Small Choices, Big Impact

Let’s do a quick exercise. I’ll count out 2 seconds and at the end you have to choose Plan A or Plan B. Plan A is all the fame and fortune you desire. Plan B is your relationships with the people for whom you care deeply.

Ready? One-second. Two-second. Stop. Now choose.

Easy right? The problem is that we never get one big choice. Life is a series of little choices.

It’s a choice of sleeping for another 30 minutes or getting up and making pancakes with the kids. It’s a choice of gathering the family together for a board game or letting everyone scatter to their own electronic devices. It’s a choice of talking to the person seated across from us at dinner or staring at our device du jour.

It’s those daily choices – the ones that aren’t worth thinking about – that trip me up. I can’t tell you a single Christmas present given or received last year. But a bitchy comment made to me 25 years ago? I can tell you who said it, where we were sitting, and what we were doing.

Would it make a difference when we’re making our choices to know it’s to be our last chance to be with the person or people we care most about? Years ago my then-husband won two airline tickets at his company picnic. We decided to take our daughter to San Francisco and visit some friends who had chucked it all and bought a vineyard in California. It was to be our first vacation someplace other than New Orleans to visit my husband’s grandmother.

On New Year’s Day, we boarded a plane—for New Orleans. My husband’s grandmother was very sick and passed away that spring. I’m so grateful for the privilege of knowing her. Grateful for being given one last chance to see her, talk to her, hold her, say goodbye. Grateful for one last chance to give her what she wanted most—to see her only great-granddaughter. Grateful for having one last chance to make the most of my family’s last chances.

I’m also sad and full of guilt, almost two decades later. We should have visited more.
We should have written more. We should have called more.

As the guilt and sadness builds, I can come up with a lot of things we should have done, could have done, would have done, had we known time was our enemy. But life doesn’t turn on should, could and would.

We rarely know when it’s our last chance. All we can do is make the most of the choices presented to us every day. The choice to wrestle on the floor with our kids. The choice to get to know a co-worker or reacquaint ourselves with a friend. The choice to help someone in need. The choice to tell the people you care about that you love them.

What choice will you make today? I’ll give you 2 seconds to decide. Ready? Choose.