Life is made up of many choices. Choices define us through our lives, and we all want to make the right choices.
Edwin Markham put it well when he said, “choices are the hinges of destiny.” I agree with him; our lives hinge on some big choices we make.
The first question on your mind will be: ‘Did I have a choice?’
There are choices where you had a say, and there are somewhere you had no voice. You had no say in who your parents were. You had no choice with your name. You had no choice over your mother tongue. But you made the most of it.
Some choices are taken collectively, and there are some choices where you are the one making the call. I am sure the choice of the school you went to was a family decision.
On the other hand, the courses you took at this Institute were by and large a personal choice. The job offer you have picked is a personal choice. Being happy or sad about today is a personal choice. Some will be happy that they are moving onto a bigger stage, and some will be sad about leaving their university, a place called home, for the last two years.
Choices involve many dimensions
Your choices involve time – short-term instant gratification or long-term delayed gain, they involve anticipation- proactive or reactive, they involve mistakes – do you repeat a mistake or learn from it and avoid it? – they involve confidence – are you overconfident, what people call heuristics, or underconfident and second-guessing yourself all the time?
Discussing mistakes, there is a saying in cricket that you can’t get Sachin Tendulkar out with the same ball that got him out once. The genius made it a point to learn from his mistake and thus ensured that he never repeated the same mistake. Sachin is an excellent example of making choices. He chose to be a batsman and not a captain; he decided to put country ahead of everything else whenever he played; he decided to be a gentleman in a game that is not very gentlemanly these days. He made the choices.
Your choices tend to go the right way when you know yourself, i.e., when you are self-aware, and you get good at analyzing your environment. Your environment will change significantly in the next few weeks as you leave this Institute.
Choices are about options, and choices are about sacrifice, especially when faced with seemingly attractive choices. Choices are about deciding one way or the other and realizing that you cannot have both decisions.
You do not realize that you make 1000 decisions every day based on the choices placed before you. So, you are making big decisions and small decisions. You are making good decisions and bad decisions, all in one day.
Good decisions are smart, healthy, and positive ones. Bad decisions are stupid, unhealthy, arrogant, and negative.
Let’s look at a combination of the good and bad, small and big decisions.
Let us start with the big bad decisions
A big bad decision if you are not careful and sensible could be about marriage, the choice of a life partner. This is a big decision and you must think through this carefully. As you go through the ups and downs of life, the only person by your side is your partner, and that person has to be the best person that understands you.
Another big wrong decision could be taking on too much debt. This is a case of chasing hurried aspiration. Good things will come to you, have a bit of patience. You don’t need to be in debt to your eyebrows. High debt, which is a big bad decision, leads to other big bad choices.
Another big wrong decision could be to have a child when you are not ready to be a parent. A child needs a lot from his parents. There is a maturity needed to be a parent. You have to give your child quality time; please ask your parents, they will tell you.
So, a bad decision is one where the returns are way below the risks involved, and sometimes, a seemingly good decision becomes a bad one due to timing.
Let us look at the next box now, the small bad decisions
The first small lousy decision you can make involves money. Spending more than you earn is a small wrong decision. It will not impact you immediately, but it will set a pattern that will be difficult to get out of. Remember, neither life nor a career is a credit card.
The second small bad decision you can make is about food. It is binging on fast food. Before you realize it, you are a calorie addict, and you will be many kilograms overweight and buying the next size of clothes every year.
The third small bad decision is the choice on learning when you prioritize movies and television over learning. This one is difficult since you have to make a big shift from being taught by someone to learning by introducing yourself.
The last small bad decision is hanging around in a job that you don’t like but are too lazy to change. You develop lethargy and continue to coast day today. This situation is a career derailer, and you will lose your edge very quickly when you are in such a situation.
Let’s look at the good side of decisions, the good small decisions now
The first good small decision is that you have seen your parents and grandparents do very well – save some money every month. If you look at India, we save a lot. The question is if this saving habit will sustain the millennial generation. Every career has a rainy day, so please save for it.
A good small decision is exercising regularly and managing your diet well. This combination will keep your energy level up through your working day. A fit person is fit for success.
The last small good decision is to say thank you to people who help you through the day. This, at one level, is courtesy, but we rarely see that in an aggressive, me, myself world today.
Small good decisions have a long-term impact
The small good decisions become habits, and before long, habits become second nature to you and your personality. Small, good habits will make you predictable and dependable. Being reliable and predictable are great values in an uncertain world.
The small good decisions give you momentum every day, and all successful people need momentum.
Now let’s look at the big good decisions.
The first big good decision for the future has to be marriage. Many of you will marry a working spouse and managing two careers is not as easy as it looks from the outside. It will require the two of you to have a clear choice in terms of whose career and options look better in what context. This is very subjective and getting this choice right is possibly the most difficult choice of the marriage. Trust me, this is not a rational decision but an emotional one.
The second good big decision will have to be about your choice of friends. You will need a lot of friends right through your life. You will carry some of your classmates as friends. As you go through the ups and downs of life, you will need your family, spouse, and friends by your side. Friends will open many doors for you, so please do nurture friendships.
The third big good decision will be about what you invest in. Investment is not just about money, but your time. Sound investments assure you a secure future; think these through regularly.
I have made many choices in my life, some good, some not so good. I chose IIM Calcutta as my university because many classmates from engineering were going there, I decided to be a business practitioner and not an academic, I decided to work in India and not outside, I chose to be a leader and not a bystander, I chose to be a giver and not a taker.
You will make choices.
I am sure you will choose listening over talking.
I am sure you will speak the truth over being silent.
I am sure you will choose good over bad.
I am sure you will choose gratitude over attitude.
I am sure you will choose generosity over greed.
I am sure you will choose loyalty over backstabbing a friend or colleague.
I am sure you will choose discipline over lethargy.
I am sure you will choose humility over arrogance.
My young graduating friends, when you choose listening, good, generosity, loyalty, discipline, humility, gratitude, and telling the truth, you will make everyone assembled here very proud. More importantly, you will make a name in society. People will say, “We always knew this person was special.”
So, my dear special one, make the right choice and be happy.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Shiv Shivakumar’s LinkedIn page.