An extremely important first step in reaching a goal is that of making a decision. It seems like such as easy, insignificant thing to do. But making a decision — particularly one that’s definite, intentional, and emotionally moving — can be life changing.
The idea of using decision-making as a pivotal part of goal achievement is nothing new. It was proposed by Napoleon Hill in his famous and classically timeless book on achieving success, “Think and Grow Rich.” One of my favorite motivational speakers, Bob Proctor (who is also a big fan of Hill), talks about its importance, too, in his book that covers much the same subject.
The natural necessity of a decision
The reason being is within its necessity. Everything you do must be preceded and “kicked off” by a decision. Your goals fulfill that decision. The goal’s objectives follow the decision to fulfill the goal.
And it’s at the time that you make that decision to act that you REALLY DO ACT. Everything before the action is just cheap talk and lofty dreams.
Very recently, I used the act of making a decision in a significant way to change my personal life. When you read about it, you might think the decision I made was pretty small — and in my opinion, that perception is correct. The decision was a small one. The actions of making that decision and those to follow were, indeed, quite small. And yet, its implications were, and remain, HUGE.
Living in the present
Before I tell you what I decided to do, I’d like to tell you how this all came about — which might have a bigger lesson attached than the decision itself.
I was thinking about what I would be doing in retirement, which, God willing, is no more than nine years away from me writing this article.
In reflecting about my future life, I also reflected on my present life. I’ve found over the years that it’s tremendously helpful to look at where you were as well as how far you’ve come, to where you are now. I know for myself, my tendency to be so FORWARD looking causes me to miss all that I’ve achieved.
Case in point: Between my two marriages, I had a long-distance relationship. It was no fluke. I dated this man who more than 400 miles away from me for three years. (Now that’s an article in itself that I should probably write.)
I had a bad habit when I went to visit my boyfriend, which was almost always over a long weekend. I would lament, from the moment I walked off the plane, that I would have to be going back home in roughly 48 hours. Finally, my boyfriend said to me, “You always complain about how short our time is together. Rather than dwell on that, why not appreciate the time we have and live in the moment?”
He was right. I was concentrating so much on the end of the visit that I wasn’t allowing myself to appreciate and enjoy the time we did have to spend together.
Similarly, but this time regarding the past, I used to lovingly bemoan to my late husband, Steve, the fact that we weren’t together sooner. We didn’t meet until I was in my early 40s, and he was already turning the corner of 50. All those years apart, when we could have been with each other!
Steve, however, would say that I shouldn’t think like that. Those days were gone, and, in his mind, they were the way they were supposed to be. Instead, he said, be glad that we finally did get together.
Over the years, I’ve had to work on living in the present, as opposed to conjuring up past memories (which are forever gone) or future wishes (that don’t yet exist). And I have to admit, the practice of living in the moment does bring peace — and also, epiphanies.
Take, as an example, what happened to me roughly 10 years ago. I was sitting in my home office, contemplating what I saw in front of me: my bookshelf, loaded with tons of business books, a few family photos of my kids and Steve, and also, some business awards that had been presented to me along the way. And suddenly, the thought “I’m a business owner” popped in my head.
You know, I had been running my own business, either as my major focus or as a side gig, for at least 20 years at that point. But I think I was always thinking in terms of “freelancing” and working for others. I didn’t take the time to realize how far I had come. It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t just a “freelancer.” I was a businessperson. I was a business owner. I was an entrepreneur!
Recognizing the benchmarks
In goal planning, it’s very important to first set — and then recognize — the benchmarks. Only then do you know if you are truly moving toward your goal, rather than moving from it. It also helps you know when you have arrived. Sometimes we are so caught up in the daily grind, we don’t recognize that we’ve made it! We’ve reached our goal.
It’s was similar to what I do when analyzing the performance of, say, a social media account or a website. Analysis first must take place to reveal what is really happening. It manifests through hard numbers and facts.
That data is super important to know, because only with that knowledge can the proper next steps can be taken. It forms a factual foundation of truth by which all healthy, appropriate, and effective actions can take place.
We need to do similar analyzation of our lives and the categories that fall within it. By looking back a bit, we can see how far we’ve come. By looking then at the often forgotten present, we know where we are now. And then, armed with this knowledge, we know with very assuredly where we still need to go. Then we can figure out how to get there.
So in now thinking about life as it currently stands, I realized a few things that brought me to my current decision.
One small decision for a person — one giant leap for a person’s life
So back to my most recent decision. As I said, I was thinking about retirement, and what I would want to do in retirement. One of those things is the pursuit of my love for languages.
I like to communicate. It’s no wonder that Communications was my major in college and my focus for my career ever since. And it plays out in a myriad of ways.
Talking, for sure. My father used to call me “Chatty Cathy,” and I’m sure it’s no strong wonder why I wanted and received a Chatty Cathy doll as my Christmas gift in 1967. “She talks a mile a minute, but there’s nothing in it,” my father used to jokingly quip about me. Personally, now knowing my biological relatives, I think I have a few who have me beat in this department. There’s no doubt that the gift of gab is an innate one that runs in my family!
And then, there’s writing. I LOVE to write. I don’t use those capital letters and italics lightly. Now, I don’t love writing on every subject, but if it’s a topic I enjoy, especially the ones my blog covers that come from my inner spirit and heart, my passion runs very, very deep.
But it doesn’t end with English. I love language in general. My second favorite language (which is also the other language I know best) is Spanish. I have also studied and tried to learn the languages of my various cultures: Polish, Greek, and even a little bit of French (my late husband’s background, revealed in my last name, LaCroix) and Italian (I grew up in a neighborhood that was strong Italian population). I used to joke that I was in training to become the Pope (if you don’t already know, all Popes tend to speak a number of languages).
Learning, exploring, and practicing these languages — and dare I say, becoming fluent in at least one of them beyond English — definitely was a plan for retirement.
But then I had the thought: Why wait until retirement?
Just as before in my office, I had been recently looking at where I am in life, and it hit me that my at-home career was definitely affording me a lot of the pleasures of retirement, even though I was still working. I can do so many things that others that work as employees on location simply cannot.
I can drive my son to work in the middle of the morning. I don’t have to ask for time off if I have a repair person coming over. If I’m feeling sluggish at 3 p.m., I can take a 30-minute power nap. I can watch “Maury” as a guilty pleasure while I eat lunch. And I can make lunch hot and fresh, if I’m in the mood. I can take the time to talk to my daughter when she comes home from school to hear about her day. I can start my family’s dinner as early as 5 p.m. I don’t have to worry about driving home in sleet, snow, and slush. And I can decide on my own when I’ll be taking my vacation time.
These are all things I can do because I work at home. And all of these things sound a lot like retirement living to me.
In realizing that my life was already starting to resemble retirement, I basked in that nice fact for a moment. How glorious it is to already be experiencing this sort of lifestyle at 55! And the truth is, I was already experiencing it in my 40s and earlier, all thanks to working at home. (If you want to know what I do to make a living at home, and exactly how much money I grossed in 2019, click HERE.)
The birth of a decision
After taking that moment to enjoy where I was at, I thought about what I was planning to do in retirement, and as you know, cultivating my ability to speak several languages was part of the plan.
Then I recalled that I still belonged to a Spanish-language Meetup.com group that I joined while Steve was still alive. It was specifically designed to help folks practice speaking Spanish, no matter your current level of skill with the language. In fact, I did participate in it, but only once. Afraid to socialize on my own, I asked Steve to come with me to the meetup, even though he didn’t know a word of Spanish. Of course, being attached at my hip and the sweetheart that he was, he went. We stayed for an hour, and I translated what was being said for him, as best I could.
But then Steve got sick. I never went again… Until today. It’s been at least six years. But I made the decision that I could start to enjoy everything I was waiting to enjoy in retirement, right now, if I so desired. I just had to decide to do so.
The truth is, I couldn’t think of a good answer to the question, “Why wait?” There was no reason to wait at all! With just one simple decision, the time could be right now.
So the decision was made! I signed up to attend the next meetup! Despite a healthy snowstorm the night before, I decided to brave the roads and keep my promise to myself to go.
Over the last five years since Steve’s death, I’ve become much better at getting out and doing things socially, all by myself. Getting over that fear happened as a necessity. I could become a hermit, but even as introverted as I can be, I still need and even crave social contact.
I had a great time meeting new people, speaking Spanish without fear of being judged, getting help with the language, and helping others as well. It was a beautiful thing, and I plan to make it a regular part of my monthly social schedule. I made the decision and acted, and now, yet again, I’m experiencing a taste of my retirement future — sooner rather than later.
Yes, I feel quite blessed. But, I had to allow myself to be blessed by making the decision, in order for the blessing to happen.
The power of decision-making
We can use decision-making as a powerful tool in business and working at home, and in all the areas of our life.
Think about it. You want to lose weight? You want to go to Europe? You want to work at home? It all starts with a simple but firm decision to do so.
The decision has to be real. It has to be meaningful. And it has to be something to which you are dedicated. It needs to be intentional. If all of that exists, you are taking that important first step toward to reaching your goals. You are on your way to having your life on your terms. This is how we create a life we love — we start first with a decision.
As we’d say in Spanish, “La vida es corta” — Life is short. I don’t know about you, but there’s still so much I want to do. It starts with a decision. If you already know what you want, there’s no reason to wait. Make the decision, stick to it, and see it through. That’s how you live life without regrets. That’s how you live life as you see fit.
Review your life. See how far you’ve come. See how it stands now. Determine where you want to go. Decide to do what you have to do to get there.
What decision will you make today that can change your life forever for the better?