A few days ago, I posted an article on choosing wisely – a bit of a “how to” and why. I was thinking about it and most of us know that our lives are not made up of days full of only truly wise choices. Anyone’s whose is, feel free to throw the first stone. So what about all those unwise decisions of the past? How do we reconcile them?
With that question in mind, I remembered a great book I read for a research project entitled “Life Stories: The Creation of Coherence” by Charlotte Linde. In it, Linde describes how many of our choices in life may seem disconnected from each other or disconnected from what we say we value. Still, we work hard to make sense of these dischordant things, to create a coherent life story out of them for both ourselves and others. In general, humans seek out order in the midst of chaos.
So, in addition to choosing wisely, I’ll posit a corollary: accept the choices you’ve already made. Dare I say, embrace them. The choices we have already made have helped shape us, our identity and our life paths. They may not be the choices we would choose again if given the chance to change them and they may not be the kinds of choices we will choose going forward. Still, they have informed our lives and the lives of those around us. We have learned from them–and frankly, people love good stories of shifting choices and people who have sought to change their lives. Such stories capture our imaginations and inspire us to think about how to change our own lives and our own decision-making. Accepting and embracing one’s past choices is going to be more difficult for someone who may have made choices to hurt themselves or others – but even those choices are part of the story that gets you to this new place of choosing differently, wisely. For all we really know, you only get one life and one story to live–the chapters are yours anyway, you might as well accept them and tell them with gusto.
As I said, that doesn’t mean you don’t try to choose wisely at the next decision making juncture. You do. You can. Everyone who wants to hear your story is rooting for you.