Choose Your Own Adventure: The Underrated Power of Personal Choice

18 11 2011

If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s and read any books, you’ll probably remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels you could get from the school library. You would start reading, and after the first three or four pages, you would get to a point where YOU could decide how the main character in the story would react to an event or choice he had. If you decide to follow the shady man with the grey hat, turn to page 12. If you decide to stay at the bar and keep an eye on the mysterious waitress, turn to page 16. Once you made that choice, you would read another few pages then have to make another choice. Each book had 10-20 different endings, depending on the choices you made for the main character! How cool were those books.

Life is very much the same. We all start on pretty much the same first 2-3 pages (years?), with the exception of the extremely underprivileged. It’s then not too long before we start having to make choices – about the things we do, what we say, and the way we respond to our people and circumstances. All of those choices out together, have made you the person you are today, and created the circumstances you are in.

The downside of this can be recognising the significance of your own responsibility for the negatives in your life right now. The upside however is realising that you have had a huge part to play in most of the good things in your life right now.

 

Most of us have a tendency to lean too far to one extreme in our views of our own responsibility for our circumstances. Half of us blame ourselves for all the bad things, but fail to recognise the good things we’ve achieved. The other half of us blame everything negative on our circumstances or other people, and give ourselves complete credit for everything good that’s happened. Neither of these are correct or healthy. The key is to recognise that life and people around us DO throw us plenty of opportunities as well as difficulties; yet the challenge lies in making the most of the opportunities, and overcoming the difficulties. Some things are beyond our control, but what we DO have control over is our own response and the choices we make. And in the long run, the choices WE make have much more impact than external factors, in creating the life we end up with.

In  the incredible book Man’s Search for Meaning, Nazi concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl talks of this responsibility being one of the deep realisations he experienced while enduring some of the worst circumstances known to mankind. This quote from his book sums it up better than anything I could say:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…  And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

 So where does all this leave us?

1. You are ultimately responsible for where you are – and WHO you are, today. Circumstance has its part, but your responses & choices have led you to the good & bad in your life today.

2. That realisation can be tough, but it’s also liberating, because it opens up the realisation that the shape of your future is up to nothing else and no-one else but YOU. What are you going to decide?

YOU create your life every day. In the small things… YOU decide whether or not you’re going to get up when the alarm goes off, what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, and how to get to work. And as YOU run into people throughout the day, YOU decide how to respond to them, how to treat them, and who to avoid. YOUR intentions for the day affect what YOU do, what YOU experience, and how YOU experience it. In the same way, on a bigger scale, the whole trajectory of YOUR life is created by YOUR choices.

“All I have are the choices that I make.” – Matt Damon, The Adjustment Bureau

“If you only had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted …one moment.. Would you capture it or just let it slip?” – Eminem

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3 responses

18 11 2011
Nel

I should really read that book by Victor Frankl. A teacher of mine spoke of it greatly in college but I didn’t care much for it.

Thanks for your insights on this post, Quinton.

6 01 2012
Joy

Very true, Que. I enjoyed reading this. Your loving Mama !

9 01 2012
Quinton McCauley

Thanks Mum! I wrote it all myself too 😉 ..need to do it more, everything else (work?) is taking up too much time. Focusing on rebalancing now, and it’s going well so far this year 🙂 love you xo

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