In the Oscar-nominated film Juno, a 16-year-old girl (named after the Roman goddess for marriage and childbirth) grapples with the concept of everlasting love and deciding the future of a baby growing inside of her. Like many of the choices we make in life, what appears on the surface is not always how they should turn out for the best results..
At first, in Juno, abortion seems to be the best choice for all involved, but after a quirky encounter, Juno chooses the route of adoption instead – for better or worse. Then, after finding what seems like the perfect couple, her decision is again challenged when she learns that the couple won’t be staying together. She ultimately allows the woman to adopt her baby anyway, after a chance opportunity to see her lovingly interacting with a child at a mall. With that final decision, Juno finds the peace within herself and with the father of her baby that she longed for all along.
Life choices do matter
The movie is a witty pop culture example of how the choices we make in our lives are significant for several reasons. First, most life choices cannot be reversed. Secondly, our choices reflect our values and tell other people who we are. Finally, our life choices often affect the lives of other people as well.
In his book Life Choices: Understanding Dilemmas and Decisions, Todd Stratton Sloan writes: “Decisions are difficult to the extent that we are uncertain about outcomes associated with the various alternatives.” This uncertainty makes deliberation uncomfortable. As happened to Juno, we find that one choice seems right until new developments make another choice seem better. Sometimes we take action on whatever alternative is closest to home simply to relieve the tension of making a choice. This is where the saying that “a bad decision is better than no decision at all” comes from.
Furthermore, calculating the odds of a certain outcome happening is not always the best way to approach a life choice either. For example, the odds of becoming a rock star or best-selling author are stacked against most people, but that doesn’t stop some people from becoming just that. In some cases, the risk of choosing the safest alternative is higher than the risk of stepping out of our comfort zone. If you don’t follow your passion and challenge yourself, how happy will you be years later, never knowing your true potential?
So what is the best way to approach those daunting choices that have such huge impact on our lives? A good first step is to accept a situation simply how it is. Even if the facts change, don’t avoid or resist those changes. The legendary self-improvement coach Dale Carnegie was not too far off when he suggested “cooperating with the inevitable” – meaning do not waste time or energy on things that are out of your control. And don’t worry about failing! Some of your best self-knowledge can come from what you learn after making a mistake. Everyone makes them, and the more of them that you face the stronger you will be.
Focusing on your main goal might help you weed out certain alternatives. Don’t be distracted by outside forces. Also, don’t give in to the tension of deliberation. Take as much time as possible to balance all possible outcomes with what your heart and intuition are telling you. Sloan’s Life Choices book describes making a decision as anticipating a possible future: “This anticipation creates a psychological space in which something can be done… Life choices thus perform the function of giving form to an otherwise shapeless future.”
When we view each life choice as an opportunity to create our future, and possibly shape the future of others, we can approach the task optimistically, rather than anxiously. When Juno found a good mother for her child, she positively affected the adoptive mother’s life, her baby’s life and her own. Even though such decisions might not come easily, careful deliberation has its rewards and is, therefore, worth your time and effort.
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