The Little Choices

By John E. Trombley
The Village Business Institute

My wife and I took a few minutes to relax over a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop this weekend to discuss our plans and goals for 2017. As we got settled in, I noticed this particular store has a chalkboard built into the wall. The question on the chalkboard was simple: What are your resolutions for 2017?

Amid the artistic scribblings proffered by some youngster who likely came with Mom or Dad and saw the opportunity to make a mark on the world were a number of short responses, most of which were quite honestly sad and negative. The resolutions ranged from “forget about the election” to “forget 2016,” and still another was “forget my Ex.” Among those and others like them, I searched for something more positive or at least more traditional, like “lose weight” or “get in shape,” but if those were on the board, I couldn’t find them.

A wall of inspiration it was not.

The last I checked, most of us have a difficult time forgetting the things that we don’t want to remember, and a more difficult time remembering the things we do want to remember. Good luck to those who want to forget the things that have brought them to where they are today. I just don’t see that happening.

As we began to unpack our personal thoughts and desires, it occurred to me once again that where we are today is the culmination of all the choices we’ve made up until now, both good and bad, and where we end up tomorrow or 20 years from now is dependent upon the choices we make today and every day of the journey from this point forward.

Everything I do has a consequence. Everything I don’t do when I should also has a consequence. I’ve made my share of bad choices, some of which I’ve made more than once or twice, because I didn’t learn from my “mistake” the first time, forgot what I learned and had to re-learn it, thought I could beat the odds, or just wanted to make sure that it really wasn’t a good choice to begin with. You know – be stubborn and hard-headed. Or maybe that’s just me foolishly diving into the insanity cycle by doing the same thing the same way with the same people, but expecting different results. Yeah. It’s insane.

The way I see it, an accident is a mistake. However it is no longer an accident or a mistake when I choose to do that thing a second, third, or fourth time to experience some temporary, short-term gain or pleasure while knowing the inevitable long-term negative consequences. And when those do finally come to roost, isn’t it interesting that we are generally quick to say, “I made a mistake” when what we really did is choose to do something on purpose while knowing better. The argument, “I deserve it!” doesn’t change the outcome or validate or justify our decision to do the wrong thing.

Fortunately, and like you, I’ve also made some very good choices and have seen the benefits of some of those while others are still unfolding. I believe I’ve made more good choices than bad. My goal is to build on those good choices and, with wisdom, avoid the making more bad ones. That said, perfection isn’t my goal; continuous improvement is.

What about those things that happen to us outside of our control? Or that in spite of all our best efforts things just don’t go our way? What then? Life isn’t fair. I get that. But wishful thinking – magical thinking – won’t change that. The issue for me is, what will I do when those things happen? How will I respond or how will I react? What part of my character will people see in my behavior? Will it be positive and encouraging, or will it be ugly and destructive? Will I be proud of how I handle a negative or disappointing situation, or will I be embarrassed? There is no middle ground, only varying degrees of impact and travel in one direction or the other.

I know that I have a bit of an impulsive nature that has not always served me well. I’ve tried to learn from those times, but I really have to consciously talk to myself about it if I’m going to corral that aspect of my personality and make it work for me, not against me. That takes a certain level of self-awareness and personal accountability. In the same way, choosing to make good choices generally doesn’t come by accident, but by self-study and forethought.

You and I, no matter who we are, impact the world in some way either by what we do and say, or by what we do not do and do not say. Some will venture out and achieve greatness in ways that will be visible to many while most of us will not. Yet each in our own way impacts the world around us for good or for bad. That is inescapable. The question for us to ponder is what will that impact be?

I believe for every one of us, the choice is up to us. Choose to make this year the best year for those around you, and it will be the best year for you as well. That is the Law of Reciprocity: what you give, you get. More than you give and later than you give it, it will return to you, so choose wisely what you will do and what you will say.

What kind of future do you want? Whatever it is, it’s your choice.


John Trombley
John Trombley, The Village Business Institute

John is the Village Business Institute’s Consulting & Training Manager and also serves as an Organization Development Consultant and Trainer. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo where he serves as an adjunct faculty member. He is a motivational speaker with over 18 years of experience in providing training programs and consulting services in a wide variety of organization development scenarios. John is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator under ADR Rule 114, and is also certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

Previously, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

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