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The liberating path of choice: Empower yourself through decision-making

Dr. Cindy M. Howard

Life is full of decisions. Big, small, and everything in between. From medical-related choices to what’s for dinner, there’s a huge spectrum. Dr. Cindy M. Howard explains you have the power to choose your approach to life and how you respond to challenges, as she did when diagnosing herself with Hodgkin’s lymphoma by reading her own test results. In both this guest post and her memoir, Positively Altered: Finding Happiness at the Bottom of a Chemo Bag, she inspires and empowers others.

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Dr. Cindy Howard guest posts: Empowering yourself through decision-making

It’s been said that we make more than thirty-five thousand decisions a day. Yet, we often beat ourselves up for the one decision we may have gotten wrong. Guess what? Thirty-four thousand nine hundred ninety-nine great decisions a day is a terrific average! Instead of bemoaning the fly in your ointment, celebrate that you have a healthy number of decisions within your control.

I recognize that decisions fall on a spectrum from easy on one end to potentially life-threatening on the other. Like many of you, I’ve experienced the full spectrum, having walked through cancer and living to share my story.

Believe me, having a choice to make is liberating and reminds you that you’re alive. As a doctor, I’m reminding my patients that their need to make decisions every day—both inconsequential and sometimes terrifying—will never go away. Rather than be your own worst critic or complain about the frequency of your choices, embrace the opportunities and gifts in each one.

Here are three ways you can empower yourself through decision-making:

1. Embrace adversity.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that you shouldn’t shy away from tough decisions. Adversity is a great teacher. It helps you decide what’s important. Imagine your house is on fire, and you have a few seconds to grab what’s necessary. That’s adversity forcing you to decide what’s important to you. Tough decisions will even help you get better at prioritizing and separating what truly deserves your undivided attention and what can wait.

Imagining a fire isn’t unlike when I diagnosed myself with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had been having trouble with my marriage, but it wasn’t until I began chemo treatments that I had incredible clarity about the kind of partner I deserved in my life. I didn’t want to wait any longer; I began the painful but necessary path toward filing for divorce. On the spectrum of choices, that was a doozy, but it enabled me to focus my energies on my children, having the right people around me, and getting healthy—a lifesaving choice if you ask me.

Adversity quote

2. Enjoy the freedom to make your own choices.

I recall talking to a patient about my cancer journey because they asked about my treatment. Knowing my passion for natural cures, they were surprised to learn that I underwent chemotherapy as well. In that instance, I was happy to educate them about my personal decision—what was right for me—but I never want to put myself in a position of defending a decision, so I don’t. I’m always happy to explain why my choice was correct for me.

I don’t want that for anyone else, either. Never forget that your choices belong to you and only you. You are free to make them. Don’t feel as if you must rationalize your decisions with others, either. You’re the one living with your decisions, so they’re yours to own. Honor yourself by sticking to what’s important to you. By doing so, you’re setting an example for others to do the same.

3. Understand the power of the pause and pivot.

Decisions are the result of our brains reacting to information or stimulus around us. If you need to pause and process what the universe is telling you, that’s a decision. Indecision is also a decision—and can be a good one! Allow yourself the grace to pause before you choose again.

If you don’t like the direction your choice takes you, pivoting is a healthy option for all of us. Reflecting on your decisions is an important part of your personal growth. Reevaluating a choice helps us decide if we need to shift our direction. Dr. Carol Dweck coined the phrase “growth mindset,” and my guess is that she would applaud the pivot. A growth mindset is the belief that you can develop your abilities, that our brains and talent are just the starting point.

I can’t help but think of my son when he was trying to decide where to go to college. He was paralyzed by his options because he was afraid of making the wrong choice. I gently (or maybe not so gently!) kept reminding him that if he didn’t like his choice, he could transfer to another university at the end of the semester. Would anyone judge him for changing? Would anyone really care? Who was the only person who would live with that choice? My son. It was such a great learning opportunity for him.

Positively Altered book cover
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Guest post from Dr. Cindy M. Howard cont’d.

Appreciate that you get to make choices in your life. We get to choose how we approach our lives and how we react to what the universe throws at us. No matter what you’re facing, it’s really about your reaction or looking for the gifts followed by immediate action—making a decision that’s your own, not someone else’s.

Embrace adversity because it reminds you that you’re alive, enjoy the freedom of making your own choices, and strengthen your resolve by pausing and pivoting when necessary. When I hear people say, “I didn’t have a choice,” I remind them that’s rarely true. There really is always a choice; it just may be that you don’t like your options. Maya Angelou once said, “You may not control all of the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

About today’s writer

Dr. Cindy M. Howard, DC, DABCI, DACBN, FIAMA, FICC, is a chiropractic internist, nutritionist, practice owner, and national speaker on a host of health topics. Learn more about her new memoir, Positively Altered: Finding Happiness at the Bottom of a Chemo Bag, at drcindyspeaks.com.

8 thoughts on “The liberating path of choice: Empower yourself through decision-making”

  1. This is all great advice, Christy. All three of these suggestions are incredibly powerful. We grow through tackling adversity, and the freedom to make our own choices is a privilege we should hold in high regard. I love the “pause and pivot.” Even when we’re stuck with a decision, we have the power to make another. :-)

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