By Sondra Whitt
Ever feel like you’re stuck when you need to make a decision and don’t know what to do?
Unfortunately, our emotions often cloud our thinking when faced with the pressure of making a big decision. To make wise choices and avoid acting on impulse we need to engage in a logical thought process. So, think about this. If your life was a movie how would you write the script? This is one of the methods that Dr. Henry Cloud, author of 9 Things You Simply MUST DO to Succeed in Love and Life, has found that successful people use. They “play the movie.” They imagine the possible outcomes — both negative and positive — based on the possible actions they could take. And they use this method whether making a big decision or a small one. “Successful people evaluate almost everything they do in this way,” says Cloud. “They see every behavior as a link in a larger chain, a step in a direction that has a destination.” They never “see any individual action as a singular thing in and of itself.” They decide whether or not they want a particular “scene” in their movie. Even if a certain scene has a lot of appeal, it might not contribute to the ending they want, so they eliminate it. On the other hand, if a scene they’re facing is really hard and they don’t especially want to play it out but it does contribute to their desired ending, then they go ahead and do it.
A woman in one of Cloud’s seminars told him that she absolutely hated her job and that every day she wished she were doing something different. She’d always wanted to be a lawyer, even as a little girl but for one reason or another she didn’t go that direction. When Cloud asked her why she didn’t go to law school now, her response was that “it would take too long.” She estimated that it would take her three years to get through law school and she thought that was too long. So she was stuck, unhappy and didn’t know what to do. Cloud asked her a very thought-provoking question. He asked her if she planned on being alive in three years. She shockingly replied that she definitely hoped to still be alive in three years. “Okay, then think about this,” he said. “That date is coming. Period. It is not optional. Three years from now will come, and you will be alive. I repeat, The three years is not optional. It is going to come and pass. You will be here. Now here is the question. Since that day is going to come three years from now, on that day do you want to have a law degree, enabling you to do something you love? Or do you want to be still hating your life?”
What did she want her life to look like in three years? She could be a lawyer or she could still be going to work every day to a job she hated. Law school wouldn’t be easy; it would be a “hard scene” to play in her movie. But it would take her to the ending she really wanted and had always dreamed of — helping people through her work as a lawyer. Although it felt good at the moment for her to not go to law school, in making that choice she was choosing to have a life she hated three years in the future. As Cloud told her, “By avoiding the immediate discomfort, you also sign up for the negative consequence residing within the future reality.”
The other side of the coin is that we can make choices now to prevent a negative future. Another of Cloud’s clients was a man who was obese. Bill was in his late forties, had young children, and had a father who had died of obesity-related heart problems around his age. He’d failed to keep the weight off after trying a variety of diets, had given up and was continuing to gain more and more weight. As Cloud helped Bill play his movie, Bill looked at the negative consequences for his family of him suffering obesity-related health problems. He imagined, in detail, the effect his early death would have on his wife and children. The financial problems, the lack of a father’s guidance and support, and the choices they’d make as a result of his absence. This negative movie provided the motivation he needed. He was determined to not let that future come true for his family.
As Dr. Cloud writes in his book, “Sowing and reaping is about what I will ultimately end up with (take in, live with, be stuck with, and so on) if I sow this particular behavior, choice, attitude, value, or strategy.” Playing out the movie scenarios to help you make your decision. Do you want short-term gain and long-term pain or short-term pain and long-term gain? Play both scenes and see which one you like best. After all, it’s your movie and you’re the director. How do you want it to end?
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