Not By Choice

A child takes out the garbage, not by choice, but because his mom asked him to. An employee stays late to finish a project, not by choice, but because her manager requested it. A politician resigns, not by choice, but because he gets pressure from influential people. Every day we hear examples of people who claim to be pushed, prodded and compelled to do things they claim they wouldn’t do of their own accord.

But they have it wrong.

When we side-step responsibility with comments like “not by choice” we weaken our own ability to make good choices. We rob ourselves of the affirmation and pride that comes with choosing to do something and then following through with it. We also deny ourselves the opportunity to get better at this process. The more we make and own our choices, the easier it is to do.

We have to make choices every day. Most are easy. Some are hard. Sometimes a hard choice becomes a heroic one (like jumping into a raging river to save a stranger’s child). But all choices are important because they make us who we are. They define not just the actions we take, but the courage and character that feed those actions.

Honor yourself by acknowledging your actions are your choices (even if you’re doing them at someone else’s request). Own your choices by standing by them. Do this and you’ll become the kind of person people think of when the term “true leader” gets used. You’ll be the person others look to for the courage to choose and act in difficult times.

(Photo credit: Tony Hathcock,

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