The Power of One Decision

The year was 1972. The Beatles had just broken up, the best TV shows (in my opinion) were The Walton’s and Kung Fu, and most of us guys had hair growing down to our shoulders. For most, it’s just another year from long ago. For me, it was the year one decision would change the course of my life..

I was only twelve years old then, a kid desperate to be part of the in-crowd. The majority of my childhood was spent alone, reading countless books and curiously learning about science in my backyard. I was book smart but lacked social skills—talking to girls or speaking in front of a group of kids was beyond my abilities.

One of my friends, Dave*, was the epitome of what I wished I could be: he was a couple years older, an aspiring musician, and overall good-looking. To me, he looked like Bon Jovi—probably to the girls, too, because they all loved him. I looked up to Dave almost like an idol.

We usually hung out in my parents’ basement. Ignoring the red shag carpet and the gaudy colors of the 70’s, we liked three things about that basement: the pool table, the poufy orange leather chairs, and the bar stocked full of liquor. One night, while lounging in those leather chairs, Dave grabbed a pint of brandy from the bar and held it up to me, saying, “Scott, drink this. It’s really good!”

Immediately, I felt nervous. Dave was so cool; if I did what he said, if I drank, maybe I could be like him. Maybe I could be popular, attract some girls, live like Dave did. While I wasn’t sure I wanted to drink, I did want to make my friend happy and, more, I wanted to impress him. The anxiety pulsed through me as I tried to make a decision.

At the time, I didn’t realize I had so much power over my life.

That night, I lost some degree of innocence. Desperate to be accepted, I took a sip. The burning sensation of the brandy rushed down my throat and a giddy, dizzy feeling coursed through me. It felt like an elixir. I drank more and more, until the pint was finished. A sense of calm fell over me; I didn’t feel nervous. This was what I’d been looking for—something to boost my confidence, give me courage, make me feel accepted.

I felt like I could talk with anyone. I could attend a party and not feel shy. I could be friends with the cool kids. Instantly, alcohol became my best friend, always there to give me a boost of confidence. I was on my way to turning my life around—no more would I be a loner.

Over the next couple years, I turned to alcohol during high times and low times. It didn’t make me cool or help me make friends, though. I became more of a loner, hiding away to go drink when a craving hit. It never gave me the life I thought it would—it did the exact opposite by ruining years of my life.

One decision changed the trajectory of my life. At the time, I didn’t realize I had so much power over my life. Thirty years later, I made another decision that, again, changed my life—fortunately, for the better. I chose to give up alcohol and walk the tough journey of sobriety. This time, I knew the power of my decision.

One decision changed the trajectory of my life.

Whether you know it or not, you have the power to direct your life. Each decision you make impacts your course. Are the choices you’re making helping you or hurting you? Are they causing you to go in circles or keeping you on a straight path to success?

Consider today where you want to go. Then figure out which decisions you’ll make that will get you there. (If you need some guidance, I’ve shared a couple strategies in this post.)

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.