attention-road-sign-sign-39080Most of the mistakes that we make in life occur because we don’t pay attention to the warning signs. Life throws up big warning signs when we are going down the wrong path. They are big red signs that say “Stop!” Or they are big yellow signs, which scream “Hazard!” The signs are always there. We simply choose not to pay attention to them.

For example, when a very dear friend of mine was in her twenties, she met a guy and fell madly in love with him. She wanted to marry him, but he clearly said that he wasn’t interested in getting married. So, they dated on and off for years, and all the while, she hoped that someday he would change his mind.

Well, eventually he did change his mind … sort of. He finally proposed to her one afternoon by handing her an engagement ring, and said, “Here. I hope you like it.” I know. Not the stuff that movies are made of.  He then kept their engagement a secret from his family for months, instead of proudly telling everyone that “She said yes!”

As you can see, all the warning signs were there. This young man had no desire to get married. He made clear with his every action that he was getting married grudgingly. If this young lady had been paying attention to the very large, clear warning signs that were right in front of her, she would have run for the hills. But she wasn’t paying attention. She was in love, and she hoped that someday he would be excited to be her husband.

Well, their story had an obvious ending. During the marriage, he operated like he was still single. He never wore his wedding band. He frequented bars, flirted with other women, and in a multitude of ways, made clear to her that she was not the apple of his eye. And she spent a decade wondering why she was so unlovable. Ultimately, she decided that she wanted something far better from life, and they quickly divorced.

All the warning signs were there that this marriage would not work out well. But my friend chose not to pay attention. (Now, don’t go shedding big, sloppy tears for my dear friend. She had a happy ending. Soon after her divorce, she met a very nice man who adored her. And when he proposed, he whisked her off by plane to a romantic location and asked her to marry him under the stars. Life does give second chances.)

The key to making great life decisions is to pay attention to those warning signs. I’ve never met anyone who had a bad relationship, a bad job or a bad home purchase who didn’t have warning signs. If we are honest with ourselves, few things in life are a surprise.

Of course, sometimes there are warning signs, but we have to proceed anyway. If you are offered a job and all the warning signs say that the boss is nutty, you may have to take the job anyway just to pay your bills. Or if the car you are purchasing is making funny noises, but it is the only car that you can afford, you may have to buy it.  You simply will have to be prepared to have some mechanical issues in the future.

But typically, in life we have choices. And when we have choices, we need to pay attention to those warning signs so that we can make the best choice possible. In fact, the key to warning signs is to understand that whatever is wrong now will only get worse. That may sound negative, but it is true.

For instance, if you marry someone who has an unnaturally close relationship with his or her mother, I can assure you that their relationship will someday create problems for your marriage. If you join a company that currently has a high level of turnover, that means the company is managed poorly, and you’ll someday resign for that very reason. The same holds true when you buy a house. A small leak in the roof today will someday be a 10K roof replacement in the future.

If you look back at every difficult situation that you’ve ever had in your life, you’ll see that the warning signs were there. But just like my dear friend with the failed marriage, you chose to ignore them. Why do we do that?

Well, the answer is that hope springs eternal. If you are an optimist, as my friend was, you see the best in every situation and in every person. You truly believe that with a little bit of encouragement, other people can become their kindest and most wonderful selves.

However, while it is good to be an optimist, it is also important to accept people and situations for what they are. For instance, you can’t marry someone who is immature and expect that they someday will grow up. They may.  But some people never emotionally mature. So, you’d better like the person you marry on Day 1, flaws and all. Yes, they might grow up and reach their full potential. Unfortunately, many people do not.

The same holds true for any job. If you take a job that isn’t intellectually challenging enough for you, or that doesn’t pay as much as you would like it to, well, learn to live with it. Or get another job. Or aim for a promotion. But don’t be frustrated with a job that you chose and knew what it would be like going into it.

And if you can’t accept the flaws of the person you intend to marry, or the job you want to take, or the house you want to buy, then STOP. Make a different choice! At the end of the day, our lives are nothing more than the sum of our choices. Make good ones.

Do you have major choices coming up in your life? This week, consider whether you are paying attention to the warning signs. Even if it is uncomfortable, come to terms with those signs and realize that they mean something. Take the warning signs seriously and make the right choice. Choose to create a beautiful life for yourself. You deserve it!

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Books: “The Secrets to Success for the Working Mother” by Meerabelle Dey (https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Success-Working-Mother/dp/1546329544 )

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