Do you often think of the long range outcome of everyday choices you make? I know I haven’t, but now that I’ve come to realize how I got to where I am today I am more thoughtful about the things I undertake and communicate. The impact of external influences that I allow on my choices is another factor to consider. How I respond to the actions of others can have a profound life changing impact on where life goes from that moment. Think of it as links in a chain that has multiple possibilities at each juncture to head in a myriad of directions, each one altering the life direction a little or greatly.
Some choices have an irrevocable impact on life for example the choice to have a child and the consequent choices he or she will make that continue to change my life. A child is a lifelong commitment, not just 18 years as one might think but a lifetime, since a sense of responsibility to not only the child but to all of humanity for the impact of that child on the whole of the community for good or ill is at stake. Responsibility for providing the environment and meeting the needs of another person in order that their full potential can be reached becomes my responsibility and thereby my vocation, not necessarily to the exclusion of other goals but certainly on an equal basis with any other.
Other choices made almost without thinking are hardly noticed at the time. The choices made as a young adult when first free of the constraints of parents, what to eat, who to spend time with what music to listen to all make subtle, incremental changes in attitudes and future actions. Psychologists have found that a behavior repeated over a 30 day period becomes a habit, almost an addiction. So patterns of thought that are allowed to creep into the mind become habit as well. When lyrics of songs or words on a page of a book or magazine are repeated over time a kind of self brainwashing occurs. The choice of a meal made today can establish a choice that will be made tomorrow and establish a pattern or preference for what to eat resulting in a healthy or unhealthy outcome in years to come. As the choice of poor eating habits early in life results in being heavier, I am less inclined to be physically active, as I become less physically active I lose strength and ability, as strength is lost I become heavier and less active and begin to see the effects of disease of the body. Instead of “golden years” of enjoyment, learning, traveling, exploring and enjoying life, the result will be years of illness, disease, depression and dissatisfaction, and bitterness for a dream unfulfilled. A feeling of being cheated and deprived is the consequence of small choices made unwittingly and easily early in life.
Consciousness of the long term effect of thought and behaviors today are essential to reducing mental and physical pain in the future. Of course, I cannot be fully aware all the time but I can move more slowly and deliberately through my day and with forethought of the consequences of my choices and I can mentor others to consider their choices carefully.