What is life’s greatest gift? It is free will or choice. Choice is the ability to select one course of action from a set of alternatives to achieve a goal. What is so great about choice? It transforms us from dumb animals into artists. Each of us becomes another Michelangelo, for choice is nothing other than the chisel we use to sculpt our life. The chisel doesn’t come free, however, for the price of choice is responsibility. But when we accept and carry out our responsibility, the reward is great. The reward is happiness.
Life is not static, it is a flow. Every choice we make leads us closer to or further from our goals. We constantly need to monitor where we are on our journey. We need to ask questions: Am I moving closer to my goals? If not, what corrective measures can I take? What action will I take now to realign myself with my goals? Choice is power. Choice is at the heart of life; it is the creative power of life.
You make choices every day, and your life becomes more convenient or comfortable because of them. For example, you decide which stores to shop at and which gas station to patronize. But the decisions we make that sculpt our lives are far more important than deciding where to shop. The more we appreciate the difference between minor and major decisions, the greater the likelihood that we will experience happiness and fulfillment.
All chess lovers realize that it isn’t necessary to win to enjoy the game. The pleasure is in the playing. Life is like a chess game. Make the best moves (choices) you can under the circumstances. If you live by this rule, you will always enjoy the game of life, regardless of its outcome.
How to Make the Right Choices
Each day, we make countless choices. How can we be sure we are making the right decisions? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Be aware of where the road leads
Choose intelligence. Not every decision we make is a moral choice. Sometimes its just a matter of choosing between stupidity and intelligence. For example, if you are a young nonsmoker and your friend offers you a cigarette, dont take it. That would be stupid. If youre looking for the path to happiness, it is easy to find. Just avoid the paths with signs that say STUPID and follow those that say SMART. Easy enough to do, but you have to remember to check the signs before you start down a path. As Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote, “He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.”
Whenever we are at a fork in the road, we will find that one of the paths is easy to take, but that may be the only thing good about it. So, look carefully. You may find that one path tempts you and the other ennobles you. Choice the one that ennobles you. Learn how to withdraw from temptation. For as it is written in the Bhagavad Gita, “Even as a tortoise draws in its limbs, the wise can draw in their senses at will.”
Besides the paths of SMART and STUPID or GOOD and BAD, there is yet another road, and it leads nowhere. It is the road of non-action. It is the path of no-choice. Whenever we face choices and refuse to decide, that refusal is our decision. By refusing, we turn over control to the tides of fate, and instead of shaping our lives, we decide to drift wherever the tides and currents will take us.
2. Do what you can
Decide what you CAN do, not what you WANT to do. Our wants are insatiable. We want to do everything. But how can we become anything if we want to become everything? Choose worthwhile goals that you have time for. Set priorities and focus on the important issues. If you run out of time before getting to the minor tasks, at least you would have done the important ones.
Choose to carry out your responsibilities not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to. Tasks that you HAVE to do create pressure and stress. Actions that you WANT to do, lead to the joy of accomplishment and freedom from inner conflict. Choose to learn how to WANT to do those tasks that you should be doing. For in the end, you will do only what you want to do. Similarly, when you cant have what you want, choose to want what you have.
3. Look for the good
Some of us may be undergoing great hardships. But no life is so difficult that it cannot be made better by improving our attitude. No matter how dire the circumstances, if you look for some good, you will find it. But how can we find anything good if we occupy our time complaining? The rule to remember is that we are certain to find what we look for. If we search for good, we will find it. If we search for something to complain about, we will surely find it. Choose to search for good. And choose to believe something good can and will happen. Choose to live with hope, rather than despair. Don’t be a dope. Learn to cope. Live with hope.
4. If you cant change the circumstances, change yourself
We cannot choose what will happen TO us, but we can choose what happens IN us. That is, we can choose to have the right attitude, one in which we view challenges as opportunities instead of problems. Choose to be positive. For example, although he became confined to a wheelchair after his accident, W. Mitchell (author, TV host, and businessman) said, “Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do; now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 Ive lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left.”
5. Be aware of your choices
When we act out of habit rather than conscious choice, the path were traveling on is a rut, perhaps even a slippery slope. If we don’t want to end up at the wrong place, we have to be awake. We have to be aware and make our choices consciously. The best way to do this is to develop the habit of always looking for opportunities. Scout Cloud Lee also writes about conscious choice: “When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.”
Look around you. There are great people everywhere. Champions, victors. And they’re all rooting for you. They are voting for you because they want you to win. Unfortunately, you are also surrounded by losers, people who want to drag you down. They are voting against you. Half are for you. Half are against you. How will this closely contested drama turn out? It all depends on you because you will be casting the deciding vote. The ballot is the choices you make. Be careful how you choose!