Section 1: FOCUSING ON GOODNESS
CHOICES AND GOODNESS
Good Choices, Good Life
We believe this to be one of the more important lessons in our library. That’s because the better we understand the role of choices in our life and take full responsibility for the ones we make, the better we can manage our life and ultimately what we achieve with it. As we have stated in other lessons, the goodness resulting from your life, while stimulated by God’s Spirit within, is still subject to the choices you make. So, through your choices, you have the last word…whether you do or whether you don’t.
Choices are the focal point of living.
We actually live our lives through the choices we make.
You could argue that it’s the most important thing we do.
Life Doesn’t Just Happen
Granted, there are some things about our lives that we can’t control. For example, our lives come pre-equipped with certain physical characteristics and, to some degree, a mental perspective about ourselves and our surroundings. In effect, we’ve been given a “car” to drive, but how well we treat our car including the maintenance we provide, how safely we drive it, and whether we keep it in good condition will determine how well our car will perform over the years. If we take good care of it, our car will likely provide us with miles and miles of reliable travel. If we don’t, if we neglect the important needs that it has, it is very likely that our car will have problems. We may, at some point, find ourselves stranded “on the side of the road.”
Well, our lives work much the same way. We have to take good care of the life we have been given if we want it to perform well over the long haul. This includes such factors as our physical conditioning, our food intake, our education, our work or career, our treatment of others, and much more. The better we perform in managing these fundamental things, the better the life we will have.
How do we do this? We do it through the choices we make. Life doesn’t just happen. We live it, shape it, and develop it through the choices we make each day.
Thinking About the Power of Choice
Intuitively, we know we need to “make good choices,” but beyond that we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the power of the choices we make. In fact, we’re so busy with our daily routines—including work, school, sports, and family activities—that we seldom stop to think about the choices that are required to manage our lives effectively.
Unfortunately, we can live our entire lives without gaining a good understanding of how our choices define who we are and ultimately what we achieve.
To bring this subject into greater focus, we developed Living with Goodness to help you consider the choices you are making in your life. We’re not saying you will find all of “the answers” here, and that was never our intention. In fact, the ultimate answers about your life can only come from you. We would, however, like to stimulate your thinking. Our objective, therefore, is to help you think about the power of your choices and motivate you to make any choices needed to effectively guide the way you are living your life.
All Important Accomplishments Start with a Choice
Many important things have been accomplished by people over time. While the types of activities involved vary greatly, all individuals have one thing in common. Their achievements started with a choice. It was a personal choice they made that set things in motion. While other choices may have been needed along the way, even modifications to their original thinking, it was that initial choice that framed the outcome. In effect, it was the primary catalyst, or reason, that led to the ultimate result.
Looking back in history, these famous accomplishments all started with an important choice:
Christopher Columbus made the choice to “sail west” without a map and without any prior knowledge and discovered new lands where millions of people live today.
Henry Ford made the choice to start an automobile company that led to the automotive production line and a company that today sells and services cars throughout the world.
Dr. Jonas Salk made the choice to perform medical research that led to the development of the polio vaccine and the eradication of the disease throughout the world.
Looking to more recent times, others, some very young, have made important choices too:
Michael Phelps made the choice to start swim training at a very young age, won his first Olympic gold medal at age 19, ultimately winning 23 gold medals, the most of all time.
Malala Yousafzai made the choice to advocate for Pakistani girls’ right to learn to read and attend school and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at age 16.
Zach Bonner made the choice at the age of 13 to walk 2,500 mile from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean to raise money and public awareness for the needs of the homeless.
There are thousands of other examples where people, young and old, made the choice to do something—maybe not as newsworthy as those above—but very important nevertheless. A choice to drive the elderly neighbor to the doctor, to help a family in need in some special way, to teach English to immigrant children, to be a friend to a lonely student, and more. The point here is this: All good and important accomplishments in life start with a choice. We don’t accomplish important things by just “showing up.” We have to make the choice to actually do something.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
You Are Defined by the Choices You Make
The choices you make each day define who you are and how your life impacts those around you. You make the choice to be a nice and polite person today or, alternatively, say sarcastic or demeaning things to those around you. You make the choice to work exceptionally hard to accomplish some important things today or just coast along and take your chances. You make the choice whether you’re going to go out of your way to help someone in need today or just “coast along” and use the day for personal enjoyment.
The point of this lesson is that everything you do each day starts with a choice. Good choices typically lead you to do good things. Bad choices, just the opposite. A good choice, especially a very important one, has the power to steer your life in a direction that leads to significant accomplishments. Make enough good choices and you can develop a very meaningful and successful life.
Excellence is never an accident.
It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution.
It represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
Choice, not chance, determines your destiny.
Examples of the Power of Choices
Here are two real-life examples that were in the news recently and clearly show the role and power of our choices in our lives:
RJ was 18 and a high school senior in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He overcame poverty, having to live in a homeless shelter for several years, medical emergencies due to migraine headaches, and bullying by classmates to graduate as valedictorian of his class. He was accepted on full scholarship to Harvard. He made the choice to study hard in spite of some real-life difficulties. That choice is paying off and defining his life in a very special way.
DH was 16 and a school dropout in Baltimore, Maryland. He quickly developed a police record that included four stolen cars and multiple home robberies. He capped off his string of bad choices by running over police officer Amy Caprio, 29, and killing her. He was stealing jewelry when the officer tried to intervene. Judge Sally Chester told his attorney, “Your client is a one-man crime wave.” Clearly, bad choices are very powerful too.
Both of these young men were teenagers. Both were high school students. Both had difficult circumstances growing up. Both were influenced, sometimes bullied, by classmates. The difference was in the choices they made.
Life is a matter of choices,
and every choice you make makes you.
John C. Maxwell
To Maximize the Power of Your Choices
As we march along in life making many choices every day, it’s very beneficial to have some “house rules” or points to keep in mind that can guide our choices and help us maximize the power of them in good and helpful ways. Here are three points that we offer to help you make good and positive choices. Please read them several times and remember them if you can:
We are here for each other
You and I are not here to live our lives just for ourselves, but to help others have better lives as well. If there is a secret to living a meaningful and fulfilling life, it’s remaining mindful of the needs of others and helping others in your own special and unique way.
Our life has a built-in purpose
If we are attentive to our interests, our abilities, our feelings, and the needs of others, our purpose will at some point become clear to us. You and I are here for a reason . . . to do something special with our lives. It’s up to each of us to determine what that is.
There is some goodness in everyone
No matter our past, we still have the opportunity to increase the goodness our life produces. The past is the past. But the future depends on the choices we are willing to make from this day forward. We have the potential to do a lot of good for others if we make the choices to do so.
We need to remain mindful of how powerful our choices can be in shaping our lives and impacting others. For example, concerning the three points outlined above.
But Remember…No Choice, No Power
Going along with someone when you know something is wrong is a choice itself. It’s a poor way of avoiding the responsibility for making a choice you know you should make. This is especially true when you “go along” and do or say something that you know isn’t right or hurts another person.
So, we finish this lesson with a simple point . . . for a choice to impact or guide your life, you first have to make it. Sounds a bit simplistic doesn’t it, but it’s true. Have you ever heard someone make a statement like one of these?
“Well, I’m just going along to get along.”
“Whatever happens, happens.”
“I’m a go-with-the-flow type of person.”
Often, such statements are spoken when, rather than standing up against words or actions that we know are questionable, we just “go along” with things. Such an action, or more accurately an inaction, infers agreement to let the other person do the thinking and make the choice concerning what we are about to do or say. It sounds friendly, but it is a very lazy and somewhat dangerous way to live. Yes, it’s much easier to “go along” with someone than to stand up for what you believe is the right thing for you to do or say, but just going along with someone significantly diminishes the role your personal choices play in defining your life.
Manage Your Choices. Manage Your Life
Take a few minutes now to think about how powerful your choices really are. You can use them to accomplish good, meaningful, even great things with your life. Or they can be used to create difficulties, hurt other people, and be the reasons you miss the opportunity to do something special. No question, our choices define the individuals we are today and ultimately who we will be in the future. Managing the power of choice . . . that’s what life is all about.
It isn’t how much you do that counts,
but how much you do well, and how often you decide right.
Can you give two choice examples of your own—one a good choice and the other a poor one—and describe what happened as a result of each?
Do you know someone who made a difficult but important choice that helped another person?
Describe their choice and how it affected others.
What will you do when you have your next important choice to make?