We all have choices in life. We make countless choices on a daily basis. We can choose to go to work or stay home; wear jeans or slacks; comb our hair or wear a ball cap instead. Of course, these are some of the more mundane, trivial choices we make, but the process that leads to even these choices are derived from the same mechanisms we rely on to make more important, consequential decisions. I’d like to speak about how these choices lead to changes, which will often dictate our chances (or the lack thereof) in life.
Now that I’m working on my thirteenth year of incarceration, I have had ample time to reflect on and analyze my thought processes and subsequent behavior both before and during my incarceration. Through this critical and often painstaking process I have learned that the most determinant aspect of one’s outcome in life is not just in the choices they make, but more importantly the motives behind the choices.
For most of us who are here, we primarily relied on a faulty rationale to justify the choices we made. Often times we made decisions based on selfishness, shortsightedness, and instant gratification. We didn’t appreciate the long-term reward offered by making more productive decisions that were available. Now we are living with the painful result of our choices. The reasons we used to justify our choices that led us here no longer make sense. Therefore, the only logical conclusion to draw from this is it would behoove us to reassess our thinking process and to always consider every possible consequence to the choices we make.
I have had the time to discover that in order for true, sustainable change to manifest, it must be catalyzed by a commitment to making constructive choices on a regular basis. Our choices, when strung together over time, formulate our habits; and good habits generally create life opportunities that will lead to the type of life we desire to lead once released from prison. But the work starts now!
Prison, as you can imagine, can be spent in a multitude of ways–most of them not productive. Again, it comes back to the motives that influence our decision-making. Because I want to be a positive influence on younger guys here, I make the choice to conduct myself in a way that reflects that. I CHOOSE to not cuss when I speak, refer to them by their gang moniker, or glorify past destructive behavior. My conduct has to match what I “preach.” The changes we make are only credible and influential when they are consistent. No one believes someone who vacillates in their conduct.
Finally, the culmination of our habitual choices that serve as the evident change in our character will lead to greater chances in the future. When I came into this situation over twelve years ago I had a GED. There’s no shame in that accomplishment, but I knew if I was going to achieve my goal of counseling those who are on a destructive path, I’d need a higher education. My formal education has resulted in degrees that will inevitably enable me to lead to live a more fruitful, successful life when I get out. Even within these prison walls I have greater access to jobs and incentive-level housing that offers luxuries not afforded to inmates housed in other units. Aside from a formal education, simply changing the way we interact with people and carry ourselves are correlated with greater success in life.
Many variables go into influencing our decision-making process, but what I’ve been able to appreciate about prison is that the many distractions that inhibited this growth before prison are gone. If one wants to take their life in a new direction, this is the place to do it. With all the inherent challenges prison poses, it also offers a unique opportunity to scrutinize your inner-self perhaps like no other setting can. It all starts with analyzing our choices and the motives/rationale behind them. It then demands a commitment to change that requires making sound, goal-oriented decisions on a regular basis. This will inevitably lead to greater chances and opportunities in life to atone for one’s earlier transgressions and harms caused to others and society. Therefore, we all ought to encourage our loved ones to carefully consider their choices, make the necessary changes, and give themselves greater chances.
Martin Lockett is serving a 17 1/2 year sentence for a tragic car accident. Martin has substantially turned his life around by completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, published his first book and is currently working on his Masters in Psychology. Martin plans to counsel at risk youth when he is released. He hopes his insight, thoughts and experiences from prison will help those who have a loved one incarcerated or someone facing prison time.
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