How do you make the right choices?

Years ago I watched what I call the most influential movie in my life. Actually it was two movies – the first and second Godfather movies. For me this story illustrated the power of choice that we have in our lives. I was deeply struck by the realization that to live the life that I really want to live, I have to actively make choices every day that will move me in that direction.

You see, I was scared to death to make a decision as freshly minted college graduate. Standing on the brink of finally living my real life, I was completely paralyzed. I wanted to make a leap, but was scared to death of a misstep. What if I made the wrong choice? What if I went the wrong direction?

Watching the Godfather movies made me realize that not making an intentional choice was already a choice. And one choice leads to another choices which leads you deeper into whatever direction you choose.

So I made the choice. For that period of my life it meant packing up all my stuff into a moving truck and moving from the Midwest to Los Angeles. Later on it meant choosing marriage and choosing adoption at an inconvenient time. And then with greater responsibility came the even harder choices of making the daily intentional choices of marriage and parenting.

For work that has meant choosing to pitch a big, hard project when I could have just skated by with  easier work. Sometimes it also means choosing to engage in hard conversations with co-workers instead of just letting the status quo rule the day.

So today I need to ask myself again, ‘what choice do I need to make today to be who I want to be?”

Making space to fail

I’m a starter. I like to start things. I have lots of ideas. Plenty of ways to get going, but I have never been very good at finishing. Lots of times I just let things trickle away. I have a great idea, lots of initial energy, but then slowly the energy fades and eventually I get restless and bored with the process and I want to move on.

That’s not a big deal if you are talking about a pet project, but what if your work requires you to complete a lot of projects? A paycheck is one kind of motivation, but sometimes that is not enough for me to not just complete it, but finish with excellence.

So how do I go about completing things?

Recently I have been pushed to finish some difficult projects. This has primarily meant pushing through my lack of energy and loss of motivation. Through this I am learning to recognize the main problem I have with finishing.

Fear.

It mostly comes down to recognizing my fear. Over the years I have come to realize that my own doubts and fears are the primary reason why I have a problem finishing. Struggling with these fears has become the central point of my learning to finish. The fear of failure and the fear of not reaching my desired level of perfection keeps me from being able to complete or finish well.

I have realized that the only real option is to look straight into the eyes of fear and refuse to back down. Acknowledge the fear and accept the option of failure. Accept the possibility that my expectations will not be met. Open my arms to failure, disappointment and discouragement and allow them to have space in my life.

By not allowing failure, disappointment and discouragement any place in my life, I also freeze my own creativity and inspiration. However, when I accept the possibility of failure and risk releasing my work to criticism, I have the opportunity to finish with excellence doing my best work.