If choosing is power, and refusing to choose is still making a choice, then
I awoke at 5:30 on a Saturday. Wide awake, no alarm, ready for a day with no obligations where I could do whatever I liked. I didn’t need more sleep, but when I tried to pick a project from the ideas swirling in my head, my knees came up, my arms wrapped around my huggy pillow and I pushed my head ostrich-style into my pillow. Sandman, come back!
It’s silly, but it’s human. Sometimes we miss out on good things–a good day, a memory-making experience, a successful project–because we don’t know where to start. We freeze up and wait for a push to come from somewhere else.
Advertisers use a technique called Priming to drive people toward a decision. There are two commercials I’ve seen recently which use this technique very well. In one, a retired couple is packing up their house. It’s a big house, a dream house, but the children moved long ago, and although I might want to stay there forever, it does seem a little empty.
As the movers pack their things, the couple ride away. Arriving at a brownstone, they’re assaulted by hugs and excited grandchildren. Smiles abound on the screen, and I find myself smiling. I want us to have the freedom to go where we want when we retire. I’m primed to save. (Principal)
Another commercial shows people joyously doing painful things. It relaxes the viewer with humor and uses reverse psychology to steer viewers away from bad decisions, such as paying too much for cable TV. By the end of the commercial, viewers are primed to check out Direct TV.
We can use Priming on ourselves. When options overwhelm us, the head-in-the pillow technique is a sure path to regret. If you’ve had a good 8-hour snooze, use your power to choose. I like to pray first. Our Creator has appointments for us–encounters and activities to strengthen and expand us, bless us or give us a chance to be a blessing. Our loving Leader has long-term goals for us which will be reached only by the effort we make today. With this in mind I ask, “Lord, lead me.”
Prayer puts my options on a grander scale. Instead of asking merely, “What sounds like fun?” I ask myself what might be both enjoyable and meaningful.
Perhaps it’s been several days since I’ve spoken to someone. How can I meet up with that person in a way which helps us both? Maybe I’ll call them for a walk, a swim or see if they want to check out the music downtown. Involving other people might be less convenient, but I nearly always feel better when I do. My brother bought a big-screen TV when he lived in Antarctica. Instead of sitting alone in his room watching movies, he set it up in the common room and hosted movie nights. More planning, maybe. More noise? Yes. More rewarding? Absolutely. He’s made a lifestyle of sharing, and it’s opened doors for him worldwide.
Maybe I’ve been around people all week. Is this my one free day, when I can work in solitude on my dreams? Humans are pack animals–when we are accustomed to company, solitude makes us forlorn. Like lonely puppies, we pace around in circles and then plop down, waiting for people to bring back our joy. It’s important that we learn to enjoy both the company of others and ourselves.
If I feel restless and can’t immediately concentrate on writing, it helps to do something physical. I can get a few minutes on the exercise bike or start laundry. I don’t have to feel like doing those things–they’re just time-killers with benefits. They give me mental space to dream. I imagine people making good choices and having healthy relationships because of my writing or teaching. Soon, I turn on the computer because I know I won’t respect myself if my dreams live only in my head.
Wide open days with plenty of options shouldn’t be a source of regret. Don’t check out, ease into the day with Priming. Pray. Place your options into larger frames of meaning. If you need a little more time to prime yourself for something you need to do but don’t feel at the moment, get out of bed and do something worthwhile. Imagine yourself as the person of your dreams. Then don’t just dream it, do it!
A good day is already unfolding.