On the first day of 2014, while running in Bishan Park and listening to the radio, I heard something that was not new, but in the new year, it resonated with new relevance. In 2013, Brian Richmond decided to stop smoking and just like that, he has not smoked another cigarette since. It may sound too good to be true, but I know about such decision-making. Taking a decision in the moment and the decision sticks. Some habits like drinking and gambling are almost impossible to kick. But for some people, they can quit in a heart beat. Once the decision is made, it is done for. There is no turning back. If we try, we will, all of us, remember a time when we made such a snapped decision. Like the famous slogan of a sports brand, we just did it. When we did, we felt, immediately and thereafter, it was the right thing to do. We decided. We acted on our decision. And our lives changed.
Most of us have been brought up to think the best decisions are well-informed decisions. When we have asked all the questions and weighed the options. We are still in a society where mistakes are avoided at all costs. The decision-making process becomes the focal point, when it should only be a means to an end. Each process to make a decision becomes laborious. And every decision becomes harder and harder to make. Sometime last year, I decided a good decision today is better than a great decision tomorrow. We are not a product of our circumstances. We are a product of our decisions. Especially how we make our decisions. I have learned that some decisions are instinctive choices we make. Less head, more heart. These decisions can lead to results that are unintended. But I know now that unintended results can bring us to places we need to go. They say if we don’t get lost, there’s a chance we may never be found.
A known entrepreneur in Singapore told me this most enlightening story. He was adopted when he was 4 years old. As a rash teenager, he found out he was an orphan and confronted his foster parents. Overwhelmed by his sudden emotions, they were unable to talk to him in a way he could understand. He left home to seek answers to the many questions that plagued him. Why? Why? Why him? For over two years he could not decide what to do. By the time he went home to the only parents he knew, his mother had passed away. Grief hit him hard like a lightning rod. He could feel his head connecting directly to his heart. Suddenly, he realised his problem. He could not decide because the questions he asked had no answers. This time, he knew better than to ask why. On the day of his return, he made a life transforming decision. He decided to go into business with his father. This was the best way for them to spend the most time together. It was also the best motivation for them to make the business thrive.
We are still in the first two weeks of the new year. Perhaps it is a good time to look at a decision we took last year. One that will impact this year and more years to come. 2013 was a transitional year for me. A year of change. Looking at the changes, there are two common threads that hold them together. Swift decision-making and even faster action. Last year, I made a decision to run. Twice a week, an hour each time. This decision still amazes me. I banished the thought that running would be bad for my knees. Each time I ran, I surprised myself. When I thought I would stop, I continued. When I thought I would take a short cut, I took a longer route. Running clears my mind. During a good run, I feel as light as a feather. The miracle is not that I finish each run. It is that I had the courage to start. Running is the greatest metaphor of life. When I run, the only opponent I have to beat is myself. And when I conquer myself, it is exhilarating.
‘Animals make the most instinctive decisions. Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It must decide to outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It must decide to run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.’