Knock-on effects

What consequences are there for a particular decision we make? Right now? A week from now? A few months from now? A few years from now? I chase thoughts around in my head like this all the time. “If I’d only done this”, or “What if it goes wrong?” or “That can be for future Hamish to worry about”. What I don’t do very often is write these thoughts down to try and make sense of them. To make myself think about the long term consequences of “just one more YouTube video”, or the “Why” behind not wanting to go to sleep. It’s time I started to do that. I hope you’ll join me on my journey, and embark on one of your own too.

My household sometimes watches the gameshow The Chase. The Beast, one of the Chasers the contestants can come up against, points out when teams get into a negative answering cycle. If you’re not an experienced quizzer it’s easy to keep worrying about a question you answered incorrectly, maybe one that you actually knew, instead of focussing on answering the next question. The past is the past. We can wish we made different choices as much as we want but the decision we made won’t change. The outcomes that have already happened won’t change. If we keep our focus in the past we risk damaging our future. What happens from today and onwards we can change – if we focus our energy on moulding the life we want. There’s no way to do that if we stay stuck in the past.

When I start getting anxious I think about all the things that seem to be going wrong. Not sleeping well, not playing the guitar enough, getting behind on writing projects, eating too much junkfood. It starts a negative cycle which can continue far into the future.

Funnily enough, one of the main causes is wanting to control every little facet of my life. To-do lists are great, and help me know what I want to achieve when my brain is foggy, but if I spend all my time documenting every single little thing, and trying to plan ways to avoid every single drawback, I get nothing done. This micro-managing leads to decision fatigue and, ultimately, burnout. Usually just for a day or two, but it’s unhelpful all the same.

A stark example is playing an RPG on my Xbox which requires making hundreds of choices. If I go through every iteration of every choice, turn to Google to ask for the ‘best’ outcome of every decision, it ceases to be fun. It is no longer me playing and enjoying it. I become almost a robot making the same choices others have, losing the excitement of discovering things fresh as I play and make those decisions for myself. I enjoy that game less, which can make me think I don’t enjoy video games at all, which leads to losing motivation for other things in my life.

For me there is an alternative solution. When I turn worry and anxiety over to God I feel weight lifting off my shoulders. This is not because I don’t care anymore, or that I think now it’s up to God to do the hard work. My mind instead has a clear focus on the now, where I am able to think through decisions clearly with lingering too long on any potential negative outcomes. I make decisions more quickly which gives me energy to enjoy the things in doing without burning out. Sometimes things don’t work out the way I want them to. As I’ve said many times before, and many other people have too, this is the way we learn.

Don’t get caught in the trap of lamenting poor choices. Expending energy on what we ‘should’ have done, instead of focussing on what we can change in the now is just as debilitating as never making a choice!

Find your balance. Identify unhealthy cycles and find a way to limit the negative knock-on effects. There is a happy middle ground. This won’t mean being happy all the time, and that’s ok, but you’ll be on your way to achieving whatever big dreams you’re aiming for.

God’s peace to with you, dear readers.

UPDATE: Keep your eyes out for a short story here in the next fortnight. It will be a taste of the adventures within my book will be when it’s published. I’m excited to share a little of Keiyu’s search for balance with you! If you like what you read I hope to make sharing a story a regular fortnightly thing.

Cover photo from PixaBay, retrieved through Pexels.

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