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This article was originally published in the May 2012 edition of the Sauk Valley Sun, serving Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls (Illinois). - Sauk Valley Sun

Small business intrigues me because of the close relationship it has to life itself. Sometimes, it seems we are barely surviving, whereas in other instances, we thrive. Continuously I try to find out what the “recipe” is for thriving. To put it more succinctly, what decisions did I make to put me where I am in life? The responsibility is ultimately mine. As I said in my last column, certain challenges inevitably face us where make decisions. Some of these decisions are much harder than others as they involve taking risks and getting out of our comfort zone. Usually, when we do anything which is new, we have a certain period of time in the beginning of the process where we learn what we must do to progress from one task to another, until finally, we feel confident about our accomplishments and can usually do it better the next time. Our core beliefs in life have a direct bearing on figuring out which decisions to look at making and which to stay away from. Like it or not, if we make a mistake in our decisions, it will usually catch up with us down the road, just as when we make a good decision, it can provide a “springboard” for making other successful actions in life. I am always looking for that secret elixir that provides successful decisions. For example, what was I doing at that time in my life when I made that decision? What was I feeling? What were my goals during that period of time? Was I true to myself? It is almost like I try to build a tuning fork that can give me a sense of which path to take in life. I learn not to take even the slightest, smallest decisions for granted. I find that everything is predicated on those previous moments of clarity when the complicated is reduced to the simple. Suddenly, the integration of my total being is maximized and I feel a great sense of accomplishment. Maslow's Hierarchy would call that “self-actualization”. For me, it does not happen every day. But to capture that sense of self, that feeling of knowing your true ability in life, can give me more than any amount of money can. Being aware of where it is I am in life and where I want to go is important. But, being aware who I am as a person, and doing what is congruent to my true nature and core beliefs is the most important first step I take. Being “right” in life versus being “happy” can definitely be opposing forces. Someone once told me, “Time is our sweet enemy”. We have so much time to “play with”. That is why I try to maximize my time with a balanced attitude. Usually, (and I have done it often), when I make decisions to overextend myself, is when I waste my time. Brad Monson

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