“I had no choice.” Haven’t virtually all people said that at one time or another? Yet the true meaning of that cry is “I had no good choices” or even more precisely, “no choices that I perceived at the time which would not bear unpleasant consequences.” We are free to act in any way–within our physical limits (which include external restraints), emotional capacity and cognitive abilities. A certain set of consequences will follow any action. Many of those consequences will not be foreseeable, nor will the decisions a person makes as those consequences unfold. What then, is choosing wisely? I have no magic recipe or formula, just a lot of moving parts which will become habits, and habits become a character, and character forges your destiny.
Perhaps the place to start is to agree to stop saying “I had no choice”, since you always have more than one choice. Realize that the motivation for saying you had no choice was to escape or minimize accountability for the consequences of the decisions you made. Yeah, that’s harsh, but wisdom is grounded in truth. Once you choose a certain course of action, there will be various crossroads, so to speak, opportunities to correct your course, change direction or get deeper into your way of doing things.
Let’s apply these ideas to a very common situation. Imagine you are a high school student, kind of an awkward one. You walk by a group of popular kids who are hanging out after school, and the leader of the group invites you to join them. You notice that they are passing joints around, and a few are snorting a white powder, which you assume is cocaine. What are the binary choices here? You can decline the invitation to join them or you can accept. If you decline, you could be ridiculed or not, and you will probably wonder if you are missing out on fun. If you join them, you will be subject to pressure to indulge in the drugs. You can take a hit of a joint or snort a line of cocaine, or refuse. If you refuse, the consequence will probably be more ridicule than if you had declined to join them at all. If you start on the drugs, the negative consequences could be anything from a bad reaction to instant addiction, possibly getting arrested as well. If you escape those consequences, at best you will have experienced a temporary high and perhaps a slight boost in popularity. But even if that happens, the next crossroad with that group will be another invitation to drugs, which will be psychologically harder to refuse, because once you do something without suffering consequences, it becomes easier to justify.
In reality, few high school students have the discernment and maturity to consider all these possibilities, but I am directing this example to adults as an exercise in choosing wisely. I wish adults had the discernment and maturity to consider the possibilities. That would be possible if everyone agreed, YOU ALWAYS HAVE CHOICES! And, every choice leads to consequences.