Rethinking Obvious Options

We live relatively comfortable (if not luxurious) lives.  Part of that comfort is the amount of choice we can exert over the path of our own lives.  It’s a freedom we take too often for granted, not only in the sense that we forget to be grateful, but also in the sense we tend to stick with set patterns.  Instead of honoring our freedom by fully acknowledging and considering our options, we let time push us forward on the path we’re already on without asking whether there are other paths we might take.  When we do ask, that doesn’t necessarily mean we change paths, but the asking itself more fully engages us in whatever path we choose.

There’s three ways of thinking and living that I see contributing to this choosing of paths by default:

  • believing there are certain paths we “should” or “have to” take
  • not wanting to change our own plans or expectations
  • continuing in our limited experience

“Shoulds”: This is where I have spent a lot of my life.  Mostly because of my counselor’s direction, I have realized there are few actual “shoulds” in life when it comes to making decisions.  There are choices that may be better than others (depending on how/where you are placing value), but rarely is there a “should” or a “have to.”  Here are some examples of phrases that appear with should-thinking…

  • “I should take this new position, because it’s the next step in the career ladder”
  • “I should go to this college, because it’s well known for my field”
  • “I should marry this person, because I may not have another chance”
In all of the above, you might decide that yes, you are going to take that new position, to go to that college, to marry that person.  But honor yourself by taking the responsibility to consciously make that choice over other options–don’t trick yourself into thinking there is some greater force making you do one or the other.

Our Own Plans:  Did I say that “shoulds” are where I have spent a lot of my life?  Because I’ve spent quite a bit of time in this section, too.  I make my plans.  I create my expectations.  And, when life inevitably suggests (or forces me) to do things differently, it is very difficult for me to adjust (though I’m happy to say it’s increasingly less so!).  I preemptively make a decision by saying, “This is what I always wanted to do, so this is what I am going to do!” or “This is the way I expect this to happen, so I’m going to make it happen.”  But clinging to my own plans or trying to force my own expectations is detrimental to me and to what God might have me do instead.

Limited Experience: Most of my students want to become teachers.  It’s sweet and cute, and I’m sure some of them will become teachers.  But the amount of candidates for every teaching position–compared with the actual amount of jobs available–doesn’t quite seem right.  Are there really that many people cut out to be teachers?  Sometimes I wonder if the choice to declare an education major has more to do with the fact it’s the job college students have been exposed to more than any other job (they have spent most of their lives so far in school).  I wonder the same about the drive to get married young and have kids as soon as possible.  How much of that has to do with people actually wanting or “needing” to make that choice, and how much of it has to do with what is familiar?  (Again, they have presumably spent most of their lives in some kind of parent/child situation).  Of course, some people are cut out to be teachers (six years in, I still happen to think I am 😉 ), and some people do make sound, conscious decisions to marry and have children sooner rather than later…

…still, in any life choice, isn’t it worth it to ask yourself, “What if I don’t?” or “What if I make a different choice?”  Maybe you’ll ask yourself those questions and then decide that, actually, the path you’re on is where you’re meant to stay.  Maybe you won’t.  Either way, wouldn’t you rather fully face and make your decision, rather than moving in a familiar direction by default?

Related Posts that May Interest You: Happiness is Not the Point, The Freedom of Having Nothing to Lose, Nothing Stays “Perfect”

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