How many choices do we make in a given day? Dozens? Hundreds? More? What should I eat for breakfast? Lunch? What shoes should I wear? What route should I take to work? Which way should I head for my run? Or maybe I should bike. Or clean the house instead. These are some of the hundreds of choices we make every day.
But those aren't the choices I want to talk about. I want to talk about a different kind of choice; one that we might forget we even have. I'm talking about the choice to either take action or not. To do, or not to do. To embrace change, or to stick with status quo. That choice is one we all face and it is a choice we consciously need to make. The easier choice is often to stay with status quo. Sometimes that is also the right choice. More often than not though, the choice that will take you down the more difficult road and lead to change is the more rewarding choice and will have greater results. Although not a bad idea for for a column, this isn't a column about change. This is about the step we need to get over before we even get to that point. The choice we need to make before anything changes. We need to consciously decide to ... do. To take action. To embrace the fact that we have the opportunity to create action.
I teach communication and speech courses. For seven years I have taught these courses both at a public university and at a pretty stellar community college. After one particularly rough semester, I decided I needed to either change what I was doing or get out of teaching. I was tired of the students coming to my class, doing the work (or not), taking the exams (or not) and passing my class (or not). I knew that not many of them (oh who was I kidding, none of them) left with the intention of further applying the communication skills I taught to their lives. I decided that I enjoyed teaching too much to let it go and so I had to make a conscious decision to take action. So I did.
I now create a new lesson plan each class to apply it to the real life needs of the students. I also start each new semester by telling my students that I can come to class every day and teach the material but it's a waste of my time and theirs if they don't choose to use the material for more than just a passing grade. The choice is theirs to make. Of course the easy choice is to learn the material to pass the class. The more challenging path is to apply it to their lives. But that's also the path with greater rewards. That same choice I make them aware of is the same choice facing all of us all the time. We can either "do" and improve or we can remain actionless and be status quo.
I see this too often in my work at the chamber of commerce. There are so many ways to improve your life, your business, your situation. There are books, DVDs, classes (many offered locally), consultants, and much more. Sure, the choice on whether or not to participate is easy. But the choice to participate and then to apply and practice the tools and tips you learn is much more difficult. There are thousands of reasons why people take the easier route, even if it is less rewarding (you might know them better as excuses but again, that's another column). So what could possibly be more powerful than reward? Fear of failure? Change? Uncertainty? These things are manageable - and actually some great learning tools.
What are some things you'd like to see happen in your life? Something you'd like to change? Maybe you want a different career, maybe you want to work fewer hours, maybe you want to lose a few pounds. I am not saying it's easy and that once the choice is made that things will just fall in to place. Of course that's not true, but there isn't even a chance if you choose inaction over action. Yet I witness it too often. I am also not arguing that you should say yes to everything that comes your way, but you need to be consciously engaged in the choice you make. Consciously choosing to do. To act. To take a step in a direction. Choose action today and enjoy the experience!
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her columns appear bi-weekly on Tuesdays.