The book is deeply thought-provoking and filled with questions and exercises. I love when an author engages us and helps us apply teachings to own situations, don’t you?
The Question I Didn’t Want to Answer
In Chapter 1, Identity, Shetty made a suggestion that struck a nerve.
“Reflect on the three best and three worst choices you’ve made.”
I noticed I felt resistant about completing the exercise. For one thing, how could I possibly whittle down a lifetime of decisions (especially all the bad ones!) to just three?
But later I returned to the question. Although I’m not one to spend a lot of time looking back, I eventually sat with my thoughts and a blank journal page.
Three Misguided Choices
The first bad decision that came to mind was my choice to stop college after two years. I was tired of being a broke college student, so I got a job and an apartment in Boulder. I always planned to go back (and maybe someday I still will), but I soon had a car loan and credit cards and just never got back on track.
The second was a poor relationship choice I made that ultimately caused pain on all sides. I knew it wasn’t right within the first month, yet stayed in it off and on for four years. I didn’t trust my instincts or stay true to my values, and I still have regrets.
The third decision was to get married too quickly when I was in my late 30s. We started dating in January and married in June of the same year. We were older and thought “why wait?” but instead of having fun dating and getting to know each other, we were soon dealing with financial challenges, parenting disagreements and a flooded basement.
Three Great Decisions
In 1997 I attended a writing retreat with the great Madeleine L’Engle. It was a pricey weekend put on by Victoria magazine that I really couldn’t afford at the time, but I’m so glad I made the investment. Being with my favorite author and nineteen other writers at Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs was incredibly special, and the fundamentals I learned from Madeleine have informed my writing ever since.
Another super decision: In 2002, I traveled with my late husband to Guatemala and we adopted a baby boy. My son has faced challenges including the very sad loss of his dad, but I’m so proud of him and grateful for all the experiences we’ve shared.
In 2003, I launched my own business. Providing marketing services for my clients, writing cookbooks and blogging is the most fun and rewarding work. Having flexibility to be there for my family has been a wonderful side benefit.
The Values Buried Within Our Choices
Okay, here’s the really good part of this exercise.
Shetty writes, “Take a look at your answers… buried in them are your values.”
I’d never examined these major decisions through that lens, but it was illuminating to identify the values that inspired my choices.
Here are my answers:
What Was Behind the Not-So-Hot Decisions
When I quit college, my values at the time were independence and self-sufficiency. (Also: tired of ramen.)
When I made that unhealthy relationship choice, the values I hoped for were love and commitment.
When I opted for a speedy marriage, the underlying values were love and stability.
Unpacking the Good Decisions
Attending the writing retreat was a decision based on valuing creativity, expression and learning.
Adoption was inspired by values of love, motherhood and family.
Launching a business aligned with my values of service and flexibility so I could be there for my kids.
Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
After doing this exercise, I’ve realized how helpful it is to evaluate decisions by first considering how (and if) they reflect my truest values.
How About You?
Have you ever thought about three of your worst and best decisions?
What were the values that inspired your choices at the time?
What can you learn about yourself by examining the principles that informed your decisions?
If you feel like sharing, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section.
P.S. Here’s my favorite ramen recipe!