Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Better Life Is One Decision Away

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.
- William James

This statement will mean little or nothing to most people who have not experienced the effect of exercising this discovery. It is as life-altering as James suggests.

We all understand that our life can change in a flash if we are suddenly struck with a disease, if our spouse become disabled or if our business goes bankrupt. Those are all outside of our control to a great extent.

We also understand that our life can change instantly if we make a bad choice or decision, such as to take an addictive drug, to rob a store or to kill someone. Those are all choices that bring about negative consequences. We can also make positive decisions that will improve our life ever after.

We each grew up in a family and community environment that shaped our life from its earliest days. We made friends or enemies, faced dilimmas about religion and God, worked to make a living and develop a life based on that combination of environmental influences and principles. However, as adults we have choices that do not apply to children. They can change our life as quickly as a tragedy.

We all understand that we must build a new life for ourselves if we divorce, if we get fired from a job, if our spouse dies or if we experience some other personal tragedy. While those are forced on us, we also have the power to make decisions that will help us build a new and better life for ourselves if we can't stand our present one.

We can be whoever we want to be by recreating ourselves. That doesn't mean we can be rich or have the talent of an artist or date a movie star necessarily. It means that we can make decisions that can improve the quality of our lives. The quality, not the quantity.

We can find a new mate, have different friends, prepare for an occupation different from what we have or even be a different person than we are today. All it requires is a decision and the perseverance to follow through with it.

The first step is to understand that we have the power within us to make those decisions and have those kinds of changes in our lives. The second step is to live the role of the new person we want to be.

That may mean avoiding some people who have been friends, eating differently, forming new habits, learning how to find, meet and make new friends. It means change. Without the commitment to change our life and all the consequences that go with that decision, the change will not take place.

The third step is to understand that we can't do it alone. Most major life changes depend on others to help guide us to a life that is not familiar to us. We can ask. Many people are only too glad to help someone who sincerely wants to improve their lfie. But they must ask. It's surprising how people will help us if we only dare to ask.

No time is too late for change. People in their 80s are writing their first book or dabbing paint onto canvas for the first time. People in their 60s and even 70s are attending college. People who had trouble getting along with others during their working years have found ways to make many new friends.

It's never too late to be happy. It's never too late to make a decision for a better life. It's never too late to live a more fulfilling life.

All it takes is a decision and the determination to see it through. And the gumption to ask questions of the people who can help us most.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make great things possible for those who want them.
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