The day on which one starts out is not the time to start one’s preparations. Igbo proverb
Dr. Viktor Frankl was one of the Jewish prisoners during the holocaust. He was imprisoned, starved, mutilated and exposed to most hardships repugnant to humanity’s sense of decency. His wife, parents and brother either died in these Nazi camps or were sent to the gas ovens. For him life also was an uncertainty, for one moment or another he could as well have found himself in the gas ovens.
He was one of the few survivors of those hardships, beyond being a survivor; he resumed to normal life of lecturing soon after the entire grueling episode. How did he manage? One day, naked and alone in his room he discovered one significant truth. This truth he later called “the last of the human freedoms”. He discovered a freedom that his captors could not take, they could control his entire environment, but he discovered that they could not control his responses to their stimulus. He discovered that they had more liberty, more options to choose from; but he had more freedom, more internal power to exercise his options. He became self-aware of his existence beyond the frame of his body; he realized that even he could watch his present circumstances as an observer. He could decide within himself how all these were going to affect him. He could still choose!
One goat cannot carry another goats tail –Nigerian Proverb
The first thing you need to understand is that you are a product of your choices. No matter how young you are today, you are going to have to live tomorrow with the consequences of any choices you make today, no matter who makes the choices for you. It is the choices you make about sleeping in the day or staying awake and going to school today, that will determine if you’ll stay awake all night as a night guard tomorrow. It is futile to squander today and hope for a generous tomorrow. Life is all about choices! Indecision is itself a decision. Your decision not to decide is a decision to leave your fate to the winds without a sail. No wind blows in the favour of a ship without direction. It is a pot of water that is already half full that the world would like to help in filling to the brim. You need to understand that choices are powerful. The Yoruba word for choose (yan) is the word from which the word for human beings was derived (eniyan). Choice is the only thing that distinguishes us from animals. You have a choice.
“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor”— Henry David Thoreau
You can change your life, but it’s going to be by conscious choices.
One other thing I have often heard about decisions is that an average person makes 350 of them daily. Wow! 350? Sure, lets see, “Should I wake up?”, “should I not?”, “what should I wear, should I take my bath with cold water, or not?” The list goes on. However, in prison, inmates are restricted to only 8 decisions. The rest? It’s made for them. What to eat, what to wear, when to wake, where to sleep? They are restricted to an average of 8 scanty decisions. Why? That’s nature’s way of punishing them for the wrong decisions and choices that brought them there. Prison is the home of poor decision makers. Choices are very powerful, a lot of work should go into making them.
If you have ever watched a football final that ended in penalty kicks, then you are not a stranger to this scene. It’s the final penalty kick in the game, and unfortunately it’s a deciding kick. On this one shot lies the hope of all the players and the fans. All the over 2hrs already spent for the match and the extra-time, all the other penalties, all the intrigues, chatters, claps and laughter of this game have all built momentum until this defining moment. Success or failure is just a kick away. Gold or silver, this shot would certainly seal the hope of one. The field is filled with various noises, tension mounts in the air, the long hours of watching is almost over.
The ball is placed in position as the anxious and nervous team member recedes. Today he’ll either be a hero or a clown. He takes a position, takes the last distant look at the ball and heads towards it. In that defining moment, the over 10,000 eyes are fixed on one spot on the field. All eyes agree in destination except his. All eyes look with longing into the goal post ahead. Some with the hope of it sliding beyond the goalkeepers reach and some visualizing it right in the keepers arms, but not him. His eyes are not so far away. His eyes are slightly closer, transfixed on the ball, he cannot afford to hit the wrong spot. All they hope for is the end, but what it becomes, is largely what he makes of it. With the picture of the beautiful future in all their minds, he alone is custodian to the today that makes up that tomorrow. All his practices, preparations and rehearsals have been until this very moment. If he had cheated on his routines, been lazy in his attention to detail, today it will show. Whatever he had done in the closet, now awaits an open display on the mountaintop. That’s the way it is with choices. The audience and cheerleaders expect and demand success, but your decision determines that. Right there and then is not the time to listen to their plans or ask for their experience. There is the time to make use of all you have learnt, to execute with excellence.
Kum! The leg hits the ball. The die is cast, the decision made. From then on your ability to control the output ends. The world around has no other choice but to wait and watch, some with optimism and some with sarcastic pessimism, but happy or sad, neither do they have an ability to alter the course. Your act of choice handles the ball over to the winds of time, the laws of nature and the sovereign forces in the universe. Unlike the ball on the football pitch, this shot takes years to reach its goal. Different grades of noises punctuate the atmosphere from the time the ball is hit, till the end. If we could just slow time down a bit, we might actually see some interesting dynamics. The ball takes off; keen to follow the direction the foot had set.
Let’s imagine for a second that the leg hit the ball 1 degree off target. That one degree would cascade into 30 degrees by the time it reaches the post. The influence that today has over tomorrow is enormous. Your choices, no matter how small today, have grave consequences.