It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. —J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
In the days leading up to the ceremony itself, I was struck by the immensity of the decision. These two individuals are choosing to spend the rest of their lives together. They are making a vow in front of God and family that, no matter what happens, they will stand by one another for as long as they both shall live. Wow! That is commitment.
As I considered the enormity of these moments, I realized that the key here was choice. They chose each other as their partner in life, and in so doing, chose a direction for their life together. Setting aside the emotionally powerful setting and spiritual element of this particular decision, there is a wonderful model here for all of us as we look forward in our own lives.
The Power of Choice
Our life is a collection of choices. The most important choice we can make is who we want to become. This isn’t just a vocational choice, though we’ll face that. This isn’t just a geographical choice, though that may be part of it. This isn’t simply a relationship choice, though relationships are certainly critical to who we become. Choosing who we want to become is a daily choice of behaviors that lead to some future version of our self.
Choosing who we want to become is a daily choice of behaviors that lead to some future version of our self.
In the example above, Madison and Ryan have chosen a future for their lives based on a relationship commitment. They see themselves in the context of this choice and are moving intentionally in that direction – each has chosen to become something more together. From here on out, they will make daily choices which will refine and redefine that original decision. In this way, they will build a life together but they will also be building their individual lives in the reflection of their original decision.
In a few weeks, my first book, Stones Across the River, will be published. As I’ve gone through the editing process and spent more time with the content than I ever thought possible, I’ve seen a number of themes emerge. The book is about finding a path to the best version of your self and “choice” emerges as a central element in walking that path. So often, we limit ourselves based on the choices of others: regulators, spouses, co-workers, siblings, bosses, etc. Why do we do this?
Though some of these limitations are essential to a functioning society, more often than not, they are self-imposed limiters to our possibilities. We become victims of our preconceived notions and assumptions about what is or isn’t possible or we allow ourselves to be defined by someone else. As we move on in life, we forget to choose who we want to become and end up buffeted along by life’s waters until we all reach the same final destination.
Choosing who you want to become is the ultimate in self-empowerment. It is not being afraid to make a lifelong commitment to another human being because you know that you control the 10,000 choices that you have to make during that relationship. It is choosing a certain career because you see potential and then shifting later when circumstances change. It is choosing to treat people in a certain way because your values dictate that behavior. It is choosing to say “no” to things that move you away from your best self and saying “yes” to those things which move you closer.
Along the way, we have so many opportunities to trip, pick our self up, and make another choice. We have the gift of a chance to course correct, time and again. The flip side is that we are creatures of habit. Often, we tend to make similar choices over time that are defaults to patterns we reinforce again and again. This only becomes trickier as we age. Inertia is a powerful force.
So, who will you choose to become? Will you cede your power to others or to your own habits? Or will you seize those opportunities to become more? At twenty, thirty, fifty, seventy and beyond – you always have choices. Remember that previous mistakes, bad habits, the perceptions of others, or circumstances need not define your future self. What you become begins with today’s choices. Choose wisely.
But until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.” —Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change