Last week, we celebrated Independence Day in the United States and I’d thought it would be good to relook at our freedom and the freedom of choice. We are fortunate to live in a country where we are allowed to do what we want. Our laws give us the unalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
As a result of these rights, we have an unlimited amount of choices to make on any given day:
What will I wear today?
Will I go to the gym after work?
Where should I go on vacation?
Many of us make will dozens of decisions today without giving them a second thought. While quite a few of these choices may appear insignificant at the time, we must be very mindful of how some of them could impact our lives years later down the road.
In other words, it’s time we take a closer look at some of the choices we make.
The Big Picture
Many of our decisions are made quickly and without much thought. In some instances that’s ok, but in others, it could be a mistake. Did you know the choices we make can indicate three important things about us?
- Who we are. The choices we make help people gauge who we are and what we are about. For example, a person who eats a healthy diet and works out daily may be viewed differently than a person whose diet consists of fast food and never exercises. Not to mention that unhealthy lifestyle could lead to sickness (and high medical bills) in the future.
- Where we go in life. The choices we make today can have a tremendous impact on our lives tomorrow: We do the bare minimum at our job, coming in late, and not being a team player. Next thing you know, the company is moving in a different direction and you find yourself out of a job.
- Who we become. It’s easy to see how our actions affect us after the fact, but they may not be as evident at that particular moment in time: Trying to keep up with the Jones’ could impact you financially and increase your debt. Thanks to your “friends,” you could find yourself in serious financial trouble that could’ve been easily avoided.
The importance of making wise choices can be seen in these great historical quotes:
- “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” Theodore Roosevelt
- People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead.” James Baldwin
- “We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.” Benjamin Franklin
The Red Pill, or the Blue Pill?
In the classic movie The Matrix, Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) was given the option by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) to take the red pill or the blue pill. This one choice would alter the course of his life forever.
Neo only had to make one choice to shape his destiny, but we aren’t so lucky: We will have many red pill/blue pill moments in our lives. As we make one decision, another challenge will magically appear to take its’ place.
Unlike Neo, the results of our choices may not be as instantaneous or obvious. In some cases, it could be months or even years before they manifest themselves.
Not only that, instead of Lawrence Fishburne playing Morpheus, he will be played by our best friend, spouse, boss, or other associates. Each of them will ask us to make decisions on various issues and expect definitive answers. It’s critical we keep this in mind and be mindful of the potential impact of these responses on our lives.
Making Better Choices
Making decisions can be easy, but making the “right” decision can be a challenge. Here are tips on how to make better choices:
Trust your gut. Sometimes, things just don’t feel right. We can put a finger on it, but something just seems off. This could be our instincts warning us to stay away or tread lightly. If it makes you uneasy, take a step back and look closer before making a decision.
Check your moral compass. Will the decision go against what you stand for? Many times, we can be persuaded to do things we may not want to do, which could come back to haunt us. We all know the difference between right and wrong:
- Is this illegal?
- Will people be hurt if I do this?
- How will this impact my family?
Don’t be afraid to stay true to your convictions. By saying “no” today you could be saving yourself from heartache and grief tomorrow.
Choices Shape Your Future
Use common sense. Many times, we get caught up in the moment and make decisions that are often swayed by emotion. You may be happy the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship, but that does not mean its ok to turn over a few cars and light them on fire as you celebrate.
Think about the long term ramifications. Ask yourself: Will this action have a positive or negative impact on my future? This one simple question could keep a person on the right path, possibly saving them from regret and hardships.
Independence Day is a holiday that celebrates freedom and the right to make choices. As we enjoy this special day, let’s take a moment to remember how important the choices we make can be.
Remember: what we do today can shape the direction of our lives tomorrow!
PS: Last week I had the opportunity to featured on two different podcast. So I am giving you a choice: Maximize Your Strenghts and JumbleThink – both offer something different and I believe you would enjoy the insights shared!