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Want to change your life in an instant? Just decide

Once you decide, you can marshal all kinds of energy, resources, support, and determination

In January, I delivered a training class on Emotional Intelligence to an audience of adult and juvenile probation officers. It’s the kind of class that holds a mirror up to your life, gets you to take an honest look at where you are, and whether you’re getting everything you want out of life.

During one of the breaks, one of the participants, John, approached me and said, “I really needed this class right now. This is the perfect time for me. I needed to hear this. There’s a lot going on in my life. I’ll tell you about it later.” It was clear from John’s face and demeanor that he indeed had a lot going on, but he never did share the details.

Two months later, I was delivering a Time Management class in the same city and, once again, John was there. This time, though, he was different. His face was no longer pale and full of worry, and his body language had shifted with his new confidence.

This is what he told me: “After your class in January, I decided that I was going to change my life.” In that instant I knew I was about to hear a great story. John decided. That’s the first, indispensable, and most powerful activity you can engage in: deciding. Once you decide – I mean truly decide, get crystal clear that you’re going to go for it – you can marshal all kinds of energy, resources, support, and determination.

So that’s what John did. “I was the guy who did something 80%. I would start a project and never finish it. My wife was on my back because I always left things undone. I dug up the area around the house and backyard with the intention of putting in new flowers and plants. I never finished it. After your class, I went home and finished that project.”

John seemed surprised and amazed at himself. The best part was the results. “I walked outside one day and my wife was sitting there, doing nothing, just sitting. I said, ‘Honey, what’s going on?’ And she responded, ‘I’m just sitting here looking at the beautiful work you’ve done.’” Guess what? That changed John’s life and his wife’s.

John also told me that he’d wanted to become a stockbroker, but he never did it because every time he mentioned taking the exam, people around him said it was a bad idea. Unfortunately, he believed them and didn’t chase his dream. In March, he told me that he decided to take the exam and had already started studying for it.

The last bit of news John reported was that in February he grabbed his kids and his wife and went to Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico. “Who goes to the beach in the winter?!” he exclaimed. “We did! And you know what? The pool in the hotel was heated. The kids had a great time. My wife loved it. We had the whole beach to ourselves to walk together. Everything worked out just fine. I’d never done that with my family.”

John’s life is now on a very different course than it had been before. You know how long it took to change his life? One instant.

We think changes have to be huge, painful, and take a long time. They don’t. The deciding can happen in an instant. Once you decide – truly decide – the rest is logistics.

Dr. Joe Serio is a popular and sought-after criminal justice speaker and trainer. He is currently delivering a series of classes on time management, emotional intelligence, leadership, customer service, and other topics at the Harris County (Houston) Sheriff’s Office Training Academy. Dr. Serio is a featured speaker at SHIELD, Sheriff Institute for Ethical Leadership Development, at the Travis County (Austin) Sheriff’s Office Training Academy. He also speaks at adult and juvenile probation departments as well as police departments.