Making Choices

Making Choices

by Alexandra Stoddard, Marc Romano

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Alexandra Stoddard, world famous interior decorator, author and lecturer, originally opened the eyes of millions to the beauty and grace of simplicity in her phenomenal bestseller Living a Beautiful Life and the books that followed. Now, in Making Choices, she teaches us to widen our horizons by helping us feel the pleasure, satifaction, and joy

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Alexandra Stoddard, world famous interior decorator, author and lecturer, originally opened the eyes of millions to the beauty and grace of simplicity in her phenomenal bestseller Living a Beautiful Life and the books that followed. Now, in Making Choices, she teaches us to widen our horizons by helping us feel the pleasure, satifaction, and joy of creative decision making and self-reliance and to discover our inner being, our own destiny, the lifestyle that is ours, and the art of living in the light of self-expression and fulfillment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author of Living a Beautiful Life offers advice on making difficult choices to achieve inner peace. (Apr.)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Chapter One


"You are your choices."
— Jean-Paul Sartre

Knowing What You Want

The choices that make a significant difference in our lives are the tough ones. They're not often fun or easy, but they're the ones we have to make, and each is a deliberate step toward better understanding who we really are. When we make a decision, we get in closer touch with our feelings and our inner life. We choose in order to become ourselves.

We have the power to direct the course of our lives to a much larger degree than we may realize. But one of the reasons we often can't make up our mind is because we can't decide what we want to do. So, the first step when we approach any decision is to, focus on and clarify what we want.

We're faced with so many possibilities, so many options and alternatives. How can we look at a given situation objectively? Recognizing the role emotions play when we're faced with a serious choice, how can we always be sure to act intelligently and in our own best interest?

It's because of questions such as these that I love lecturing at colleges. The students are eager to make a difference in the world; they want to focus all their talents and passions on their goals, and they respond eagerly when I talk about the choices I've made and how they have helped me become the person I wished to be, professionally and personally. The most stimulating time in each talk is the question-and-answer period. I ask the young men and women what they want out of life, what they imagine themselves doing in five,ten, or twenty years. From their replies I have come to realize how difficult it is to make serious choices, and how many of them there really are. Yet I always come away from speaking to college students feeling happy and confident that many of them will affirm their passions by daring to take the leap of faith — by daring to express themselves.

The world seems increasingly complex, increasingly filled with ambiguities and unresolvable problems. The constant flux sets us whirling, and our options often seem complicated. All of us have the capability, however, to make solid choices that will work for us. Taking action is the key, but we can't use that key unless we know what doors we want to open. So how do we go about making our choices?

There are basic principles, tools to help us through, but neither I nor anyone else can dictate the choices you will make. All I can do is encourage you to be brave and strong so that you will choose; not to do so may lead to the most awful loss of all: the loss of self, of opportunity, and, yes, joy. We've all, at times just hung back and done nothing and know how wrong we've been. We feel freest after we have made a hard decision on our own and, after all, no one else will ever know enough about us to make the best choice for us.

The ability to make choices can be life-transforming. Nothing is preordained or predestined; it is our personal responsibility to choose for ourselves and live with our decisions. Simply doing so is a step toward freedom.

From as far back as I can remember, I've been fiercely independent. I first learned the importance of making choices when, at age seven, I began to tend my own garden. What my garden taught me is how inspiring it is to decide things for oneself. I pored over Burpee's seed catalogues, trying out different varieties of lettuce and zinnias; I had some great successes and an equal amount of duds. I tended not to dwell on the crops that never broke ground or the tomatoes that rotted green on the vine. What I most vividly remember were the rewards: the exhilarating sensation of running out the kitchen door in the early-morning light before breakfast, with dew still on the grass, dodging spiderwebs, running barefoot to see what was cooking in my precious garden. I was the youngest serious gardener in town, and I felt grown-up.

Claude Monet, whom I admire very much, loved flowers and good food just as I do. He collected garden catalogues and seed packets on his travels. He experimented, took risks, and had great success growing things no one else even dared to plant at Giverny. Judging by the abundance and splendor of his gardens, I'm certain that if something didn't work he'd rip it out and plant something else in its place. In the end, the real choice for Monet and for me, and for all of us — was to create exactly the kind of garden he wanted, no matter what setbacks the process entailed.

Taking Action

In a commencement address at Wellesley College, the writer Madeleine L'Engle challenged the students to dare to make difficult creative choices:

We all have a marvelous combination of male and female within us, and part of maturing is learning to balance these two components so that they are the most fertile. It is only then that we are able to make creative choices and to understand that we do indeed have choices....If we choose to remain ourselves, full of potential, then we can take whatever happens and redeem it by openness, courage, and willingness to move on....When we believe in the impossible, it becomes possible, and we can do all kinds of extraordinary things.

She urged the graduates to make difficult decisions throughout their lives. Above all, she encouraged them to dare, to try, and always to choose.

Yet making choices requires taking risks and confronting our fears. What if we fail? What are the consequences? Decisions can be terrifying, since every time we choose something, we leap into the unknown. But regardless of risks, complexities, pain, or difficulties, there is everything to be said for wisely and courageously taking the plunge.

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What People are saying about this

Alexandra Stoddard
Thee are only two kinds of choices available to us. First, the active; we make something happen and live with the consequences, or we choose to not make something happen, and live with the consequences. The second kind of choice, the more dangerous, is to choose not to make a choice. What we can teach ourselves to do is to make choices. I find it helpful to draw a line down a piece of paper and write "good" on one half and "bad" on the other. I don't leave space for "thinking about it tomorrow." This exercise has helped me through specific problems. I see a choice before me -- all I have to do is make it.

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