You Can Choose a Successful Future—How?
HOW can you achieve a life that is truly successful? One way is to use the remarkable ability you have to consider the possible long-term consequences of decisions you make now.
Admittedly, you may find it difficult to make decisions that promote your lasting welfare. Why? Because so many around us subscribe to get-it-now thinking. You may realize, for example, that applying Bible counsel can help you to build strong family relationships. (Ephesians 5:22–6:4) But to do so, you must regularly invest time in your family, while resisting pressure to become overly absorbed in work, recreation, or entertainment. As in so many areas of life, you must choose between short-term gratification and long-term success. How can you find the strength needed to choose a wise course? Take the following four steps.
1 Envision the Outcome of Your Decisions
When facing a decision, envision the results as realistically as possible. The Bible advises: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself.” (Proverbs 22:3) If you take an honest look at the consequences, you will likely feel motivated to avoid a course that is potentially harmful. On the other hand, when you visualize the long-term benefits of a wise decision, you can strengthen your resolve to act.
Ask yourself: ‘What will be the outcome of my decision in a year, or even 10 or 20 years from now? What will be the effect on my emotional and physical health? How will my choice affect my family and others whom I care about?’ Most important, ask: ‘Will my decision be pleasing to God? How will it affect my friendship with him?’ Since the Bible is inspired by God, it can help you discern what is pleasing to him and alert you to pitfalls that you might otherwise overlook.—Proverbs 14:12; 2 Timothy 3:16.
2 Examine the Options for Yourself
Rather than making their own decisions, many simply imitate the people around them. But a particular way of life will not lead to success just because it is popular. Examine the options for yourself. Take, for example, Natalie. * She explains: “I wanted a good marriage. But I could see that I was not going to get one the way that I was living. In college all my friends were very intelligent young people. Yet, they continually made bad decisions in their personal lives. They were constantly changing boyfriends or girlfriends. Like them, I had several boyfriends. This way of life brought me a lot of emotional pain.”
Natalie began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Among the Witnesses,” she says, “I saw happy young people and strong marriages. Although it was not easy for me, I gradually changed my values and lifestyle.” What was the result? “I always wanted to marry someone whom I deeply admired,” says Natalie. “In time, I married a man who shares my religious convictions. I feel that God has given me a family life better than I could have ever dreamed of.”
3 Take a Long-Range View
To resist short-term thinking, you also need a clear vision of the future you want and a plan for how to achieve it. (Proverbs 21:5) Do not limit your thinking to the 70 or 80 years of a typical human life span. Instead, visualize yourself enjoying the everlasting future that the Bible describes.
The Bible explains that by means of the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus, God has made provision for humans to gain everlasting life. (Matthew 20:28; Romans 6:23) God promises that soon his original purpose for mankind and the earth will be fulfilled. Those who love God will have the opportunity to enjoy life forever in a beautifully restored earth. (Psalm 37:11; Revelation 21:3-5) That future can be yours if you take a long-range view.
4 Work to Reach Your Goals
How can you reach out for that promised future? Start by taking in knowledge of God. (John 17:3) Accurate Bible knowledge will build your confidence that God’s promises for the future will be a reality. Such faith can strengthen you to make any changes needed to gain God’s approval.
Consider Michael’s experience. He relates: “I began abusing alcohol and drugs when I was 12. I belonged to a gang and expected to die before I was 30. My anger and frustration led to multiple attempts at suicide. I was hoping that there was more to life, but I just couldn’t find it.” While Michael was in high school, a fellow gang member began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Michael agreed to do the same.
What Michael learned from the Bible changed how he envisioned his future. “I learned that in the future the earth will be restored to a paradise and that people will live in peace, free from anxiety. I began to see this as my future. Building a good friendship with Jehovah became my goal. Yet, I had ups and downs. Even after I started studying the Bible, I got drunk a few times. And I got involved with a girl.”
How was Michael able to overcome setbacks and successfully change his life course? He says: “My Bible teacher encouraged me to read the Bible daily and to associate with others who wanted to please God. I realized that my gang associates were still influencing me. Although they had been like family to me, I broke those ties.”
Michael established short-term goals and priorities that helped him to reach his larger goal of harmonizing his life with God’s standards. You can do the same. Write down both your long-term objective and the intermediate steps that will help you to reach it. Share your goals with those who will support you, and invite them to help you monitor your progress.
Do not postpone learning about God and applying his direction in your life. Take steps now to build your love for God and his Word, the Bible. Describing a person who applies Bible principles, God’s Word says: “Everything he does will succeed.”—Psalm 1:1-3.
^ par. 8 Names in this article have been changed.