On Making Choices
If I were standing before you, you would not see an NBA
center. I am too short to be an NBA center. But my height was not my choice,
and is just one example of something in life that is beyond our ability to
But what about all the things in life that we can control by
the choices we make? Many think a choice is simply choosing between preexisting
options; a fork appears in the road of life. Do you turn to the left, or to the
right? Do you choose to purchase Product A, or Product B? This view of what choice
means is too restrictive, too narrow, for every circumstance we meet in life.
Here, we take a different view of choice. We define choice as the ability to create.
Because you don’t have
to choose between just what you happen see in front of you.
You can also choose to create a new option. You are not limited to choosing between an existing
apple or an orange. True choice means recognizing
you have the option to plant an entirely new fruit tree, and eat the fruit of this
fall into the trap of thinking choice is only about choosing between options
that you can currently see, feel, or touch? This is a too narrow, restrictive,
view that denies choice is also about creation. Animals are stuck with choosing
only between options that exist. Are we animals? All a gopher can choose
between is to dig a new hole to live in, or pick a hole that is already dug.
Can a gopher choose to build a house, instead of living in a hole? No. A bear
can choose to swim across the river, or not swim. But can a bear choose to build
a bridge to cross the river? No.
human being your choices are not limited like an animal. You don’t have to live
with, “the way things are.” You are not stuck as you are unless you choose to
be stuck as you are. There are always at least two paths to choose from, but
understand this: One path is always easy,
and it’s only reward is that it was easy. If you limit yourself to only
what seems easy, you compromise yourself. You disconnect yourself from what is
best for you, and all that is left is compromise choice after compromise choice.
If we step back in time, when we were little children our
choices were few to non-existent because our parents (or some adult) did their
duty and were making the choices for us. We were diapered up and cared for. We
were told what to eat, what to wear, when to get up, when to go to bed. As
small children the choice of what to do was made for us by others, which eliminated our own personal
responsibility for the decision and the outcome.
In my case, until I was nine years old I grew up in Los
Angeles near Manchester Ave. and 77th Street. Naturally, as a child
your parents choose where you live, but it didn’t much matter to me as a little
kid. I had my little kid friends on the block, and life was good. Then we moved
to Torrance. Nobody asked for my opinion about moving to Torrance, but mostly nobody
asks a nine year old for their opinion on anything.
But as we grow older, the responsibility for making all the choices
in our daily life is gradually transferred from our parents to be entirely on us.
There are no others to claim the fame for our wise and correct decisions, just as there are no others to blame for our
choices gone wrong. At the end of the day, nobody ever did, and nobody ever
will, escape the consequences of his own free will choices. We will all
stand before God in this manner.
My life is the sum total of the choices I have made, and the
same goes for everyone else. Those that engage in the blame game and fail to
take personal responsibility for where they have been in life, for where they
are today, and for where they are headed tomorrow, will remain lost and not
even know it. It’s just this simple: Whether we recognize it or not, every choice we make moves us closer to, or
farther away, from something.
Who is responsible for the choices affecting your life? YOU
ALONE ARE RESPONSIBLE. Who made the choices that determined who and where you
are right now? YOU DID. Who will make the choices that determine who you are
tomorrow? YOU WILL. Why continue to accept the nonsense that some people will continue
to sell you and manipulate you with? Why
not accept the responsibility for thinking for yourself? I’m sure you understand
there will always be someone to hold you back, put you down, or mislead you.
Pay no attention to them, and consider this:
Perhaps a change in your life is worth considering? One
definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing over and over, and expect a
different result. You’re not going to get a different result if you keep choosing
to do the same things, with the same people.
Since there are no do-overs in life, since we can’t change
the past, would you like to change your
future? Do you understand the future is not some place you are traveling to?
What is the future? The future is a place
you are creating right now. Let me repeat that: The future is not some place you are traveling to— the future is a
place you are creating right now.
All of you are talented at something. It wasn’t your lack of
talent that got you where you are— it
was your choices about how to use your talent that got you where you are, or
are not, in life. Until you acknowledge your choices put you where you are,
you will remain stuck where you are. And I don’t mean physically stuck; I mean
Some of you might think there can be no change while stuck
in the messed up circumstances of your life today. But you misunderstand— those are externals, not internals.
Those are not the changes I am referring to— I am talking about choosing to
change who you are on the inside, not your external surroundings. You can
choose to change who you are on the inside at any time you make up your mind to
Thanks be to God I don’t have any a legacy of misery as
examples to relate to you about my life. Sure, I’ve made some bad choices, but I’m
not going ask you to relate to my pain because I got caught stealing a candy
bar, and had to sit in the corner. But then I realized something: I don’t have
to use a bad choice as an example. You can make the same point that needs to be
made now, by using a good choice. So I’m going to take the good choice path. Instead
of talking about a bad choice and what I learned from it— don’t use drugs, don’t
sell drugs, don’t drink and drive, don’t steal stuff, don’t beat your wife or
your girlfriend, and then explain why making bad choices is bad, I’m going to
talk about making a good choice, in order to teach you a key formula to living a better life. This formula explains the
difference between how you make a good choice, or a bad one.
I think like many adults, I don’t much care for following rules
without a reason. That’s just my nature. Nevertheless, I was a rule follower for
the first ten years of my working career. But after those first ten years a
choice fell into my lap: Should I keep working as an employee for the rest of
my life, or should I quit my job and risk everything I have to start my own
To paint the picture, all the following questions end with
the same answer:
Did I have enough money to start my business? Had I ever owned
a business before? Had I ever managed a business before? Did I have any sales
experience? Had I ever hired or fired anyone before? Did I know anything about
accounting? Did I know where to locate my business? Did I have a banker,
lawyer, or accountant? Did I know anything about franchising?
Of course the answer to every question was, “No.”
So given these facts, what choice did I make? I did start my
own business, but that’s not the important point. The important point is how I made that choice.
You see if I didn’t stop and think things through I would
have been too afraid to start my own business. All of the obstacles in front of
me would have kept me from making the right choice, just because I failed to
think it through and reacted to the first “No” that popped into my mind.
But that small voice that is within all of us said to me,
“Mike, if you step back and think this through— you can make this work.” So, my response was not to react, but to research.
I didn’t run back to my safe job. You
see, a reaction is an emotional reflex. A response is a reasoned, considered, movement.
Am I wrong to think that at some moment before you made bad
choices in your life, a small voice within you said, “Stop. This is wrong. Don’t
do this”? But you did it anyway, didn’t you? You reacted in the moment instead
of taking your time and thinking things through, resulting in a bad choice. There
is a simple formula for this way of life:
Event + Emotional Reaction = Usually the worst choice
Is there a better formula to make choices instead of just
reacting to whatever comes your way? What about this formula for making choices
in your life:
Event + Considered Response = Usually a better choice
Some years before I started my own business and while I was
still an employee on a limited and basically fixed income, I made a real estate
investment that blew up, as in blew up in a bad way. Instead of doing my own homework
and determining the real estate boom was running out of steam, I jumped on the
real estate bandwagon too late and lost a lot of money. But it turned out that
painful lesson was one of the best in my life. I learned not to follow the
crowd, because sometimes the crowd is wrong. I learned not to react, but to
stop and think things through for myself.
Now I want to show you the most common reason why people
continue to make the same bad choices, even after they decide to make a change.
Imagine you are holding in your hand a file folder labeled, “Your Future.” And
now imagine every bad choice you have ever made written on a piece of paper . .
. that you keep filing in this folder! How
can you expect to make better choices, if you keep misfiling past mistakes into
the future file? If you allow your past to perpetually be your future, making
the right choice is impossible. You will stay in the same rut.
It is our choices that
determine the outcome of our life. Perhaps it’s time you tried walking a
new road; the road less traveled.
I’m not a poet. I don’t read poetry, but I want to close
with this little poem called “The Guy in
the Glass,” by Dale Wimbrow:
When you get what you
want in your struggle for self
and the world makes
you king for a day,
then go to the mirror
and look at yourself
and see what that guy
has to say.
For it isn’t your
mother, brother or friends
Whose judgment you
the person whose
verdict counts most in your life
is the one staring
back in the glass
You can go down the
pathway of years
receiving pats on the
back as you pass.
but your final reward
will be heartaches and tears
if you cheated that
guy in the glass.
Do not cheat the guy in the glass. Reread this paper and
learn the techniques of making better choices. Or not. After all, it’s a choice
not a command.