Throw a stone into the placid face of a pond and you can watch the ripples spread out in ringlets for some time. If it’s a windless day, you might even watch those ripples reach the other side.
It’s the same principle with the choices we make. Our actions and our words have the power to reverberate outward, each ripple creating a possible outcome in our future. Some of these ripples may be small, and the effects only temporary. Others may alter the rest of our lives.
A teenager who gives into peer pressure and tries her first cigarette may be setting herself up for a lifetime of struggle with addiction, and even long-term health issues. A father who speaks an unkind word to his young son may inflict a wound in the boy that resurfaces again and again as the boy grows into a young man.
Obviously this cause and effect isn’t only negative. The choice to start exercising today will have long-term positive effects on your life over time, if you keep at it. A kind word to a stranger wrestling with suicidal thoughts could offer them the strength they need to overcome their demons.
What am I saying here? There is power in the choices we make. There is power in the words we use, whether we are speaking to others or speaking within ourselves. There is power in our actions. And yet, how often do we give thought to how we wield this power from day-to-day?
This isn’t pop psychology. I’m not talking about some kind of mind over matter. If you want to have a better marriage you have to work on it daily. If you want to be a writer you have to write often. If you want bad things to stop happening in your life you have to start making better choices.
The choices we make today will affect tomorrow. They will affect the next day and the next. We are either digging ourselves a hole or we are building a foundation upon which we will climb.
Sometimes things happen that are outside of our control. Sometimes these things are terrible and have the power to tear us in two. But we do have control over how we respond.
I had a friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer several years ago. Even in the face of death, he was determined to hold onto joy. He refused to let his diagnosis eclipse how he faced his final days. He said that joy was a choice, and that no matter how he felt or how dark the days might get, he would choose joy in spite of it all.
His testimony and courage changed my perspective.
You may be facing something bigger than yourself, something that will take the help of others to overcome. Reach out for help. You have that choice. Pray. Don’t roll over and give up. Don’t exchange your choice for a lie.
The lie says that you are helpless. The lie says that you have no control. That somehow you deserve this. Or maybe it’s someone else’s fault. Ever feel like that?
Don’t let the lie rob you of making the choices that can get you to where you want to be.
Taking ownership. We have to be willing to have an honest and open assessment of our lives and the direction we’re heading. This means looking at the things that are holding us back, the circumstances we return to in our mind that have become the reason we’re not getting anywhere. We have to be willing to take ownership of what is ours and to let go of what isn’t ours to own.
Sometimes this will take more time than just a day. Some of us have deep wounds that go back years. Some of these wounds may require counseling to find freedom. This is a crucial choice to make, friends. Find a good bible based counselor or psychologist, or consult your pastor. Freedom is the answer, and the reward is so worth it.
Where do you want to be? Have you ever considered who you want to be? Or where you want to be in life? As children we often dream about what we will become. Maybe a baseball player or a rock star. But we do this without really understanding what it takes to become those things. The dream slips away the more life gets in the way. This is how many of us treat our own desires as adults.
Take a few moments to sit down and think about what you want your life to look like. Be bold. Listen to your heart. God has given each of us desires that echo our purpose and talent. Sometimes we push these away or bury them out of fear, or a false belief that we’ll never reach those dreams. Let go for a moment and let those things surface.
After you have considered what it is you want your life to look like, take a hard look at where you are today. No matter how far you feel the distance is between who you are today and who you want to be, the first step in bridging that distance is acknowledging and accepting where you are right now.
What will it take to get from where you are today to where you want to be? What things do you need to do? What things need to change? Habits, beliefs, activities? I’m not telling you to go out and quit your job and take up guitar lessons. Be realistic in this assessment. But the truth is that most of us are not where we want to be because we are not doing the necessary things daily to get us there.
Remove the critics. There is no space in our lives for negative people. You know who they are. The ones that will tell you that you can never be great. Or perhaps they hold you back with peer pressure. Sometimes they even use scripture to beat you down. These people don’t want you to rise because they themselves are stuck. Misery loves company.
My dad always told me that we will become who we hang out with. The power of our peers can be incredible. Make sure that you are surrounded by people who model the behavior and beliefs that you want to embrace in your own life.
Keep your eye on the goal. It will take more than will power to do the things you’ve determined are necessary to get you to where you want to be. It will take discipline. Think of the body builder or the runner training for a marathon. Every day they make choices to sacrifice the things that don’t matter for the things that will prepare them to reach their goal.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “But one thing I do – Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
Set your goal before you and don’t take your eyes off of it. Be diligent. Be disciplined. Be realistic but determined. Quitting is a choice, but so is getting back up after you fall.
Be responsible. Changing the direction in your life doesn’t mean completely detaching yourself from the responsibility you hold to a spouse or children, or from the commitments you’ve made to others. Unless those commitments are truly toxic. I know this goes without saying. But I have known many men and women who have left a wake of chaos for the people who love them the most because they have suddenly decided to redirect their life, only to realize later they made a grave mistake. This is why seeking counsel from the wise before making any life altering decisions is good advice.
Our purpose is found in God. From the moment of our conception, God has woven into our DNA certain talents and abilities. As we grow, our desires, the things that move us, often hint at or reflect these God-given talents. The reason for this is because we are all created with a destiny. We are all created to live purpose driven lives that have great meaning.
It is important to mention this because I don’t believe we will ever be fully alive and find the kind of meaning we are looking for unless we are connected to God. He is our ally who will help guide our steps if we are open to Him.
It’s never too late to start. No matter your situation, no matter your circumstance, you can take control of your destiny today. It may not come immediately. As a matter of fact it most likely won’t. The best things don’t come to us that way. We have to work for them. God is all about progress. This is the rhythm of life. But if you choose to start making the choices today that will have a greater effect on your life tomorrow, you will be one step closer to fulfilling your destiny.
One step is all it takes to get started.
Photo by Jamie Street