How to Choose Your Future from Limitless Alternatives

There is an endless number of potential futures in front of you. Of the endless possibilities, there is a limitless number that might please you beyond belief. There is, however, an equal number that would later leave you sorely disappointed. Both of these outcomes are equally available to you at all times, and the decisions you make—large or small—are going to lead you to your future.

Making your life what you want it to be requires that you intentionally choose your future and align your decisions with your desired future.

Your Decision Tree

One night, I was lying in bed but unable to sleep. A thought occurred to me, shocking me into making a decision that would change my life. At that time, I could see two paths, one of which ended badly for me, the other was unknown. I chose the other path to avoid the one I believed I was careering towards, only later discovering how critical my choice was.

One of my friends at the time made a set of choices over a small number of years and ended up in San Quentin prison. Once he stepped onto that path, he was very quickly swept away.

Think back to the time that your future veered off in a new direction, one that was so important to you that split off from the path you were on and chose another. Stop here long enough to draw a straight line going in one direction and then veering off to the right, towards a better future.

Your life will have lines that turn right, towards the better future, before turning to left, towards a result you would prefer to avoid. Large decisions dramatically change your direction, but the small choices can turn us towards a gloomy future, even if we fail to notice that they nudge us away from what we want.

Your Trajectory

Your trajectory is made up of the decisions you make. That direction can be towards what you want, or it can carry you further away from it. The accumulation of these decisions determines where you end up and what your life looks like along the way.

The decision to procrastinate, seek comfort, or choose distractions instead of doing the things you know are necessary to move you towards the future you prefer, is to move ever so slightly towards the end you want to avoid. These decisions seem inconsequential compared to larger decisions, but these small decisions stack up over time for most of us.

The hours you waste become wasted days, and the wasted days become lost weeks. Soon, you have given up months, or quarters or years, looking up only to discover you have veered far off course.

Actions Have Consequences

Actions have consequences. When you make a decision, the result may be something positive or negative. Sometimes you take action you believe will produce a positive future only to discover that it creates an effect that is negative or harms you. However, most of the time, you don’t think about the decision you are making in terms of your future. Instead, you do what you want to do now, without an eye on your future or the consequences of your actions.

Actions have consequences, as does the decision not to act. If you are not working in a way that moves you closer to the alternative future you want, you are moving away from the results you want in your life.

The Moment of Choice

Not to overwhelm you, but you make choices that continually determine your trajectory and impose their natural consequences throughout your life—and throughout your day—some more important to your future than others. One of the choices you might routinely make is to give yourself over to things that don’t do anything to move you towards the end you have in mind, postponing any progress you might have made—or moving you away from that future.

When you yes to small things, you are saying no to big things. When you say yes to things that move you towards a less-than-positive future, you are saying no to the positive alternative future you prefer.

This reminds me of another idea I have shared here in the past. Imagine there is a video camera observing you every minute of the day. Would a stranger be able to discern what alternative future you are pursuing by your actions?

Each moment offers a chance to make wise or foolish choices. Many of these decisions seem small, but the accumulation of poor decisions lead to negative futures.

Concept of Intentionality and Your Future

You may not have thought about your life in terms of “alternative futures,” but the exercise provides a level of clarity that is difficult to replicate. The crucial choice you have to make is what future you are going to create for yourself.

You have been given the gift of a single life, to do with what you will. You must design that life with great intentionality, choosing a direction, and aligning your choices with the future you want to build. The day-to-day decisions and actions you take will determine your trajectory.

Sundays are good days to reflect, to center yourself, and to spend some time in introspection. The decision to spend time imagining what you want in the future and what you will have to do to manifest it will serve you well by providing boundaries around what you will—and will not—do.

Know that wherever you are now, and there are limitless futures available to you, whatever your circumstances.

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