If you were to ask me, “What are the five to ten most important lessons everyone should learn early in life?” one of them would undoubtedly be the title of this post, “First you make your choices, then your choices make you.”
Why? Because it would eliminate excusitis and not taking responsibility from the lives of everyone who believed and practiced it. Life isn’t something that just happens to us, our lives are made by how we respond to what happens to us and by how we choose to act moment-by-moment throughout the course of a day (followed by how we choose to act week-by-week, month-by-month and year-by-year).
Your destiny/future/legacy isn’t defined by a few “great moments,” it’s defined by what you choose to do day in and day out. It’s defined by the little choices (good or bad) that you consistently choose to make. No one forces you to make them, you choose to make them.
One of the lies that so many people buy into is the lie that this “one thing” won’t really affect me that much. But rarely is that one thing found in isolation. Just a little more dessert doesn’t seem like a big deal, but that choice, made consistently, does affect that person.
First we make our choices, then our choices make us.
Remember, no one wakes up one day and discovers, “Hey, I’m overweight.” They become overweight because of a long series of choices (choosing to watch a television program vs. working out, choosing to eat a donut vs. eating a handful of carrots, choosing to play video games vs. playing on a sports team, etc.).
A Truth You Can’t Avoid
Every day you are confronted with a wide variety of choices. For example, instead of reading this life lesson, you could be sleeping or cooking dinner or working out or reading a book or playing a game or watching a television program or playing chess or mowing the lawn or planting a tree or … There are literally thousands of choices of what you can do at any given moment.
However, here’s the truth you can’t avoid. No matter what you choose (good or bad), once you choose that thing, you’ve just said, “No!” to every other option possible. For example, if you’re still in school, and you choose to study for an exam, you’ve just said “No” to talking with your friends or watching TV or listening to music or playing a game, etc.
On the other hand, if you say, “Yes” to hanging out with your friends, you’ve said “No” to all of those other options above (like studying for your exam). Once you make a choice, you’ve cut off every other option.
But, here’s the deal, once you’ve made a choice, you’ve also just set in motion a series of outcomes which will then shape and influence you (and, in many cases, if you consistently make the same choice, for the rest of your life). For example, if you choose to stay up late watching TV, then you’ve not only said, “No!” to everything else (from sleep to studying to devotions, etc.), you’ve also set in motion a whole series of other outcomes (like being tired the next day, not being mentally sharp, etc.). And if you keep making that same choice, you’ll consistently be tired and not as mentally sharp as you could be—and your destiny will not be as bright as it could have been.
First you make your choices, then your choices make you. You cannot avoid this truth.
This is Especially True for Negative Choices
Now, logically, this truth is the same for positive vs. negative choices, but since most of us struggle with the negative side, give me a little lattitude on the logic for a moment because this is where most of us as human beings struggle. And the struggle is with believing lies like, “This isn’t a big deal,” “It’s just once,” “No one will know, ” “Everyone is doing it,” etc.
But, remember, first you make your choices than your choices make you. For example,
- If you choose to go out with your friends to a “party” or bar, you are putting yourself at risk for a roofie or getting drunk and doing something you’ll regret later or staying up too late and then being off the next day, etc.
- If you choose to vent in anger, you’ll probably say some things you’ll regret later and you’ll either have to do some major relational repair or you might even end up destroying a relationship permanently
- If you choose to consistently spend more than you have coming in you’ll end up living with the stress of living paycheck to paycheck
- If you choose to not report all your income (or pay your taxes on time), you’ll end up with tax liens
- If you choose to not pay all your bills on time, you’ll end up with a terrible credit rating that will affect every other future purchase
- If you choose to avoid getting exercise and eating right day after day, you’ll end up overweight, sluggish, and with a series of medical problems
The life you’re living today is the result of all the choices you’ve made in the past. So, do the extrapolation work. If the life you’re living now is the result of all the choices you’ve made in the past, what does that say about your future? Exactly. That your future will be determined by the choices you make today and tomorrow and the day after that.
In other words, if there’s something you don’t like in your life right now, it’s because you’ve made a series of bad/unwise choices in the past that have brought you to that place (note: I’m not counting the bad choices of others for today’s discussion). Once you own those choices, stop doing them. You can create an entirely new future starting today by just changing your choices.
First you make your choices, then your choices make you.
The Key to Making Better Choices
So, how do you go about making better choices? Answer: By getting clarity on what you want to achieve (note: I’ll write an entire post on this, but for now, this will get you started) and then making sure EVERY CHOICE you make takes you in that direction. For example,
- If you want straight A’s (a Johnson tradition), then make sure every day that you’re making the choices that will get you there. Don’t hope you’ll get an A, do the work. Study, listen in class, complete your homework, take the practice exams, ask your teacher questions, etc.
- If you want to be a star athlete, then make sure every day that you’re eating right, getting enough rest, practicing harder than anyone else, working on your mental game, studying your sport and competitors, etc.
- If you want to build a multi-million dollar business, make sure every day you get to work early, focus on generating sales, build a great team, make great strategic choices, cast vision daily, etc.
- If you want to build a great relationship with God, make sure every day that you spend time with Him in His Word, pray throughout the day, choose to obey Him (i.e. avoid sin), focus on serving others, use your gifts, etc.
- If you want to build a great marriage, make sure every day that you sow seeds of love, that you take time to listen to your spouse, that you encourage them, serve them and breathe life into them, that you make time for them on your schedule, that you continually reaffirm your love for them, etc.
No matter what it is that you want to do, make sure you’re absolutely clear on what you want to do, be, have and/or feel and then make sure, out of all the possible choices of what you could do, that you make the best choice possible that will take you in that direction—and do that every single day.
Why? Because a life/destiny doesn’t just happen. It’s built day-by-day based on the choices you make. So, choose wisely. No one arrives at greatness or their dreams by accident. They arrive there because they made a series of wise decisions, day-by-day that got them there. Likewise, no one arrives at a place of destruction by chance (apart from an accident). They arrive there because they made a series of unwise decisions, day-by-day that led them there. It’s always the same formula.
First you make your choices, then your choices make you.