During my undergraduate years in college I took a class in Organizational Behavior from a very charismatic professor. I had no idea going into the class that it would be such a life changing experience for me. The professor was unknown to the world at that time but that would soon change. Perhaps some of you have heard of him. His name was Stephen R. Covey. In that class he taught us many of the principles he later shared in his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” This book is now considered by many to be one of the most influential business books of all time. By some accounts approximately 25 million copies of this book have sold worldwide.
I will never forget a lesson he taught one day right before class began. I was sitting close to the front of the classroom when a classmate approached him. I could hear every word of their conversation. The student was a member of the Brigham Young University tennis team and I heard him say, “Professor Covey, I'm not going to be in your class on Friday because I have to go to a tennis tournament in Albuquerque.” The professor looked directly at him and said, "No, you don't have to go to the tennis tournament on Friday, you choose to go." The student looked puzzled and said, "You don't understand. I'm on the BYU tennis team and we have a tournament in Albuquerque that I have to attend." Professor Covey said, "No, you don't have to go. You choose to go rather than come to my class." The student seemed flustered and said again, "You don't understand." Professor Covey then said, "I understand perfectly. You are on the tennis team and you have a tournament in Albuquerque that you choose to go to rather than come to my class on Friday.” The student then said, “O.K. I have a tennis tournament on Friday in Albuquerque that I choose to go to rather than come to your class.” Professor Covey then said, “Well, I certainly don’t blame you for making that choice. If I were on the tennis team, I’m sure I would do the same thing. But don’t say you have to do anything when in reality you have a choice in the matter!”
It was one of those moments when a light went off for me. We all need to take responsibility for our choices and actions. So many times we fail to realize that there are very few things in life that we “have to” do. In most cases we have a choice in the matter. That tendency can lead to rationalization in which we blame our lack of success because we “have to” do something else. Along the same lines it becomes easy to blame situations or other people for our not achieving. We need to quit saying “I have to” and start saying “I choose to.” So many people blame their bosses, their friends, their parents or others for their lack of success when in many cases it was their own choices that were the biggest factors. There comes a time when we all need to acknowledge that we are free to choose. Just because you may not have grown up in an ideal home does not mean that you “have to” repeat the cycle. It is time for all of us to say, "I'm a big person now, I make my own choices and take responsibility for those choices."
One of the greatest gifts we have been given is the freedom to choose our own path.
It is easy to blame situations on other people for what were really our own choices.
There are very few things in life that we actually “have to do.”
Spend this week thinking about the choices you make and how many of them you actually “had to” make. Realize that you are free to choose how you live your life.