There are many choices we make every day. Most don’t impact our lives long-term. In fact, often they’re done without much thought at all. Such as: What color shirt will I wear today? What will I prepare for dinner? What movie will I watch? But other choices can be life altering, bone-chilling game changers. Such as: Choosing the right school, the right career path, the right partner in life, the right friends. How about choosing to join the military or not to sell/do illegal drugs? Can you imagine your life if you made any of these choices differently? Poor choices in any of these categories and your life could easily be worse.
Like anything else, learning to make good choices usually involves making poor choices first. There’s a scene in the movie Stand and Deliver when Edward James Olmos’s character, Jaime Escalante, is driving one of his students’ cars towards a fork in the road. Escalante screams at the student to make a choice and at the last minute, the student says “Right!” Escalante jerks the wheel right and slams on the breaks and stops a few feet from a sign that reads “Dead End.” Escalante turns to the student and says, “That’s your problem, you only see the turn, not the road ahead.” This is a powerful metaphor that underscores the challenges that many people face, particularly kids when it comes to making good choices. There is far too little time spent examining the consequences of our choices before the choice is made. You are who you are and where you are because of the choices you have made in the past. If you don’t like your circumstances, just make better choices today.
Teaching our youth to make better choices today will undoubtedly make for brighter tomorrows. Start small: give them simple choices to make like what to wear to school/church. What to eat for dinner. Give them good choices to make; you wouldn’t ask your two-year-old to go in the closet and choose something to wear to church – he would probably come back with flip flops and pajamas on. But you could ask him to choose between the brown or blue suit. Let them fail; it’s often easier if we do some things ourselves. We’ll say, “I can do it faster, he doesn’t do it right, I don’t have time for him to learn now.” This mentality robs them of their failures and the lessons that come with them.
A better idea is to discuss their decisions and how they could have done better, give them feedback and always praise the effort regardless of The Choice.