It all started with this NYT Op-Doc
. Then I taught this lesson
at church. Then I was faced with some big decisions in my life and ultimately decided to quit my job and take a four-week sabbatical. What I do next is up in the air so you can imagine that I’ve been thinking a lot about choices this year. And I’ve come to the conclusion that making our own choices is the best and hardest thing we do. I don’t think we take them seriously.
Here’s what I’ve learned about choices in the last few months:
- Self-doubt and hesitation are real and debilitating. The only thing that effectively eliminates them is action.
- We don’t get to choose the actions of others, but we can choose how we respond to them.
- Email, texting, social media, tv shows or other addictions distract from our ability to choose.
- Making passive choices can be as destructive as making wrong choices.
- The reality of individual choice is that only you choose how to spend your energy and your time.
- Assuming responsibility for choices is hard but liberating.
This is a call to arms. It’s time we take back our right to choose. Here are a couple of suggestions that have helped me:
- What is impacting your ability to choose how you spend your energy and your time? Identify where you are passively making choices and take back your right to choose.
- Watch your language: Use the words “I choose to” rather than “I have to” or “I felt” rather than “You made me feel”.
- Assume responsibility by asking the question, “What’s my role in this matter?”
What can you do to take back your power to choose? At a conference I recently attended, Clayton Christensen spoke about the choices he’s made that have had the most impact. He noted that the choices he made on his own free will and desire meant so much more to him and have had greater impact than when someone else had told him to do something. I believe that. Actively making choices breeds happiness and success. So don’t give up your ability to choose.
I met Andrew 7 years ago and have been following him around ever since. We live parallel lives. Not only do we share similar beliefs and hobbies, but we share the same educational background and career—we live in similar worlds while even sharing the same desk space. Six years ago, I wrote a paragraph about why I admired him. Since then, I’ve seen him engaging in academic debates, consulting with federal clients, supervising new employees, presiding over his congregation, teaching his children and going on dates with his wife. You learn a lot about a person when seeing them in such different environments. And since it was his birthday last Saturday, and I feel it’s time to give him a proper tribute. What do I admire about Andrew? He is:
- Authentic. He loves Pixar, biking, and musical theatre; has little interest in sports; cares a ton about his family and church; and rarely consumes pop culture. Andrew makes everything more fun by being true to his creative side. He is who he is– a man without guile, who helps you feel more comfortable in your own skin. People are drawn to him. He shares his interests freely and owns up to what he doesn’t know. If you looked up the word ‘humble’ in the dictionary, you’d probably find a picture of him.
- Loyal. Whether it be God, family, friends, or employer, Andrew decides what he cares about and is unwaveringly loyal. He’s there. He’s all in. I’ve seen him keep commitments to his wife to be home for dinner, to a friend to help with their move, to a client to submit a proposal, or to his church responsibilities – even when he’s exhausted, busy, or both.
- Compassionate. Andrew cares deeply. This shows up most in his family life—the minute you start asking him about his children, you can see the great love he has for them. But it doesn’t stop there – Andrew thinks a lot about others, gives them the benefit of the doubt, and actively supports those around him. He once sent me an email saying that he prayed for me. That simple act of compassion meant the world to me. I’m sure he’s prayed for hundreds of people over the years.
Andrew knows who he is, what he values, and what’s important to him. Then he acts according to that knowledge. I can think of no higher compliment and I aspire to be like him. Happy birthday to one of the greatest humans I know.