Think back to the most important decision you have ever made, the one that changed your life. The choices that seem the most life changing — the choices that feel big, like picking a career, college, or a spouse — are all governed by the small choices made previously. Gordon B. Hinckley says, “The course of our lives is not determined by great, awesome decisions. Our direction is set by the little day-to-day choices which chart the track on which we run.”
At my high school, athletes must be passing their classes to be eligible to participate in their sport. So, say a skier didn’t study for their history test because they didn’t want to bring that huge textbook home. The next day they get a reality check when they bomb the test. There haven’t been any assignments since that test to bring their grade back up when they are checked. The skier can’t participate for the rest of the season. Say the skier was really good and they wanted to go college on a skiing scholarship. Without practicing all year, the skier hasn’t improved and doesn’t make the team the next winter. Then there’s no skiing, no scholarship, no college, and no career. The small choices that we make every day govern the outcome of our lives.
It’s not just about a skiing scholarship. My 4-year-old sister recently swallowed a quarter. At the time she thought it was a funny game to play with her brother. Luckily there was no permanent damage, but the quarter had to be surgically removed. Researching stories of children who have swallowed coins, I found that the consequences could have been life changing or even deadly. Her choice not to listen to her parents could have jeopardized her whole future.
At times we all look back on our life with regret, and wish we could do certain moments over. There are some choices where the consequences are hard to predict, such as “I wish I had driven a different route to work, and I wouldn’t have gotten in that car accident,” and there are other ones where we know that there was a better choice, such as “I wish I hadn’t been speeding so I wouldn’t have gotten that ticket.” It is these latter choices with known consequences that we can work on.
We can’t always know how our decisions will affect our future, but doing our best today with our current knowledge can keep opportunities to succeed open. My parents tell me that the choices I make in the next 10 years will have more impact on my life than all the rest of my years combined. If I choose hard work over laziness, bravery over fear, politeness over selfishness, and future rewards over instant gratification, I will keep those doors open rather than closing them. The choices that seem small today, will allow me to make the big choices later.
This column is the opinion of Claire Kincaid, a sophomore at Soldotna High School.