Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Memorable Day

 "We used to walk between the two places at all hours. I have an affection for the road yet (though it is not so pleasant a road as it was then), formed in the impressibillity of untried youth and hope.
-Charles Dickens

I just finished Charles Dicken's Great Expectations after ten days of diligent, concentrated reading each night. By comparison, it took less than one day to devour the new best selling erotica novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Both are more than five hundred pages. Both are stories of personal development. Both main characters are abused orphans who were strongly influenced by bitter older women. Fifty Shades was for fun. Great Expectations was my self assigned homework. As I embarked on this new one year adventure to Be More Childlike and dedicated the first month to childlike optimism, I wanted to read everything related to expectations.

For those of you who haven't read the 1861 classic, it is about the expectations of a child named Pip. None of those expectations were met. After great disappointment and suffering, his story ended with true friends and an honest living. He was not living the life of an English gentlemen that he envisioned. But he was living as a man with integrity and character, a true gentleman.

There is one passage that struck me.

That was a memorable day for me, for it made great changes in me, But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

I thought about this passage a great deal and couldn't come up with just one memorable day. Yes, there was the day I met my husband and we exchanged numbers. There was the day I accepted a job that relocated me to Florida. But we make choices everyday. If you choose to go left rather than right or select A over B, would you really be standing where you are right now? Those decisions at the time didn't seem to put a lot at stake or put me on an irreversible course. But they did. Maybe irreversible is not the right word, but a new course never the less. Which makes me think about today a little differently. Where will my actions or reactions today lead me tomorrow or in ten years?

In this month's issue of O magazine Get Unstuck, How to make the Right Decision Every Time. Author Martha Beck describes overly optimistic people as opportunity misers. Their expectations of perfection make them unable to make a choice for fear of limiting better options. Leaps of faith, snap decisions and only going with your gut can be equally sticky. According to Beck, "Great strategists trust both intellect and instinct." She advises that you be well informed and get in touch with your "body truth". In other words, how do you remember feeling the last time you made a decision that ended with positive results? How was your stomach when you chose something that ended disastrously later? Your body knows and you know too, really. Beck, whose latest book is Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, also had some interesting things to say about how your body truth reacts when you are living a purposeful life versus when you are off purpose or stuck in indecisiveness.

Dicken's two hundred year old tale about unmet expectations is as true today as it was in the Victorian era. Expectations rarely turn out the way you think they will. But making decisions based on personal values will never lead you down the wrong path either. It worked for Pip.

I leave you with these questions: How did you feel when you made a decision on a particularly memorable day?

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