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Choices and Challenges

by Danette Finn

As we get older we begin to have more control over how we live our life. We start defining who we are. Many of us are discovering who we are and building communities of our own. While some of us are more sure of ourselves than others, each and every one of us are trying to figure out what we want in life and how to achieve it.  For the first time we are in control of our own lives. There is no one there (like our parents) who limits the choices that we make and thus for the first time there is no one there to stop us or force us to choose a path that they decide is best for us.  The choices that we make have real consequences.  We have to choose to study or fail, to eat or not, who to date and eventually marry, what career to follow, even things as simple as what to do on a Saturday. 

It is easy to believe that we have lost ourselves in all the decisions that we have to make.  That life just carries us where it wants to while we simply watch it happen.  But who we are is not some mythical image that we have to go out and hunt, but simply defined by those small decisions we make each day.  That is what life is all about. We make choices, these create even more choices, and that develops into our Ďlifeí. It is hard to imagine that choosing to hang out with our friends one afternoon instead of studying will affect who we are and how our life will go. But, when two weeks pass and it is suddenly the night before the exam, and you suddenly realize that youíve made the same choice every single night, you suddenly realize that the simple choice has become a value, a priority in your life.  You find that you have decided that having fun with your friends is more important to you then school. If you continue to have that value choice it can determine what school you go to, what college you attend, what career you have, and so on.  Life is built through the choices that we make and the values that we have.

A value is simply those things that have priority in our lives.  It is something that is freely chosen from other options that we constantly act upon. It can be something as clear as whether or not we smoke, if we drink at a party, if we go to the mall for the afternoon or spend the day working at a shelter.  But many times our values are not that clear to us.  We donít always know why we are making the decisions that we do until we look at the bigger picture. Sometimes we think have certain values, but when we actually look at the choices that we make we realize that it isnít as important to us as other things. Sometimes when we find ourselves in a place that we donít want to be in and life seems to explode in our faces it is, the best way to figure out where everything went wrong is to make a list of what choices we made. That way we can figure out what priorities we have set in our lives and thus figure out what values do we want to have.  A value is something that we consistently act on in the choices that we make. If we donít then it is simply something that we say but donít believe.  It should be something that we feel good about and are willing to publicly stand up and affirm. 

Sometimes it is hard to know what the right choice to make is.  Iím not talking about whether or not to kill someone, or to cheat on a test: these things are generally clearly right or wrong. But the small things that donít really seem to hurt anyone can be confusing: studying vs. going to a movie, how far to go with your significant other, whether to clean up or play a video game and so on. The world is so big and diverse with so many options that we never even knew existed that we suddenly realize that the simple list of right and wrong we had as children is much more incomplete then we realized. For myself, I have found a way to figure out what the right choice to make is. I find that when I start having to defend my choice, even if just to myself, if I have to vindicate it even before I make the decision, then I already know what that choice should be.  If I have to convince myself that a can make that choice then it probably isnít what I should do.  When I start saying the phrase Ďitís not going to hurt anyoneí or ĎIíll make up for it laterí or even Ďitís just such a pain in the buttí, then I know that I am making the wrong decision for me because if I were making the right one, it would have never occurred to me to defend it in the first place. Of course this doesnít always happen, but more often then not it works.  

Choices are important things. We can all look back at our lives and see where the choices that we have made have had a strong impact on where we ended up today.  These are the Ďwhat ifí moments of our lives. What if I had taken that job, what we hadnít moved, what if I had said yes instead of noÖour responses to the challenges that we face define who we are.  Small decisions or large it important to understand that life is about action. If we do not take responsibility for shaping our own reactions to what life throws at us then we have not truly lived our own lives.  It is important not to simply go along with an arbitrary guideline for how are supposed to behave because there is no rulebook that applies to everyone. Last year I had a lot of freshmen come to me upset looking for advice. They all had the same question: There must be something wrong with me because I am not going out partying on the weekends.  When questions furthers they each admitted that they hated going to frat parties and clubbing, but they thought that it was what they were suppose to do because they were college students and that was what college students were suppose to do on the weekends. They were all unhappy because who they were did not mesh with who they thought they were supposed to be.  This is the problem with trying to make the choices that other people tell you to make.  In each case I had to reassure my friends that it was more then ok to be who they were, to have their own interests.  One of the great things about the world is that we are all different, and that we all have something to offer. 

Some follow up questions:

bulletWhat are some choices that you have made?  Why did you choose what you did?
 
bulletAre you careful about the choices that you make?
 
bulletWhat are some challenges that you have encountered? How did you respond? (This can also become skits that they create.)
 
bulletWhat are some fears or expectations that you have?
 
bulletName some values that are important to you.
 
bulletWhat priorities have you actually made?
 
bulletWhat direction do you CHOOSE to go?
 
bulletWhat is the biggest battle you fight with yourself?

Copyright © 2004 by Danette Finn
Last updated August 01, 2016


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