There are two things that separate us from virtually everything else on the planet. The first is opposable thumbs (a trait we share with a handful of primates, koala bears and some South American tree frogs). However, it’s the second trait that truly makes us uniquely human. It is our ability to take in, process information and make conscious choices based upon it.
Marc Hauser, Director of the Cognitive Evolution Lab at Harvard University, recently said, "Mounting evidence indicates that a profound gap separates our intellect from the animal kind." What makes us uniquely human is our ability to choose.
Your power of choice gives you the ability to steer, move and guide your life in any given direction. Regardless of circumstances, situations, hardships or obstacles, you have the ability, the power and the responsibility to choose your responses.
Certainly, some people will have advantages that you don’t have. Others will face obstacles that you don’t. Your ability to choose is your single best way to level the playing field.
What choices will you make? What direction will you take? How will you choose to respond to the obstacles you encounter? Nobody can dictate these choices to you. These choices are yours to make and they will ultimately come to define everything about your journey through life. While it might seem difficult, perhaps even overwhelming to choose a direction, avoiding making choices is a far greater risk.
Sir Isaac Newton, the great scientific thinker from the 17th century said, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.” By making a choice, you create motion. Even if it is the wrong choice it is better than no choice. You will learn from it, grow from it and become stronger because of it.
So make a conscious choice, take the stairs instead of just following everyone else on to the elevator. Get out of your chair, walk over and have a conversation instead of sending an email. If something is bothering you, say so instead of holding it in. Save a dollar instead of spending it. Tell someone you care about them instead of remaining silent and just thinking it. Smile instead of frown. Look for the positive instead of the negative. Conscious choices empower you, avoiding them sets off a chain of events that stagnates you.
Each day, billions of people awake in the morning. They crawl out of bed, try to get themselves together, put some food in their stomachs and attempt to conquer the challenges the day will hand them. They will muddle through the day, grumbling about this and that, complaining about what ails them and grow frustrated about what they feel they cannot control. Eventually, the day grows long and evening arrives. The darkness sets in and they fall asleep and get ready to start the whole process over again tomorrow. Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year, this is what their life will look like.
Through this whole process, there will be moments of joy and times of sadness, there will be unbridled happiness and laughter yet also sorrow and regret. These are the signposts of life. The ratio of joy to sadness, of happiness to regret is entirely up to you – and well within your ability to control – as long as you make the right choices, consistently.
This may seem like a daunting and somewhat overwhelming responsibility. How does one consistently make the right choices? Doesn’t everyone make mistakes?
Absolutely. Rarely, if ever, is anyone 100% consistently right. We all make mistakes, sometimes. It is all about the law of averages. The more 'right' decisions you make, the greater the likelihood that things will work out the way you want them to.
Within all of this, there is just one overriding decision that if you make it, the right way, it will have the greatest impact on your life. What is it?
Each day, as you roll out of bed, if you make this one simple conscious choice it will absolutely change the course of that day. Just make a firm decision regarding, who am I going to be today?
Are you going to strive to be your best at whatever endeavors you pursue today? Or are you going to simply choose to focus on getting through the day? Realize that whichever choice you make, most consistently, will inevitably define your life.
It certainly takes less upfront effort to simply focus on getting through the day. The initial ease and comfort that comes from just existing, getting through the day, will not and cannot bring great outcomes in the future.
Conversely, it is more difficult and requires more upfront effort and energy to strive to be your best throughout the day. However, without fail, at the end of the day, you will be stronger, smarter and better equipped than you were the day before. If you string enough of these types of days together, you will end up miles ahead in very short order.
Most of the people you will meet in life will want to pay the dues associated with taking the easy road to simply get through the day. Yet they want the rewards that are reserved for those people who strive to be their best each day. Sadly, no matter how hard they wish this plan will work them, it never will.
As you approach each task today, ask, “What is the absolute best I can do on this?” Keep a positive attitude, ask questions, be open-minded, learn from others, get out of your comfort zone, add more things to your “To Do” list, have real conversations with the people around you, smile more, laugh and engage. This is what your best looks like, recognize it and embrace it.
Once you have lived one day as your best, back it up with another and another one after that. Bit by bit and day by day, you are developing a new habit. You are developing the habit of being your best.
Realize that everything in life is cumulative. Rarely does one thing matter, however, cumulatively things matter a great deal. So be aware, that with each day you consistently focus on being your best, you are building positive momentum. Build enough positive momentum and things begin to change dramatically.
While certainly your thumbs are valuable, it is your ability to choose to be your best that will liberate you, free you from where you are today and put you on the pathway to living a better, more empowered life.
Who are you going to be today? Make the right choice.
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David Naylor is Executive Vice President of Global Learning and Development at 2logical, an industry leader in the Training and Development field. At 2logical, we help organizations fix their people problems by shifting employee mindsets. Two decades ago, we pioneered a transformative approach to developing peak performing employees. Far transcending the traditional means of closing skill gaps, 2logical perfected a method of closing the underlying belief gaps that are the root cause of virtually every employee performance issue. Forward thinking, industry leaders at many of the world's most recognized companies have embraced this strategy to develop their Leadership and Sales talent.