When I look at my own life, I look at it as a long and winding road that often leads to forks in the road where we need to make a choice. Sometimes as in the picture above there isn't a clear choice. Both roads look pretty much the same. They're aren't any signs to help us make our decision. You would be surprised at how many choices we make every day. We all face three types of choices in our lives. They include good choices, bad choices and ones that are neutral. An example of a neutral choice is taking a walk on the beach or one in a park. We all understand some of the choices we make in terms of dieting or watching what we eat. How many of us have had a choice between an apple and a delicious donut with a jelly filling and sugar on top. The choices also include things which affect our emotional and spiritual health. We not only make physical choices every day we often make moral ones. One of the keys to better health is to begin to learn to become keenly aware of every choice we face whether it is a big one or a small one. Sometimes the smallest choices can be just as important. I've learned that small choices have a way of piling up on you and weighing you down. Imagine that each bad choice is a small brick which is placed in a bag which you carry over your shoulders. Every time you make a bad choice another brick is added to the bag. When you make a good choice a brick is removed from the bag and your load is lightened. You might think to yourself that the weight of a brick isn't so bad. Now imagine you've made bad choice after bad choice until the weight on your shoulders becomes so great that you collapse and you can't get up. Just remember that sometimes small choices are more important than they initially appear.
Let me take you on a little trip through an average day to give you an idea of some of the choices we have to make. Some may be small and some large, but they all make a difference in our lives. I won't tell you all my choices, but hopefully I made more good ones than bad. This past Sunday morning I had the choice of sleeping in an extra hour or getting up early and having coffee on the deck with my wife and witnessing a magnificent sunrise. I grabbed a cup and decided on whether I would have regular or decaffeinated coffee. I also had to choose between creamer, whole milk, skim milk, sugar or sweet and low. Breakfast involved some tough choices. I could pick from eggs, bacon, oatmeal, ham, white or whole wheat toast, milk, orange juice, skim milk, pancakes, and four kinds of cereal. I also had to choose between butter, a low calorie butter substitute, syrup, or brown sugar. There were also four types of fruit to choose from including pineapples, bananas, peaches, and blueberries. After breakfast it was time for Church. I wasn't feeling too well and my wife said that she could take my Son without me. If I decided to go to Church I needed to choose clothes to wear. I also had to get an envelope ready with my weekly donation. How much should I give? Later in the morning my Wife asked if I would like to take a walk. This is a tough one. I haven't read the paper yet and there's a basketball game coming on at noon. While deciding, I hear a knock at the front door. It's my neighbor and she says the battery on her car is dead. She wants to know if I have jumper cables and if I could help her. I have cables, but they're buried in my garage. We decide to go out to dinner, and then pick up a movie on the way back. I see someone on the side of the road whose car has a flat tire. It looks like an elderly man and his wife and he's struggling as he tries to dig his jack out of the back. I had just bought a two ton jack and it's in my trunk. I could probably change the tire in no time at all. As my Wife, Son and I walk towards the diner there's a discarded soda can in the parking lot. I see a trash can ahead. Should I reach down and pick it up. If I rush I could possibly hold the door for two women up ahead. It should be noted that my impressionable Son is witnessing all my choices. At the Diner I have a lot of different food choices. The Chef's Salad looks okay, but that burger and fries also look delicious. On our way home we stop and pick up a movie. There are a lot of choices. There are family movies including a couple with cute animals in them. Some of the movies have violence and sex in them, and I see some romantic comedies that my wife enjoys. After we get home I'm having trouble deciding whether to watch my Wife's movie with some pretzels, or get some chips and watch some sports upstairs. A beer would taste pretty good, but I know that I also have soda, bottled water and grape juice. It's been a long day. Maybe I should go to bed early. My Wife seems a little down today. I wonder if I should go talk to her and tell her I love her, or maybe wait until tomorrow. It just seems there are so many choices.
I hope that gave you an idea of some of the choices we make every day. Notice how the choices involve not just food choices, but choices which involve moral decisions as well as ones involving our spirituality. You may have noticed that my Wife and Son were affected by a lot of my decisions. An important thing to remember is that our choices often have consequences for not only us, but others as well. You may be saying to yourself; "how do I make the right choices? Do I bring a dietitian and a spiritual advisor with me everywhere I go? The first and most important step is awareness. You have to start making a conscious effort to think about the choices you need to make. Do you remember the old trick of counting to ten when you're angry? Try the same thing when you're faced with a choice. It doesn't matter if it's a large choice or a small choice. The ten seconds gives you a chance to think about your choices rather than acting impulsively without thinking. The second step in making the right choices is education. This is especially true when you are making choices concerning your diet or your exercise program. The more knowledge we have about food and exercise and how they affect our bodies the better we'll be able to make the right choices. When you go grocery shopping be sure to make a list and don't go hungry. Spend extra time reading the labels on boxes and cans. Look for low calorie or healthier alternatives to the things you're eating. A simple choice is to switch from whole milk to skim milk. Look for fresh foods rather than processed ones. Look for whole wheat products especially when it comes to bread or pasta. You could even make it a game and have your children read labels and help you make good choices.
If there's anything I've learned in my own life and my own attempts to make the right choices is that the food choices are the easiest. If you've read rule # 6 you'll see you need to just take small steps and make small changes. What I've also found out is that the hardest choices are those that involve moral or spiritual decisions. It's tough sometimes to decide what's right or wrong and then make the correct choice. How do we know what's right or wrong? I break down this issue into two areas. First there are the easy decisions. We all have a basic idea of right and wrong. We know that stealing and cheating are wrong. We also know that physically or emotionally hurting another person is also wrong. Remember how I talked about awareness. You have to take the time and become more aware of your choices. I can tell you this. It's not easy. Making the right spiritual and moral choices is just as important as food choices when it comes to our health. I remember when I was a kid, and had stolen something from a store. I guessed my parents had raised me right because I felt so guilty that it actually made me sick. A few days later I confessed, returned to the store with my Dad to make amends, and then returned home to be punished. I think I couldn't watch TV for a week. I didn't mind, because it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The tough thing is when moral and spiritual choices aren't as clearly defined. How do we know what choice to make? I've often heard people say that you should follow your heart. That's actually pretty good advice. Ask yourself these questions. What feels right to me? What brings me happiness? What choice will make me feel good inside, and make other people happy? What choices will help others, or make their lives better?
I hope I've given you some things to think about. If you're really serious about making better choices in your life, here is what I want you to do. Now, you can do this yourself or as a family. Designate one day of the week as choice day. I found that the weekends are usually the best time for this. It makes it better if your family or even friends are involved. Choice day isn't an easy thing. For an entire day you have to be aware of every single choice, while taking the time to stop and think about them. Try to think about everything you eat, and eat healthier. Start shopping for the right foods. If you go to the bank and stand in line for twenty minutes, make the choice to relax and smile to the teller when it's your turn. When that guy tail gates you don't honk your horn and make a certain gesture at him. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to make the right choices. Put that paper down, and give your child a hug. See someone who needs help and stop and do the best you can. Be an example for others. You would be surprised to know how closely your children watch what you do. Making the right choices can actually be contagious. I guarantee that at the end of the day you'll feel a lot better. You may even notice that your stress levels have dropped dramatically. If you continue to try to make the right choices you'll start to see a dramatic improvement in not only your health, but in your life as well. You'll gradually become a person who other people want to be around. You'll start to meet people and build friendships. All it takes is to make that first good choice.