Maybe it’s the new year, but I’ve been thinking a lot about life and how to get the most out of it. Everything I’m about to say may simply be the product of being a white suburban kid from North America, but I think I believe it’s true. The world itself is a metaphor for the course of our lives. It’s wide open; filled with endless variety and experiences. Entirely open ended, what you choose to get out of it is your decision. It’s like… standing in the middle of a field, or on the top of a building on a beautiful day. You feel the sun on your cheeks and the air in your lungs. You can see for miles in every direction, and you look around and realize you could go anywhere. You have all the time in the world and realize you could do anything.
When we’re born, the world is laid out before us. We are tiny, drooly, stinky bundles of sheer potential. As we grow older, we begin to discover who we are. Where our talents lie, what our passions are. We begin choosing the role we want to play in life.. Extrovert? Introvert? Easy going or exacting? Observe or participate? All of these factors and so much more begin coming to together, and they lie deep within us and they begin to take on the shape and form of a real and complex person with likes and dislikes, a sense of style and a taste that is suited solely to them.
By the time you become an adult, you have been given a set of tools that is explicitly tailored to you as a human being. From this point on, whether or not you live up to the centuries of ancestors that led up to your birth is determined by how you choose to wield these tools. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn early on to make “pro-you” decisions.
Here’s the thing… Every day we choose whether or not we’ll flourish or fizzle. The tricky part is that these decisions aren’t huge, life changing decisions– they’re tiny. And rarely is the good decision the easy decision. Do you watch TV for six hours straight when you get home, or do you do something productive? Do you continue to sit in your own filth, or do you take the initiative and clean things up? It’s like interest at the bank. If you spend effort on investing in good habits now, years from now you’ll have a lifestyle that reflects all the “interest” you’ve earned… Not to mention a lot of good habits saved up for a “rainy day”.
And, the rain will come. Maybe you weren’t one of the lucky ones… Maybe instead of staring down upon your domain, you feel like you’re staring at a cell wall. While we all start life as free as a bird, it only takes a few bad choices before we start finding ourselves boxed in by our circumstances. And maybe that’s where you find yourself now… tied down to consequences you wish you could have seen coming.
For you, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is you can’t outrun the consequences. Sooner or later, your choices will catch up with you. The good news is that when they do, making healthy “pro-you” choices will begin to dig a tunnel through which you can escape. The hard part is you have to be proactive in this. You can’t just wait for things to get better if every day you’re making poor choices and adding another lock to the cell.
I guess more than anything, I want this post to be an exhortation. As we enter into a new year, really take some time and decide what you want to do with it. What “pro-you” choices do you need to make this year? Imagine who you hope you will be in a few years. What can you start doing right now to help ensure you become that person? And if the answers you come up with feel too big or too hard… Ask yourself… If not now, then when?