Choices: Nurturing Or Stressing?

Are the choices you’re making nurturing you or stressing you?


Scott Simon in his segment, Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR, interviewed Mary Louise Kelly (opens in a new link) on her new book It. Goes. So. Fast. The Year of No Do-Overs (opens in a new link). For those of you who may not be familiar with Mary Louise Kelly, she anchored All Things Considered on NPR and spent time abroad covering national security for NPR.


In the interview, Ms. Kelly shares how she became aware of the choices she was making and the impact those choices were having on her life. In the process, she became aware of what was truly important in her life and what was secondary. She also became aware of the costs associated with choices made more subconsciously than consciously.

Ms. Kelly’s situation is not unique. Indeed, I suggest that it is universal…that there isn’t a person among us who hasn’t made choices that nurtured us and others that resulted in pain and anguish. The question is “How do we make more of the former and fewer of the latter?”

Nurturing choices

Choices that nurture us are the choices that leave us feeling better about ourselves…so much better that our strongest desire in that moment is to pass along our good fortune to others.

That doesn’t mean that the choice is initially stress free. We need to differentiate between the stress that takes us out of our comfort zone yet holds great promise for our future, whatever we want that future to be, and the stress that feels overwhelming to us. The former is healthy…and essential for joyful living. The latter is unhealthy, resulting in physical and emotional pain.

Nurturing choices leave us feeling better about ourselves, more compassionate in our dealings with others, more tolerant of others foibles and more joyful day in and day out.

Stressing choices

Unfortunately, many of the stressing choices we make are made subconsciously. Whether they are the result of a dilemma we face, the proddings of loved ones to pursue a path we don’t desire, misconceptions about what it means to be successful, or the need to feel productive. The one thing all of these stressors (and others like them) have in common is that they are all emotionally charged.

I’m sure that when you recall choices made while emotional, you’ll recall that they were some of the worst choices you’ve ever made. Choices made while stressed are knee-jerk reactions, poorly-thought-out choices instead of choices based on objective analysis.

The key to making nurturing choices instead of stress-inducing choices is to learn how to set aside your emotions so that you can employ objective, unemotional analysis to the situation…whether that choice relates to the excitement you feel over a new opportunity or a dilemma that you’re facing. Let’s find out how to do that.

For you

Each morning, shortly after rising, remind yourself that, when faced with a choice, you’re going to pause to let your emotion wane. Then you’re going to identify the choices available to you. Finally, you’re going to list the pros and cons of each choice and base your decision on the basis of that analysis.

Each evening, shortly before retiring, review the day’s results paying particular attention to the times when you employed the steps outlined above and the way you felt immediately following the choice you made.

If there were instances in which you didn’t employ the process above, ask yourself “What did I learn from this experience? How will I handle similar situations in the future?” In doing so, you prepare your mind to deal more effectively with situations that previously surprised you. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your mind develops a new way of looking at any and all choices that present themselves.

You’ll find that you’ll quickly develop the habit of making more conscious, well-reasoned, and objective choices…that emotions no longer enter into your decision-making processes. That’s when life becomes easier and more joyful for you.

For our kids

As the kids in your life see you taking time to analyze situations before making a choice, they’ll mimic your behavior. They will pause before responding to an emotional reaction, reconsider the situation in a more conscious, objective way and make better choices for themselves and others. Here’s an example to illustrate how conscious choices can benefit all parties involved.

I tell prospective clients to take some time to decide whether or not to invest in themselves vis-à-vis my services when I sense that they aren’t sure what the right choice is for them. I assure them that whatever choice they make will be the right choice for both of us. I make this statement knowing that if they aren’t as committed to their success as I am, they’ll never get the result they desire. This is just one example of how better choices for ourselves help others.

When kids are about to make an emotional decision, have them pause. Ask them “Did you just feel the emotion wane? Does your mind feel freer to analyze the situation? Do you already have some better ideas for dealing with the situation than you had when emotions were raging?”

These simple questions will help them become aware of their feelings as well as how these feeling impact the choices they make. They’ll see the benefit of pausing to allow emotions to subside so that conscious, objective analysis can produce a better result. They’ll thank you for helping them make nurturing choices instead of stressing choices.

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