Thursday, February 4, 2016

2016 Resolutions: Choices Part Two

The concept of having choices may seem straight forward and simple. To have choices means that, after we carefully consider our options, we are freely able to select the best ones. In reality, it is not always easy to determine what the best choice may be for us, because there are many factors that play a role in the decision-making process. For instance, there are others who have authority over us (e.g., our boss at work), we may be dealing with increased levels of stress (e.g., a traumatic event, loss of employment, or a death in the family), or we may have a lack of practice and experience in making healthy choices.

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions (a.k.a., “choices”)? 

Some of the top resolutions 
each year focus on losing weight and exercising more; quitting smoking; eating healthy; learning something new; spending less and saving more; cutting back on alcoholic drinks; taking time to travel; giving back to the community; spending more time with loved ones; taking time for relaxation; getting organized; and, reading more. The goals that we choose are selected to bring balance to our lives. So how did we choose our goals for 2016?  What makes us hesitant to either make personally-tailored healthy choices or to avoid making choices that will improve our lives?

Certainly, most of us speak about the desire to improve our lives. Therefore, what are the stumbling blocks that prevent us from doing so? Could it be that we have a fear of failure embarrassment that accompanies it? Or perhaps we lack the knowledge and experience needed to choose what is best for us? When we are inexperienced, in any given area of our lives, we may not have the confidence to choose goals, to risk change. Moreover, we may have encountered adults who are unaware that they have choices or we may have difficulty believing that we have options, which may stem from our experiences (e.g., a strict upbringing or from traumatic life experiences). In fact, we have occasionally heard individuals say, after they have made a poor decision (e.g., they have done something unethical, immoral or illegal) that, “I had no choice.” Furthermore, when individuals feel trapped or coerced, they may be too stressed to remember or recognize that they do have a choice. For instance, volunteers may feel trapped, because they believe that others need them and they can’t stop their work. But if the focus of our lives is primarily giving and doing for others, then we have not learned the importance of making wise and healthy decisions for ourselves. Moreover, if we are bankrupt emotionally, physically, and spiritually, then what do we really have to offer others? 

Just how do such beliefs (i.e., that we need to take care of everyone else but ourselves), along with the ensuing negative results (e.g., exhaustion, depression, and burnout), become entrenched in our lives? Why do these negative results, which drain our hearts (emotions), souls (spirituality), minds (intellect/thinking), and strength (physical/body) continue to happen? The answer is that countless adults have never been taught that self-care is essential. In fact, many Christians firmly believe that it’s sinful. However, Jesus engaged in, and set the model for, self-care (e.g., when He took time away from teaching and ministering to the crowds to have time to pray, meditate, rest, and eat). And Christ’s followers are called to emulate His choices and lifestyle.

The fact is that we make numerous decisions on a daily basis. So, can we learn to make better-informed and healthier short- and long-term choices? Yes! And, when necessary, seeking wise counsel may be helpful (e.g., from a pastor or trained counselor). Furthermore, Christians look to the Bible for guidance; therefore, we need to consider what the Scriptures say about the gift of choice. Throughout the Bible there are accounts that emphasize how essential it is to make good (i.e. “healthy”) choices, with illustrations of those who did or did not make the best decisions.  The most important choice that we can make is to choose Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Actually, in counseling I learned to think in terms of healthier or less healthy decisions versus ‘good or bad’ choices, and that’s what will use throughout this 2016 Resolutions series. 

As we focus on “choices” I am reminded of the chorus, “We Are Building Together” by Colonel William Ratcliffe (Salvation Army Officer):
We are building together, yes we’re building our lives, building each moment each day. We are building by actions and we’re building by words, by the things that we do and we say. We are building on rock or we’re building on sand, building on things that will crumble or stand. Help us to build, Lord, to carefully build upon Thee.

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Canada

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