No decision is ever truly a binary, this-or-that, yes-or-no moment. Every choice you make, by nature of choice itself, excludes a host of other possibilities. It’s easy to get caught up in endless ‘what ifs’ if you think about this long enough. This is especially true when you apply this thinking to the major turning points in your life. For me, such questions include; “What if I hadn’t joined the military after high school?” and “What if I hadn’t left?” and “What if I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer at 32?” and “What if I hadn’t survived?” Financially, I wonder what would have happened if I had the knowledge and insight at 25 that I had at 35 (and I’m sure I’ll ponder a similar thought when I’m 45 about the man I am now, youth being wasted on the young and all). It’s a rabbit hole you can spend a lot of idle hours exploring; an activity that can be a fun way to examine your life and the evolution of your values and dreams, or as a means to berate yourself for what you should have done.
The Road Unraveled: But there are no ‘should haves’, my friends. The Done (capital ‘D’) is done. In recent years, especially since I met and married Courtney, I find myself more able to see and shape the road ahead rather than obsess about the road behind. It’s a result of finally deciding what I wanted for my life, or perhaps more accurately I decided the man I wanted to be, and started walking as if I was already there. I lived without much of a plan through my teens and 20s, at least no plan that looked past the next passing fancy, and I’ll freely admit I had a great deal of fun. I traveled and lived all over the country, and had unforgettable experiences. But I also dealt with crippling debt, a lack of direction and vision, self-doubt, and fear for my future. Would I trade any of it for a different path? Does it matter?
A question that does matter is this; what is going to be your next Done? Here are some others: What are the decisions you are making today whose consequences, good and bad, you’ll be pondering next year, or next decade? When you look back, will it be with pride or regret? Are you guided by values that resonate right down to your bones – that give direction to your life – or just letting events and other people shape your future by default? If there are changes you’ve wanted to make, get your feet pointed away from the past and take your next steps with purpose. It doesn’t mean trying for perfection every time you make a decision, that’s a fast track to paralysis, but it does mean thinking about where you are going and why. It means looking past the next sensation and into a future that matters to you.
The Next Steps: It is said that the best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today. It is never too late to start something good, because your very next tomorrow – and the one after that – will be that much better for as long as you have them. Each good day is built on your last good step. Each ‘Done’ done well – with purpose, with passion – is a building block for a future to look forward to, and a past to be proud of.