It’s appealing to think of ourselves as the result of a single choice to do something great, as if the best writers in the world suddenly decided “I want to be a great writer” and then became one. One choice, and then our path is set before us.
It’s a nice thought, but it’s also dead wrong.
The reality is that our lives are shaped by the countless choices we make, every single day. These choices are both big and small, and also have apparent weights to them. Said differently, there are plenty of choices that we think are important, but ultimately don’t matter in the long run (and vice versa). Our lives are a patchwork of these choices, one piled on top of the other. They aren’t layered neatly either. If you were to try and “follow the thread” of your choices back in time, things will tend to overlap and be confusing.
Therefore, it’s important to realize that people aren’t made from a few choices, both good and bad. Just because someone made a bad choice doesn’t mean that all of their decisions are equally terrible. Even more important is the realization that one good choice doesn’t insulate someone from making a bad choice. What this means is that good people can make bad choices. And bad people can make good choices.
What this also means is that the labels of “good” and “bad” aren’t appropriate. People can be many things, and they are the result of a million choices taken in their lives. It’s almost impossible to decipher and generalize someone’s personality from just a few of their choices.
Remember, people are a collection of choices, not just one or two.