The Power of Choice
“Life is a sum of all your choices. So, what are you doing today?” - Albert Camus
Many of our personal and professional landscapes are littered with broken promises, good ideas left to wither and die on paper, unfulfilled goals, and missed opportunities. Accompanying these, are often a litany of excuses, sometimes valid ones. More often than not though, it was by choice that promises were broken, ideas left untested, goals unfulfilled, and opportunities missed. We may not realize it, but the power of choice resides in our hands, if we choose to exercise it.
Yes, that sounds a bit harsh as I reread it. However, it isn’t intended to be.
As a mentor of mine once advised, “Don’t say you don’t have time to do something, you have twenty-four hours in day, seven days in a week. You simply are choosing to do something else with your time.” His example, the person who comes home and sits on the couch watching several hours of TV a night, only to complain the next day that enough time doesn't exist to work out, read, or take a class, or spend time with his or her family. The fact is, whether consciously or not, a choice was made by this person to prioritize watching television over other pursuits.
I’ve been there. At times, I am this person.
I’m not arguing that there is a choice in every situation. Someone doesn’t choose to get laid off, reorganized, or re-imagined. You don’t always get to choose your job (I wanted to play center field for the NY Yankees). Accidents happen that are beyond our control. People don’t choose to die at a certain time or stage of their life.
But you can choose how you do you treat those you love, whether or not you are present in the moment. You can choose how you do your job, and to an extent, whom you work for and what you value. You can choose how you treat the people around you, how to deal with things that happen that you can’t control. How you conduct yourself. How you live your life. Whether or not to surround ourselves with what enriches you, makes you better, makes you happy. Or, allow negative thoughts to consume you. Those are always choices.
There isn’t always a good choice within the options that you have before you. Often we are faced with the lessor of two evils. Difficult decisions, yet we still have the power to make those decisions, to chart our own course and take action, if we invest the time and energy into finding as many options as possible.We must choose wisely, and with intent. Appreciating both the short term and long term impact of the decisions we make. Own each decision that we make and not blame others if we end up following the wrong path. But we can’t fear failure and let it paralyze us and prevent us from trying different paths because, for the most part, a single choice won’t define you.
We have the ability to learn from our choices, double back, chart a new course, and move forward. Never underestimate the value of mentors, family and friends, those who have traveled similar paths before you. You can still be strong and ask for help, for advice and guidance. No one person will ever be able to give you the right answer, or make the decision for you. What fun would that be? But often, taking the time to ask, listen, and absorb can make the path a little bit clearer, and the obstacles that you face a easier to overcome.
One thing we should never do, is abdicate our ability to make a choice. Too often, people make decisions simply by not exercising their power of choice. It sounds strange, but this is a decision making process that I’ve seen many employ, both within business and personal situations. Long before a deadline, a person may have several viable options. Perhaps not enough information to accurately predict success, but instead of taking a chance, people let their options disappear one by one until the decision is made for them. “But I didn’t have an option. . .I didn’t have any choices.”
The good news is, as Albert Camus put it, “life is the sum of all your choices”. No single choice defines you, so whatever you have done up until now, has merely prepared you for the rest of your journey.
So, what are you doing today?!