Sunday, April 19, 2009


The idea of the choices we make in our lives came to mind today as I worked as part of a technical fire rescue team to help a young man who had become stranded on a cliff over 100 feet off the ground.

The young man and a friend made a relatively poor decision to climb the face of the cliff without the proper knowledge and equipment that would make it safe. As they climbed higher, the rocks became more and more loose. Unable to move up or down, he held on to a small bush until being lowered to safety. The rescue took more than three hours but thankfully, the outcome was not worse. His friend had not climbed as high and was able to climb down and alert rescuers.

Not every choice we make has the potential for fatal consequences, yet every time we make a choice, something else in our life is impacted. Many choices, picking cloths to wear, what to have for breakfast, have little potential of changing our lives. Other choices, however can impact us dramatically.

As humans, we have the opportunity to choose between things that will make us happy and things that will not. This being the case, it would seem that we would always choose happy. I wish that was the case. Also, if we do not take a minute to think about our choices first, we may make ones that seem like they will bring happiness, and they may initially, but in the end leave us in sorrow.

Think about the choices you have made in your life. I doubt that you intentionally made bad choices but there are likely some that you regret. Bad choices are one of life's greatest teachers. Providing the choice does not kill us, we have the opportunity to learn and not repeat harmful things over and over. For many reasons, we don't always learn these lessons easily.

Repeating harmful actions over and over develops patterns that become familiar. This is another word for addiction. We can be addicted to many things; food, smoking, drugs, anger. Even when we know the thing we are doing harms us, our actions become who we are, making it difficult to quit. We forget that we have choices.

The more understanding we have, both of ourselves and the world around us, the better we can decide which road to take whenever the road forks. When we consider the impact our decisions will have on us now but more importantly later, we will tend to make better choices. We must also consider the impact our decisions will have on others.

Aside from being a little embarrassed and sunburned, the young man I started this story with is fine. Had he fallen, the impact to his friends and family would have had long reaching consequences. I am sure he had not considered this before beginning his climb but perhaps he will next time.


YogaforCynics said...

I think an important distinction is between what will make us happy in the long run and what will make us happy in the short run...or at least seems like it'll make us happy in the short run. No question, having a big greasy pizza (none of that all-natural organic wheaty healthy kinda crap) for dinner, chocolate cake (don't even mention low-fat or natural sweeteners) followed by a late night with a couple of sixpacks and chips and salsa to keep me thirsty will make for a happier evening than raw vegetables, brown rice and tofu, fruit juice and going to bed early. But, as I've learned, living that way makes me feel like crap not only in the long run but in the anything-but-very-short run. And, actually, your post reminds me of some of the really stupid stuff I used to do off in the mountains when I was younger (if the young man and his friend were like me, they were stoned). Then, until I had a major bicycle accident at the age of 38 (had my left hand not quite literally broken my fall, I might be in a nursing home right now, with a traumatic brain injury rather than just a skinned forehead and broken glasses), I really didn't have much solid evidence that I wasn't unbreakable (and, thus, once I could ride again, bought my first ever biking helmet). Guess we all live and learn, and it's good to know that folks like you are around to keep our mistakes from hurting us too badly....

Julie P said...

I totally agree. Do you choose to have what you want now, or do you work harder to achieve your goals and choose something better, later, that will be better for you in the long run? If we consistently make the same mistakes and don't learn from then, then what's the point of life? Life is a journey where we are constantly faced with making choices. One road will take us to a totally different destination than another road. It's how you travel that road,which ever road you take that matters, and what you learn along the way.

Roger | A Content Life said...

I agree. Poor choices can be a useful learning experience.

Often, people make choices for short-term pleasure instead of long-term happiness.

dcrelief said...

For me, I think 'the path' chose me. It was where it has always been, and I am another person to travel on it. I could bring anything I wanted to bring; only be prepared to let it go if proven unproductive. Ah, Bliss!

Jun Bullan said...

When I was a child, I was told that life is what we make it. I only grasped the meaning of this until many years. Yes by our choices, ee become fully resposible for everything that happen to us. However there are times when I experience difficulty in making a choice. Yet after I made the choice I would tell myself that I have no control over the effect/s of my choice so I will just have to accept whatever it is no matter how painful it is.
My question is, is there a better way to discern which is the better choice? I hope to here from you.

Hazelmarie Elliott (Mattie) said...

Ah, yes, I've made many mistakes in my lifetime, Roger. The thing about making bad choices is what I'd call the 'ripple effect'. In other words, what goes wrong could effect others' lives as well as our own.

You raise an important issue with your words. Giving our choices great thought could be of enormous benefit to us and those involved with our lives.

Great work with this...I'm looking forward to reading the comments on this one.


Brenda Lorene said...

We have this same thing happening here in the mountains all the time. Alpine Rescue must be called in to "retrieve" the would-be mountaineers who often are flatlanders who are clueless when it comes to the very real dangers involved in mountaineering. So often people do make poor decisions which affect people around them and can be a danger to not only themselves but those other people. In these cases, people just don't seem to be thinking at all or considering the consequences of their actions on their own lives and others. I'm relieved to know the young men survived their poor decision and that no one else was injured in rescuing them. Brenda

klahanie said...

Hi Roger,
I look at this way. Choices that I have made, whether considered good or bad, have been a learning experience.
Sometimes it can perceived that a poor choice has benefits, for with that poor choice, we can turn what may be construed as a negative, into something positive.
When I first moved to England, it may have appeared to have been a poor choice. Was I prepared to take on the choice and rectify the early mistakes I made in that choice? Well ofcourse I did and the early decisions that were needed to be modified, as I started a new life, were proof that even through a so-called poor choice, one can triumph through learning. I send you peaceful wishes, Gary

Tess said...

Yes life is all about choices. I don't have many I regret. I get in trouble by thinking I know what other people in my life should choose. Just thought I'd be honest!

morrow said...

This was very refreshing to read. So agree that making the wrong choices repeatedly becomes first a familiar path and then an addiction. But so many people do this and I find it curious as to why.

Carole Anne Carr, member of the Society of Authors said...
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