Beach running at sunsetThere are constant choices in life. I believe the choices you make in life decide your fate and not the other way around. One of my favorite lines from a poem is from William Ernest Henley’s Invictus “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” This implies that you not only control your fate by decision, but that you can direct your emotions, your motivations, the essence of you – your soul! If your decisions are taking you down a bad path, stop making those decisions, think about the consequences, chose to be the person you want to be, chose your fate. It does not imply that it is never too late to have a particular fate. Fate doesn’t only depend on the decisions you are about to make, it depends on the decisions you have made your entire life. With every bad decision you close off a path. The more bad decisions you make the more limited your paths become. So make good decisions! I think this is why parents give advice and are so unhappy when their children ignore that advice.

Emotions can drive you to choices you later regret, so when emotions are high be particularly careful with your choices.  Changing your fate solely based on a strong positive or negative emotions can lead to regrets that last a life time. Sometimes emotions can drive small choices that build up in to destiny changing situations. I have often made these types of decisions with spending, eating, and exercise. The immediate impact is small, but if you continue to make these small bad decisions it can add up to life changing situations: serious debt, weight problems, and health issues. This can happen in relationships too. In counseling near the end of my first marriage the counselor said something to me that has stuck with me ever since. I believe it was in response to my description of how I would react to something my wife was doing that I didn’t like. She asked, “Do you think that your response is going to get the desired result?”. In truth I had to answer no, in fact it was leading to more conflict without any positive result. Although it was too late to fix that situation, it has helped me become a better person, and to make better decisions.

People often make bad decisions by acting without thought based on “how they feel” at the moment. They may even rationalize their behavior by claiming that they had no choice, or by believing that this is “just who they are”. I don’t believe that we are that limited. In that gap between impulse and action is the choice! If you act without choosing to act you are not the captain of your soul. If you let emotions (like fear, anger, or lust) or personal weaknesses (like insecurity, laziness, or greed) drive your actions without pausing to think, then you may not even be the master of your fate.

Do I believe that homeless people have always made bad decisions and that Bill Gates has always made good ones? Not at all. After all Bill Gates was a big fan of Microsoft Bob (you may ask, “what is that”) and he didn’t see the potential in the internet search market (think Google). We are all human, none of us is perfect and we should not expect that we are promised success just because we think about every decision down to the smallest detail. Good decisions take thoughtfulness, but they also require good judgement, and sometimes even good luck. What I do believe is that my life is better for the good decisions I’ve made, and my options more limited for the bad decisions I’ve made. I plan to consider that when thinking about staying up too late tonight to be able to get to the gym in the morning, I’ll consider it when I’m doing the checkout process at an online store, and I’ll consider it when I want to swing through a fast food drive thru!

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