By Piotr Ulmer, MSPT
In the past, I thought decision-making was all about intelligence, wisdom and experience. I had paid thorough attention to making “smart” decisions. I constantly strived to figure out and analyze all the involved components of my reality before any “big” decisions were made. I thought I couldn’t afford any wrong decisions.
Despite this, I’ve made mistakes. I noticed early on, though, that making mistakes is a great way to learn how to make my future decisions better. For example, I was about 20 or 21 years old, when I took a train from Siedlce to Warsaw (about 100 km) to submit my college application. Together with connecting buses and a trolley ride, this trip took an entire day. To my surprise, while submitting the application, I learned I was missing a critical piece of documentation. In Poland at that time, faxing and emailing were not available; the only option for me was to go back to my hometown and get the missing paper. It meant waiting for a trolley, getting a ride to the train station, waiting for a train (running every 2 hours) and coming back the next day. You may have guessed that the next time I had to submit any applications, I was perfectly prepared.
I also remember learning decision-making during chess matches with my father when I was about 10 years old. Chess was intriguing to me, and learning its strategies prepared me for life probably in a bigger way than I appreciate today. The concept of introducing light figures early on in a match still helps me to grasp the necessity of being prepared before any task.
“As I still remember, the important part was not to be afraid of making decisions, and frequently any decision was better than no decision at all.”
I’ve also made reasonably risky decisions. One of them was bringing my family to the United States. This was a big decision, but given the opportunity, I simply had to give it a shot. I made sure from the start that I was not committing long term, and so I intentionally left an option of going back to Poland in case things didn’t work out. This whole process was easier than I thought, because it turned out to be a two-family decision and involved my special friend Andrew Cieslik and his family. We’ve made many decisions together prior to and since our arrival to the U.S..
Eventually, I learned to trust my decisions. I thought they were wise; I thought I had it all figured out. As I still remember, the important part was not to be afraid of making decisions, and frequently any decision was better than no decision at all. Then, the time came for my children to learn the wisdom of decision-making. Teaching them chess, or even just making sure I was a worthy example in my daily routine, I wanted them to become skilled and experienced in making decisions. Although I thought I had it figured out most of the time, there were times I was not satisfied. I sensed I was missing something important.
In 2008 I attended a Cursillo weekend. Within three days I realized how self-centered I had been acting; my intense focus on mental fitness and performance was leading me to burn out. I realized how tired I was of self-reliance without incorporating my spiritual practice in my decision-making. The moment I figured that out, my “burdens became light and my yoke easy.”
One of the most important decisions I make every day is to roll out of my bed and onto my knees, to offer myself and the upcoming day into God’s hands. That’s the best thing I can do for me. I also have made the choice to teach this practice to my children. Through all these experiences: making good and bad decisions from my youth to adulthood, I have come to believe that by myself I am not capable of creating a fraction of good, in comparison to the splendor awaiting at the end of a path led by God. I have learned that the absolute best motto for my life can only be: “…Your Will be done, Father, not mine …”
Piotr Ulmer established CTS Physical Therapy in 2001. A native of Warsaw, Poland, he received his Master of Rehabilitation degree from that city’s Academy of Sports in 1991. He formerly served as the director of an outpatient physical therapy clinic in Clarksville, TN and as a Sports Medicine Physical Therapist in Knoxville before starting CTS Physical Therapy.