same goes for anyone facing any decision, large or small. 

However inconsequential, people can feel that making a choice may affect their lives for forever. Too often, this renders them incapable of consciously selecting a path and, in doing nothing, they float along in life in a current of malaise and general disappointment. 

The first way to break out of that current is to realize that no decision – other than a successful suicide – is permanent. 

The next way to regain power is to learn ways to prioritize what is important and make decisions that align with your values and beliefs. Simplifying matters, rather than complicating them often offers clarification, a powerful cutting of the complex into what is comprehensible. 

While there may not be a clear right choice, in many cases a number of wrong ones can be eliminated making what remains not necessarily bad decisions but just alternate ones. 

Logical approaches – which will take time, especially if it’s a path rarely used before. Start by questioning. Identify what the need is. Think through the consequences. Is short term pain worth long time gain? Or is immediate action important? 

Can decisions be made incrementally – a testing of the waters to see if a choice is right for you? 

As you go, are there points to pause? To divert to another path? Remember, there are rarely wrong choices, just different ones. 

At the other end of the scale are the consequences of making a decision for the sake of getting it done, perhaps before all the relevant information is in. 

How many Californians voted for John Edwards in 2008 before rumors of his extramarital affair and, more critically, his manipulation of campaign laws to cover it up, began seeping into the mainstream news? 

However, with so much to do and with so many expectations by others or self-imposed, too often there doesn’t seem to be any time left to enjoy life. Sometimes it seems easier to make a decision now and move. 

Sigh. In this information age we have become herds of human doings instead of human beings. 

Is a work-life balance even achievable? 

Only if you choose to make it so. 

Develop muscles to observe as you go, reassess and pivot as needed, but allow decisions to play out long enough that you are not constantly swiveling from one direction to another leaving no time to enjoy the moment. 

Prioritize, prioritize. You can’t – and don’t have to – do it all. 

Finish off some projects before moving on to others – not only will you feel less overwhelmed with having less to bobble, there is great satisfaction in crossing something accomplished off to-do lists. 

Take the time to do your homework, to research. Don’t rely on others with different agendas. As famed future fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein put it: there’s no such thing as luck, only adequate or inadequate preparation. 

Ask questions without preconceptions; lift the blinkers imposed by tradition and education and become the child again. Take the effort to investigate and possibly embrace what comes of unexpected consequences. 

In a world where resolutions have tangible consequences, make those necessary to keep yourself moving but also... 

Me-time is important, time to relax and just be. But be careful not to schedule it as an obligation that becomes as onerous as other parts of your life. Celebrate spontaneity when it arises naturally but don’t force it. 

And beware of the excuse that going where the wind takes you is a goal, not a return to drifting along without the fulfillment that comes with conscious choices and effort. 

Like in movies and on TV and in the streaming shows we watch, it is the challenges that moves the action along. The conflict the heroes faces allows them to grow, and it is often the lack of the ability to change that leads the villains to fail. 

Embrace challenges, prove your mettle. Every baby step along the path of personal growth is a step towards your personal success. Develop and reinforce the knowledge that your happiness depends on you. 

Patience and persistence will overcome any sense of uncertainty as you settle into a new path, solidify what works and let the rest drift off. 

If those around you cannot appreciate where you are going, perhaps they are not the ones you need to have with you at the moment. But keep your heart open to understanding that your change can feel threatening to them – raising the question in their minds, if they need to change, too? 

In the Iroquois culture, people had to communally consider how a decision would affect the next seven generations. That may feel a bit extreme for most... but what about global warming and pollution, the depletion of water resources and environmental destruction? Does Wall Street give a damn beyond the next 90 days? 

So do your homework and search within yourself to identify your values and priorities but, whatever you do, don’t let another decision slide by without making a conscious choice. Even if it is to not vote. 

The March 5th primary is the first day of the rest of your life.

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions.  In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)