When I Grow Up

Make Good Choices

When her kids were young, I heard my neighbor say these words to them every time they went off on their own. What powerful words – “Make good choices.” This could very well be a mantra for us all to live by. Of course, this means something different when saying it to a 6 year old for a playdate, but making good choices has an impact on everyone.

Good choices for a child include looking both ways before crossing the street, sharing toys, saying please and thank you, and using words instead of fists. As we get older, the number of choices increases and are more complicated: who do we choose as friends or dates, what activities to pursue, how much time to dedicate to learning. The most challenging: Which good choice to make. Sometimes the options are just different, so how do we determine which one is best for us? Sometimes we don’t even know all the available options.

There are big choices: getting married, having kids, buying a house. These are often called life-changing choices. Thinking about it, though, aren’t all choices life-changing? Choosing to get out of bed and out of the house has distinctly different results than staying in bed all day.  Choosing what to eat or drink and whether and how much to exercise affects our health, our mindset, and potentially our personal interactions and can have long lasting effects. How we communicate with others impacts our relationships. Choosing to have a positive attitude has the potential to make or break someone else’s day. Choosing how we react to others affects our own days.

Smiling at the harried salesperson instead of berating them for something out of their control, or at the mother with the tantruming toddler in the middle of the aisle doesn’t take much effort, but can make a difference in their lives. We have all gotten the emails about the people who decided that life was worth living because of a random kindness. The movie Pay it Forward started a kindness movement of its own. Much has been made of the so-called “butterfly effect.” Our actions have an impact on other living beings, both good and bad, and oftentimes without our intent or even awareness that it is happening.

That is not to say that we are responsible for other people’s happiness. It is up to each individual to decide how to react to life events. This is also a choice. When hit with challenges, you can face them and work to solve them, or you can curl up and hide from them. On a simple, day to day basis, we can choose to be happy. Comments can usually be interpreted in different ways. Why not pick the most flattering one? Choose to accept them as compliments rather than as insults. Take a moment before reacting when you don’t like someone’s tone or attitude. Maybe that person is having a bad day. Try to not take things personally.

There is a lot of anger in the world today. Justified? Maybe, but it’s not terribly productive. Anger is a crippling emotion, it is ugly, a black spot on your soul. It may get you motivated to take action, but will likely not take you far. To get people to work with you, you need to be positive. The best leaders lead by example and are inspirational. They bring out the best in others.

Turning anger around into something positive is a challenge. It requires a change in mindset and giving up power. The paradox here is that you actually gain power by giving up anger. You gain the power over yourself. Acting out of anger is not rational or logical. Staying angry at someone for an extended amount of time is actually giving them the power – the power to affect your happiness. Think about it: is anyone or anything worth relinquishing your happiness for? Isn’t happy a better state of being?

You can wish yourself happy. Look for the good. See the positives. Stop and look for the beauty around you (it is there). Smile. Be nice. Making good choices makes the world a better place.

I think happy is a good choice.