Think Fast

Life can move quickly. Even if it seems like nothing happens for a long time, suddenly everything can happen all at once. Someone in my life had a weekend where their car was rear-ended, they fell on some ice, and they didn’t feel like leaving the house for fear of what else might happen. The reality is that sometimes life gets overwhelming; sometimes despite planning ahead, you still come to a point where you have to make fifteen decisions in ten minutes.

A few nights ago, the Edmonton Oilers played the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite a discouraging start to the season, the Oilers played two of the three periods very well. It was a potential turning point in their energy and performance. The Oilers had tied the game and were about one minute away from sudden-death overtime (one of the very few stats that they have excelled at this season) when Kris Russell, trying to clear a routine rebound of his goalie, just couldn’t manage to get his stick on the puck. The puck was bouncing, he had a Toronto forward on his heels, and everything seemed to speed up and happen all at once. Russell took one last swipe at the puck to clear it out of danger, but instead he sliced the perfect shot right past his own goalie, giving Toronto the lead (and the game).

Watching this happen in the many replays that that followed, I couldn’t help think that we’ve all been in Kris Russell’s shoes (or skates, as the case may be). We’ve all been confronted with situations that require split-second decisions. Do we take this fast-approaching exit on the freeway or not? Do we buy that present for someone when we first see it, or wait? Do we renew the mortgage now or wait for a better rate? Do we have the surgery or not?

When life seems to speed up, it’s easy to panic. And maybe there’s not much time to take a breath and ponder, but there’s two things I hold onto when this happens:

  1. I want to act in ways that are congruent with who I know myself to be. I may not have always got it right in the past, but if I’m a person of integrity, then I want my split-second decisions to be as close to my pondered and reasoned decisions I’ve made in the past. Perhaps it’s a bit like “muscle-memory” – I’ll lean on the practice I’ve had in making decisions in the past so that when I have to do it without the luxury of time, I might act more consistently like ‘me’.
  2. I’ll be gentle and forgiving with myself when I don’t quite get it right. In all the post-game interviews of his coach and teammates, they were very quick to point out Russell’s skills, how excellent of a teammate he is, and how he contributes to the team regularly. If we panic into a bad decision, let’s focus on the support we have and the knowledge that one decision won’t define us; We’ll be disappointed and frustrated for a while, then remember this support, give ourselves some forgiveness and love, and move on to make other, better decisions.

Nobody can plan for every situation, but the great thing about wanting to live a life of depth and principle is that there’s so many opportunities to consider and rehearse the kind of person we want to be and the kind of life we want to live. The more we practice with each other, the more ‘muscle-memory’ we build where we’ll more easily just ‘know’ what to do when we’re confronted with all of life’s quick decision moments.