They say life is full of choices, and they couldn’t be more right. Every moment we’re awake, we’re making a choice of some kind or another: a choice to do what we’re doing instead of something else, to do it joyfully or bitterly, to notice the people around us or use them, to say something or not, to say it one way or another, to wait in silence or fill the time with social media, what to eat, what to wear, how fast to walk, how fast to drive, and so on and on and on. But in the midst of all this half-conscious choosing, a few choices stand out. We know them well. They are The Big Ones:
If, where, and what to study, or return for more education?
How to earn a living? When to change career?
Where to live? To buy or rent?
In fairness, they stand out for a reason. These kinds of choices re-direct the river of life, and all the millions of daily choices that follow will have to flow within their banks. The river of life does need banks. But the river is not the banks. The river is the water between them, rushing towards it’s goal, and our lives are the steady stream of small choices we constantly make day by day, moment by moment, moving us forward in a constant progression, one way or another. The Big Choices are part of this, but the force of momentum in our lives is actually found in the accumulation of tiny choices over time. Even the banks of the river are shaped by the river itself. Before The Big Choices ever get a chance to shape our lives, our lives are already shaping them:
The things we watch and read and listen to day after day are shaping how we see the world and what we want from it, what kind of person we choose to be and the kind of people we choose to be with, or maybe even marry.
The small promises we keep and the little corners we cut are moulding our character, making us trustworthy to our friends or suspicious to our supervisors, which can certainly effect our career options.
Our daily effort to do small, unpleasant tasks or our constant procrastination about them is building week by week, with the potential to open new opportunities for learning and growth or make them wither away.
Our small choices to love the same old ordinary people around us today in the same old ordinary place will define our ability to love whoever is around us or in our family in the future.
There’s no question that The Big Choices are important, but they can tend to overshadow the even greater importance of our small, daily choices. While The Big Choices define the boundaries of our circumstances, the weight of our accumulated small choices defines the shape of our character. These little choices shape who we are before we ever get the chance to make The Big Choices, and they continue their slow, steady transforming work long after. The big question is: what are our small choices transforming us into?