For hundreds of years, people have been fascinated with the game of chess. It is truly a game of infinite possibilities – requiring analysis, concentration, creativity, critical thinking, evaluation, problem solving, and strategic planning…all of which leads to deciding what moves to make. In the end, it is the choices that you make during the game that determine how long you play and, more importantly, whether you win or lose. The same can be said for the choices that we make in our lives – there is POWER in making a CHOICE.
I grew up as a somewhat sheltered, but spoiled kid. I understood early on that my ability to get what I wanted was directly linked to my behavior and the decisions that I made. In addition, my entire being rested in the space of not wanting to disappoint my family on any level. Therefore, when presented with any situation that had the potential of disappointment from my family, I simply made the choice to not participate. In each instance, I would essentially step back and ask myself, “if I do this, how would my family react?” If there was an inkling of a chance that they would disapprove of what I did – I simply didn’t do it. For me, in spite of peer pressure, it was an easy decision to make because I wanted to experience specific things in life more than succumbing to the pressure from my peers. As a result, I rarely got into trouble and made my family extremely proud of me.
As an adult, I’m constantly tuned into the choices that I make in my life. It’s clear that the life I live, good and bad, is the result of those choices. And if you are truly honest with yourself, you would agree that the same is true for you. Yes, there may be outside factors that impact our lives – but at the end of day – we decide how to respond. As my pastor stated one Sunday, “my response to whatever happens in life, is my responsibility.” So if you find yourself in a state of disappointment or looking to change your current positioning – you can decide this day to make different choices. It is the choices we make that determine the outcomes in the various areas of our lives.
To help paint a clearer picture of how this works, I will share with you some of the choices that I’ve made in the following areas of my life this year and the related payoffs:
Like many, over the years, I have struggled with my body weight. At one point, I found myself tipping the scale at 283lbs—the biggest I’ve ever been in my life. And even in the disgust of that number—initially I made no efforts to change it. Several months later, I did a weight-loss challenge with a friend and, at that point, I made the conscious choice to change my eating habits and make exercising an intricate part of my lifestyle.
Now understand, I’m not a fan of cooking, so eating out several times a day was huge for me, and working out was never exciting to me – even when I played basketball. In fact, I can remember how my mind would sabotage me during our pre-conditioning basketball seasons in college. During that time, we had 5am workout sessions and on several occasions I showed up late – which was absolutely unacceptable. However, I would literally be dreaming or envisioning that I was running on the track and hating every moment of it. In my mind, I wasn’t still laying in my bed, I was physically on the field – that is until the phone ranged with my assistant coach on the other end questioning why I was absent.
Therefore, you can imagine that this choice to improve my health not only altered my life, but it was very difficult for me. However, I made the choice and – this is important – then I backed it by making key decisions to support that choice. For example, I only purchase healthy food choices when grocery shopping – so when I go to grab something to eat or snack on, by default I make good choices. In addition, I not only buy healthy foods, but I buy easy-to-prepare foods. I also plan my workout regime at the beginning of each week, so that on the days I work out, I don’t have to give it any thought – I just get up and go. I know that if I have time to think about it, I will convince myself every time not to do it. I’m two months in, over 20lbs smaller, and I have successfully changed my eating habits. I’m now operating on autopilot and loving it. In fact, I’m on target to be under 200lbs by the beginning of the next year, and it all started with making a choice.
MENTAL AND SOCIAL
I am a thinker, I analyze and process everything. And based on my personal experiences and knowledge—I tend to make very good decisions. In that, it is extremely important to me that I’m constantly nurturing my brain. In addition, I recognize that I’m like a sponge—I soak up and absorb whatever is around me—whatever is in my space. Therefore, in order to live the life that I want to live, not only do I choose to read a minimum of one non-fiction book per month, attend educational / developmental type workshops, seminars, etc…I chose to be very selective of the quality of people I allow in my inner circle. I intentionally connect with people that make or require me to be a better person and rise to the next level. I don’t hang around the naysayers, nor, those that attempt to pull me down. I recognize that I have somewhere to go and I need people in my life that are moving forward and not backwards. I am who I am because of the choices I make to consistently grow and develop, and the caliber of the people I choose to connect with.
It’s no secret that I believe in the Almighty God and Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of humanity. Now whether you beliefs differ or align with mine—please know that making the choice to have and nurture some type of spiritual connection is essential to you living your best life. The investment that I make in my spiritual life not only connects me to my Creator, but it unlocks the potential that He put in me so that I can become the person He created me to be. For me this connection helps me to be open to unconditionally loving and serving others. The choice to maintain this connection is the most important of all, because I believe it lays the foundation for my success in life.
I would be remiss to mention that this year has been extremely emotional for me. I can honestly say that I have never been this happy before with where I am, despite of the fact that I believe I have cried more this year than in any other period of my life. In fact, several months ago I went through a two-week span where I cried uncontrollably every day. Now understand, I wasn’t crying because I was sad or depressed—the tears flowed every time I saw a homeless or misfortunate person. They flowed every time I thought about putting my dreams on hold. They flowed just thinking about the difference that I can make in the lives of other people by fulfilling my dreams and doing what I was created to do. This unusual experience showed me how the choices I was making in my life not only defined my current positioning, but how they also affected me from an emotional state of mind.
Now, looking at this from another perspective – this year I decided to have a happy life no matter what. Initially, I didn’t really believe that was 100% possible. However the more I thought about it, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion, WHY NOT! You see it hit me, if I am able to use the power of choices in other areas of my life and see results, why not here? So just like that, I made the commitment to be happy. Now, does that mean that everything is peaches and cream in my life – NO! However, it does mean that I’m in control of how I react to whatever comes my way.
Let me give you an example, last month I took a 4-hour flight from Milwaukee to Seattle. There was a father sitting across from me with a 1-year baby boy. This little baby was as cute as he could be, however he literally cried throughout the entire 4-hour flight. The dad was clueless—I wanted to be like, hey, just hand the baby to me until we land. Approximately 3-hours in, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I was steaming with anger. As I sat there, pissed off, I said to myself—“you are living a happy life, are you really going to sit here mad—get off the flight and take that anger and irritation with you throughout your first day in Seattle?” In that moment, I made the decision to release the anger and be happy. Within a matter of minutes, with the baby still crying, all was well in my world. There was this sense of peace that rained on my entire being and I was all good for the rest of the flight. I arrived at my designation and had an amazing day hanging out with my business partner.
Over the years, I have engaged in a number of conversations about the power of making a choice. For the most part, people agree that there truly is power in making a choice, however a debate whether or not going through a process is necessary or a nature component in making a choice.
For example, is it absolutely necessary for a drug addict to go through a drug rehabilitation process to break the addiction?
Now most would agree that the first step for the drug addict is to make the choice to break the addiction. However, it is not necessary that the drug addict participate in the rehabilitation program to be successful. Now don’t get me wrong here, I truly believe that such programs are beneficial – they definitely support the choice and the structure of the program can make the choice easier and more manageable. Yet, it is not a necessity! There are many people who break various types of addictions independent of any type of program or process – they simply decide and act.
Consequently, I stand on this point, the decision to go through any type of process when making a choice is a choice in itself. This is what I know from experience, it’s a lot harder to make a choice and stand firmly on it without the process, but it is possible. I will end with the following statement, the quality of life that we each live is the direct result of the choices – with or without a process – we make in life, period!