Past Decisions 

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Sequence 45

34-Past Decisions

I examine past choices a lot. When I think about past decisions, I also think of costs. How would you respond to the following questions:

  • What did I gain or lose from my past decisions? 
  • If I made a different choice, would I be better off today? 
  • What options can I choose today? 
  • Which choice will put me on track for the best future?

These types of reflections cause us to examine our life. They help us make better choices. From inside jail cells, I started assessing how my past decisions led to my confinement. Then I began thinking about tools I could create to measure progress. Those thoughts helped me to develop a release plan that I could use to leverage my way into new opportunities. 

I needed to create accountability logs to keep me on the path to success. I used that strategy throughout the entire 26 years that I served. I still use that strategy today, even though I completed my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons on August 12, 2013.

Starting Over:

Being in prison gave me a chance to start over; ironically, since writing the first version of this Preparing for Success After Prison course in 2017, I’ve found that I routinely use the lessons in this course. I use them in my business, and I use them in my life. They always help me to recalibrate and get back on track.

While stuck in a jail cell, I knew that I wanted to change. In some ways, being in jail opened opportunities to recalibrate. I had a place to sleep, and the system would provide for all my necessities, including food and water. Institutions would provide clothes. Access to financial resources would ease the pain of confinement, but I did not need money. Had I not been incarcerated, I would need an income to provide for myself. 

I needed tools to measure my progress. Progress would help me build a powerful case, showing my commitment to personal development. By making accomplishments from prison—despite the obstacles—more support could follow. That support might prove essential to my preparations for success.

I could count the number of months that passed. Each month would lead me closer to my release date. But a release date wouldn’t set me free. Sadly, when many people conclude their prison term, they find enormous struggle on the other side. While going through my journey inside, I listened to many people who told me about the challenges they faced when they got out from previous terms:

People that served time and then returned to prison told me they could not overcome:

  • employment hurdles,
  • challenges finding housing,
  • feelings of being unwelcome in society,
  • the need for resources to make a clean start, 
  • the pull from a criminal lifestyle.

Some people told me that they preferred to live in prison than live with all the challenges in society.

Those people could change their life if they wanted, but they adjusted in ways that conditioned them to live in prison. They believed in prison maxims: 

“The best way to serve time is to forget about the world outside.” 

Later, they learned the disappointing reality that their choices in prison made them less able to fit in with society. They developed a tone, mannerisms, and attitude while living in the prison adjustment. In the broader community, the prison vibe didn’t bode well for people who said they wanted to get on the pathway to success.

By the time I returned to society, the lessons I had learned from masterminds had left an indelible impression on me. Books I read about leaders and masterminds or the lessons I learned from listening to those people taught me the importance of personal accountability. 

When I finished serving my sentence, I wanted to pay it forward by showing others how they could grow by learning the same lessons that leaders taught me. Any person could choose how to adjust in prison. If they understood the power of creating personal accountability tools, they might develop new resources to restore confidence. The accountability tool would show the relationship between decisions, actions, and prospects for higher levels of success.

To become more persuasive in helping people see the potency of accountability metrics, I needed to develop the credibility that would come from a successful reentry. To paraphrase a well-known cliche, when we give a person a fish, the person eats for a day, but when we teach a person to fish, the person eats for a lifetime. Assisting others would be one way to be the change I wanted to see in the world.

I truly believed that other people could build better lives if they learned the same lessons masterminds taught me. All of us could work to:

  • define values, 
  • set clear goals, 
  • improve our attitude,
  • visualize aspirations,
  • take small action steps, and
  • hold ourselves accountable.

Questions: Develop critical thinking with responses to the following questions

  • What did I gain or lose from my past decisions? 
  • If I made a different choice, would I be better off today? 
  • What options can I choose today? 

Which choice will put me on track for the best future?

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