A few years ago I was visiting my brother and his wife in another part of the state. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and we went to my sister-in-law’s parents’ house for lunch. Her brother, sister, and brother-in-law were there, as well as her sister’s two children.

“Are you going to make good choices today?” her sister said to her kids as they ran off to play. Her tone was sunny, but there was a shadow of consequences lurking behind.

I thought it was an interesting parenting tactic. I grew up in the era of “Do it because I said so.” The concept of free will and the good or bad outcomes that result was never quite as defined as this woman laid it out for her children. The responsibility–and burden–of personal choice was not an option.

Not that my 1980s-era parents weren’t teaching me the difference between right and wrong, but there was something different about the way this woman set expectations in that moment. They weren’t expected to do the right thing just because Mom said so. They had the responsibility of making the choice to do the right thing for themselves as well. 

I liked that she was teaching her kids personal accountability. As I mentioned before, there is a weight of responsibility with the expectation to “make good choices,” but there is also a freedom that comes with being able to make choices. Everything we do is a choice, even if we choose to do an action that another person tells us (or pays us) to do. If you can’t choose the action you are doing, can you still choose your attitude and outlook about it? 

We can shape our outcomes, relationships, and achievements by the choices we make. We can shape our personal outlook, thoughts, and emotions by making choices. Back when I was doing a lot of dumb things and blaming other people for it I didn’t realize that the results I was getting were based on the choices I was making. Once that pattern started to emerge I felt a great sense of relief. I couldn’t control what other people did, but I could control the way I responded through good choices. 

Whether you’re eight or eighty you do have the power to get the results you want through choices. I don’t want to discount things that happen to people that are beyond their control–some people truly are the victim of circumstance. Hopefully within that they can still find some kind of power to choose, even if it’s just a mindset.

Once you recognize your power to choose, you’ll see opportunities pop up more often. You’ll be able to reframe a situation in a different way (e.g., I don’t have to go to work; I choose to go to work, because technically I can choose to not go and face whatever results come with that choice). You can choose to address challenges. You can choose to approach situations with a positive outlook. You can choose how you respond to others. With choice comes freedom, and with freedom (hopefully) comes more happiness and acceptance in life. 

Are you going to make good choices today?

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