Improve Or Implode – Your Choice

Ways to Improve Your Decision Making

This week, in Slate’s popular Dear Prudence advice column, a young man wrote in asking for advice on his future. He wants to go back to school to earn his bachelor’s degree, and has his wife’s support, but is worried about the risks involved in changing his life. As he writes to Prudence: “I keep thinking that I made the wrong decision in going back to school at age 29 and should have just stayed in a dead end job.”

Improve Or Implode – Your Choice

You probably already know what Prudence told the young man, since you would have told him the same thing: GO!

It is always better to improve than to stay in a dead-end path — and yes, as that letter writer notes, there are many risks involved in making that kind of a choice. He could go into debt for his education. He could choose a career path with a limited number of job opportunities. But you’d never tell him to stay where he was, right?

So why are you telling yourself the same thing?

It’s time to identify the choices you’re not making

Here’s a quick thought exercise. Take a minute to identify one area of your life where you feel like you’ve reached a dead end.

  • Maybe it’s your approach to exercise.
  • Maybe it’s your ability to pay down debt or save for the future.
  • Maybe, like the young man who wrote to Dear Prudence, it’s your educational level.
  • Maybe it’s an aspect of one of your relationships.

Now ask yourself: why am I staying in this dead end? Why am I not choosing to improve?

We all know the usual suspects: time, work, money, and inertia. And yes, sometimes these factors get in the way and keep us stuck in one place for a while.

But there is always a choice you can make, and always a choice you’re not making.

Choosing to improve is easier than you think

You don’t have to completely overturn your life to get out of those dead ends and start improving. This is a good thing — if you’re like most of us, with jobs, spouses, kids, and other obligations, you don’t have room to completely overturn your life, and nor do you want to. But that doesn’t mean you need to get stuck in unhealthy ruts either.

If you feel like you’re out of shape, for example, the popular Couch to 5K program requires no equipment or training and only takes 20 minutes, three times a week. At the end of the program, you’re ready to run a 5K race, and will have lost weight, built muscle, and increased endurance in the process.

If you want to continue your education, you don’t need to quit your job and become a full-time student. As the team at Bryant and Stratton notes, online education helps people earn degrees in the evenings and provides them with the “critical skills, technical knowledge and personal qualities top employers value and respect.”

If your relationship feels like it is no longer growing, sometimes it is as simple as taking 30 minutes at the end of each day to talk about your lives, frustrations, desires, and goals.

You have to be ready to handle the risk

Once you start making improvements in your life, you’re likely to continue to want to improve — and that’s where the risks come in. What will happen when you tell your family you want to train for a marathon, or use your new degree to change your career field?

Well, life is full of risk, and if you don’t face it head on, you never grow. If your spouse teases you about being “Marathon Man” or nags that you’re never available to do the dishes, well, that’s a chance to really work on your relationship. Your spouse may feel threatened that you’re growing while he/she is not. Or, you may actually be falling behind on your household contributions. Either way, you have to overcome this — and work together — to move forward.

You’ll find that facing and overcoming risk leads to stronger relationships in all areas of your life: a spouse with whom you form a deeper bond, or an employer who views you with more respect. But you never know unless you face these risks head-on. Ignore the “Marathon Man” teasing, and you’ll quickly get stuck in yet another dead end.

So what are you going to do today, to choose to improve? Are you going to look at online classes? Start your first Couch to 5K run? Ask your partner out on a special date? Whatever you do, follow Prudence’s advice and GO, GO, GO. And then see how your life transforms.