Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The choices we make

The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.
Joan Didion

Radio phone-in shows are I guess by there very nature designed to provoke debate and provide a forum to voice opinions. I’m fully aware of this and yet I found myself on two consecutive days recently screaming at the radio as I drove along. Although the topic’s were quite different, on each occasion the reasons for my annoyance were essentially the same – the unwillingness of many callers to accept that everyone has to be held responsible for their own behaviour. The topics up for discussion were  the UK’s obesity problem and the punishments dealt out to people who rioted in cities across England in August. In both cases caller after caller phoned in  looking to blame other people and organisations.  If people were fat it was the fault of McDonald's who, if it were to be believed, dragged people kicking and screaming into their stores and forced them to eat happy meal after happy meal.  If people were organising riots on their Blackberries and smashing shop windows to steal designer clothes it was because of the greedy banks and corrupt politicians!

It’s very easy to blame other people when things go wrong. If we have a scapegoat we're going to feel better because we can tell ourselves that we are not responsible. We all have choices to make however and it’s those choices that determine the direction our lives take and often they are the cause when things go wrong. Of course there are elements of luck (both bad and good) that effect our choices and some things we cannot control. Most of what happens to us though is because of actions that we do or do not take and we have to hold ourselves accountable for the results.  We choose to  work or study hard, we choose how much effort we put into maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we choose to obey the laws of the land and we choose to take care of our finances. There are so many choices we make. Why should others be blamed when things are not as they should be? It’s probably because it’s a lot easier than looking inside ourselves and saying ‘Could I have done better?’. If we're going to rely on others to shape our lives for us and thus place our destiny in their hands, then this in itself is a choice we've made and we've only got ourselves to blame. 

The issues that relate to the subjects of both obesity and the riots are undoubtedly complicated, but when you really look at them and break them down to the bare essentials, individuals have made bad choices. They may have eaten too much, exercised too little or in the case of the rioters simply behaved badly. Accepting responsibility for the situations these people find themselves in has to be the first step to breaking out of their destructive behaviour. Everybody makes mistakes, its not surprising given the high number of choices we have to make. How we react is what's important. Do we accept what’s happened, learn from it and move on or do we dwell on things and spend our time trying to work out who’s fault it is? There are so many  people who have had really tough lives and cope with adversity with great dignity and strive to make the best of the situation they are in. The video of  at the end of this post will introduce you to one such person - Nick Vijicic (pictured above). We need to try and follow the example of  people like Nick, not seek to blame others or dwell on things that have happened to us. It shows us just what a difference positive choices have made to the life of someone who had every reason to find excuses not to make them.

Watch and be inspired.


  1. Totally amazing Mark - I had never seen Nick Vijicic before this. I just told Fiona and she said they show the video often in her class. - Paul Powers

  2. Thanks Paul, it's hard not to be moved and inspired by his story.

  3. Glad I watched the video. Had a hard day at work but looking forward to next week now!

  4. The Niki Campbell phone on 5Live is one of the most dispiriting bits of broadcasting you could ever put yourself through! Couldn't agree more with you!

  5. I saw a TV program about Nick Vijicic and was impressed by his attitude. One can't help but be inspired by him.