On Decisions (I): What We Choose Determines Our Lives

Making decisions

This morning when I sit down to write, something is different. I’m surrounded by unfamiliar sounds and smells in a room which isn’t my own, hear pieces of conversations through the window which I don’t understand, and have to fight a cat off my leg that isn’t mine. I smile with the realization that I am not at home. I did it. I moved to another country.

Flashback to three weeks ago. I am sitting on an airplane descending on Istanbul. It is dark outside and only the lights of the city are visible. While landing in darkness is one of my favorite things about flying, I have more important things on my mind than the breathtaking view outside the window.

Why am I going to Istanbul in the first place? I’m glad you asked. In the beginning of the year I got myself into one of these – wait for it – relationships. To make matters worse, a long-distance relationship. I know, awful right? Funny, intelligent, and beautiful women who like video games should really be banned. They only get me into trouble.

So for the first half of the year my girlfriend and I have been going back and forth between Berlin, where we met, and Istanbul, where she lives. Since she has a steady job and I work for myself and as a freelancer, most of the back and forth was up to me.

While I like traveling, I quickly started feeling homeless. I was unable to settle down in either place, knowing that I’d be leaving again soon after. Besides I find spending that much time inside means of transportation exhausting and I didn’t feel like doing it anymore.

So, while making my way through Turkish airspace, parallel with the plane something is descending from my brain to my gut. I arrive at a decision. Next time I come here, I will stay for good. I will move to Istanbul full time. Soon. Three weeks later, here I am.

The power of decision making

Decisions shape the trajectory of our lives. Decisions precede actions, actions lead to outcomes and results, results determine who we become, where we are going, and what we experience. Think about it for a moment. Everything important in life depends on you making decisions.

What you decide to do for a job will determine your level of satisfaction and income. The choice of your significant other vastly determines your level of happiness. The food you choose to eat has direct impact on your health and well-being.

Adopting new eating habits, getting into shape, heading down a different career path, or asking out the cute girl who smiles at you in the coffee shop, anything that has the power to change your life for the better does not happen by itself but only if you mentally push yourself to do it.

This is a good thing because it puts us in the driver’s seat. Through making conscious decisions we can take personal responsibility for our lives. It lets us control our actions, our results and ultimately the course of our lives.

Of course there will always be circumstances that you can not control. Things will go wrong, accidents happen, stupidity gets in the way. However, how we respond to adverse circumstances is also something for us to decide. We can throw our hands in the air, complain and give up, or we can decide to stay committed to our course and find a solution.

Following through on my decision

In my case, I made the definite decision to move to Istanbul and didn’t leave myself much of a choice. I booked a non-refundable one way ticket for a certain date and everything else had to unfold from there. All of my following actions were determined by that one decision.

It was far from a smooth process. Before that I had never left the country for a long time on such short notice. A lot of things did not go as expected. Only one person showed up to rent my apartment. A client, uncomfortable with a remote arrangement, stopped working with me and I have to find a different source of income. There were sleepless nights and hasty goodbyes. But in the end, it turned out fine.

I am now sipping Turkish tea for breakfast. I can spent time with someone important to me without the haste of a one-week visit. Last weekend I was lying on the beach of a nearby island. I am on an adventure, learning a new language and venturing outside of my comfort zone. Life could be worse.

But above all, I learned to orchestrate a move from one country to another and feel more confident and self-sufficient as a result. All because I made a decision and stuck to it.

Read part II on why we put off decisions how to get over it.

Which decision can you make right now that can have a positive effect on your life? Which decision have you been putting off for too long? Tell us about it in the comments.

image: flickr

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