The Power of Choice: How Small Decisions Shape Your Future

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Picture this: It’s a sweltering Saturday afternoon in Lagos. A young woman named Chinwe sits in gridlock traffic, frustrated and on the verge of tears after a gruelling journey from Sango-Ota. The day had started with a simple decision – how to get back home. Chinwe could take a direct cab, expensive but efficient, or opt for the cheaper public buses. Needing to save money, she chose the buses, but the endless transfers, the unbearable heat, and the unpredictable delays left her exhausted and regretting her choice.

Sometimes, the “right” choice isn’t clear-cut. Finances, circumstances, and unforeseen factors influence our decisions. Yet, even within constraints, our choices wield power in shaping our experiences and well-being. Let’s consider the power of choice and how to navigate its complexities in real life.

The Power of Choice: How Small Decisions Shape Your Future

Think of your life as a vast mosaic. Each tiny tile represents a seemingly minor choice – what you eat for breakfast, how you spend a free hour, whether you hit snooze again or get your workout in. These small choices, in isolation, might feel insignificant. But over days, weeks, and months, they paint the bigger picture. Healthy habits lead to well-being, a focused work session contributes to career success, and a kind word strengthens a relationship. Conversely, the constant shortcut, the indulgence, and the choice of comfort over growth all add up too. Our daily choices form the trajectory of our lives.

This is a profound lesson we learn from Lagos. Those daily battles with traffic, the constant haggling over fares, the strategic manoeuvres around power cuts…they all become part of your lived experience. It’s crucial to remember, that even when circumstances feel tough, the power of choice remains yours. It is in your small choices that you determine the quality of life you build within them. Just like the concept of “Atomic Habits” emphasizes small, consistent actions, your choices are the building blocks of your future.

Choice as Empowerment (with a Twist)

getting stuck in a rut in a maze after making a wrong choice - the power of choice depicted

The true power of choices lies in their ability to empower us. While limitations exist, fixating on them breeds helplessness. Instead, recognize the choices that remain, shifting your focus from what you cannot change to how you respond.

Consider Chinwe’s situation.  Her options for getting home seemed limited. Yet, even within those constraints, she held power. Instead of falling into a victim mentality, she could have strategized differently.  Could she have planned her trip for a less congested time? Could she have found ways to make the journey less stressful?

Limited finances are a reality for many.  It’s easy to beat yourself up for not making what you know is the “better” choice in an abstract sense. But sometimes, the best choice is simply the most feasible one with the resources you have at your disposal.  Even when the big choice is constrained, there are smaller choices that affect how we manage the situation, making the most of what we have.

Mindfulness Around Choices

So many decisions happen on autopilot. We grab our usual sugary snack, scroll social media without intention, and agree to commitments we don’t have time for. This lack of awareness can lead us down paths misaligned with our goals and values. To truly harness our ability to choose, we must become more conscious of the choices we’re making.

How do we practice this? Before defaulting to what’s easy or familiar, introduce a pause. Ask yourself: “Does this choice support who I want to be? Does it align with my long-term goals?” This small act of reflection can be transformative. It breaks the cycle of autopilot and allows us to choose with intention.

Let’s revisit Chinwe stuck in traffic. Perhaps a moment of mindfulness would have led to a different outcome. If she had checked the traffic conditions beforehand, she might have planned the journey at a better time. Or, she might have realized that the stress saved by taking a direct cab is actually worth the cost. A pause for self-reflection transforms a frustrating situation into one where she exercises more control.

It’s important to remember that mindful choices can still be tough ones. Choosing the salad over the burger,  prioritizing your side project over Netflix, or saying no to a favour you don’t have time for  – these aren’t necessarily easy choices. However, they are made with self-awareness and a conscious alignment with your goals, rather than being driven by momentary cravings or impulses. This shift feels empowering, even when the choice itself requires self-discipline.

Be The Architect, Choose Life

Chinwe’s experience reminds us of the power of choices, even seemingly small or constrained ones. Each choice is an opportunity to exercise our power, act with intention, and shape the life we want to live. Remember, the “best” choice isn’t always an option, but there’s always a choice that moves you forward.

The choices you make today – about your health,  finances, relationships,  and time – become your tomorrow. What kind of life will your choices build?

This week, be the architect of your own life.  Here’s how to start:

  • Choose Your Focus: Is there an area of life (health, work, etc.) where better choices would have a big impact?
  • Observe Your Autopilot: Where do you make mindless choices? Notice those patterns.
  • One Mindful Change: Commit to pausing BEFORE making one recurring choice and asking, “Does this align with what I truly want? Is there a better way?”

This journey might not be easy,  especially with tough circumstances. Be kind to yourself, and remember, with each intentional choice, you gain a little more power over the direction of your life. And above all, choose life.


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