As we approach the Iowa caucuses, and with folks getting ready to make a very important decision in which the passion of the voters and momentum are the most important factors in determining who wins, who exceeds expectations and who drops off, I want to take a moment to reflect on how we make decisions in our own lives.
So much in the journey of our life is out of our control. Where we are born (if it is the United States, you already won the world lottery for personal economic advantage, so count yourself blessed); who our family is; our physical attributes (though I suppose with money and surgery some of this can be changed); our innate intelligence and athletic abilities, etc. We don't get to really choose any of this and most of what happens in our lives is really outside our ability to control. Or I should say, outside our ability to readily control unless we reach a level of enlightenment where we can manifest what's ahead of us, though few of us in the history of this planet reach this state. I am trying, but I have problems manifesting a grilled cheese sandwich for my daughter on the weekends.
There are very few things we get to really decide on our own. We get to decide who our partner in life is, or with whom we are in a relationship. We get to decide what work we do with a big chunk of our life. And we get to decide who we support for president.
Since a big percentage of our life is made up of things that are outside our control, those few things we get to decide should be ones that we assuredly want, are incredibly passionate about and bring us overwhelming joy. They shouldn't be 50/50 choices, or even 60/40 decisions. They should be at least 90/10 choices. If you don't feel overwhelming good and joyful about these decisions, you aren't doing yourself any good. These choices should be really based in a place of love -- real deep-down, soul-touching , in-touch-with-the-divine kind of love.
If you are doing some balance-sheet analysis of a decision related to a relationship or a job or a presidential choice, writing positives on one side and negatives on the other, then you are probably about to make a bad decision. It should be so clear that it doesn't even feel like a choice. Or this choice feels like if I do this I am going to be happy, if I don't then I will have missed a big chance at love and life. In these personal choices we get to make, there should be such a weight in the direction of joy that it brings a great sense of certainty and relief in the decision.
The law of averages demands this "overwhelming choice" philosophy in our few but key personal choices. Otherwise all the stuff that just happens to us or we have no choice over will make us feel that life isn't as meaningful and joy-filled as it could be. Balance sheet choices added together with things that happen to us in life doesn't add up to a very fun, laugh-from-the-gut existence.
I am not saying life doesn't have its twists and turns, deserts and valleys, and bumps and bruises. And that even some of our overwhelming choices might break our heart at some point. But to get to those moments where we are on the mountain top saying to ourselves "Thank God I am alive" comes from making our own decisions that our clearly 90 percent weighted in our direction on the happy or content barometer.
And so as we get closer to voting, watch out for those candidates who have a lot of these voters on their side who are passionate about their choice, know in their heart it is the right thing, and are energized about casting their ballot in that direction. If you aren't one of those voters, and are debating endlessly about what to do, maybe it's better you wait for something or someone that stirs something in you.
And if a job or a president or a person comes along that moves you overwhelmingly, don't hesitate or flinch or freeze in fear of change, because as the poet Mary Oliver asks, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
This post originally appeared in the National Journal.