You cannot always guarantee a positive result but you can certainly guarantee a negative outcome.
As the saying goes, “nothing is certain but death and taxes”
You can make certain outcomes- good health, responsible children, financial security, successful marriage- likely, but no one can guarantee any of these, even with vast amounts of effort. As important as a healthy diet and exercise are to health, taking care of your body does not ensure a healthy and long life. Cancer, underlying genetic predispositions, accidents, or other diseases can strike even the people with the healthiest of lifestyles. However, by drinking large amounts of alcohol, smoking, and neglecting essential nutrients, you can certainly guarantee a negative outcome and an early death. Even the most successful person cannot guarantee financial security. MC Hammer for instance… wait, nevermind that’s a bad example, but you get the point. Money now does not guarantee money later even when stewarded well. Fluctuations in an economy and a financial system that even the smartest of us do not understand, health problems, bad business partners, or criminal acts can all result in loss of financial security. However, by stewarding money poorly, spending lavishly, running up debts, and living outside your means, you can certainly guarantee that a future that is financially destitute. Even the best parents with the best techniques cannot guarantee that their children will grow up to be responsible. The wrong friend crowd or an innumerable number of other tangible and intangible things can wreak havoc on even the best upbringing. However, through neglect, abuse, unfair criticism, and a poor example, you can certainly set up children for failure. It is extremely difficult to rebound from a poor upbringing during the early years (see A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn). A successful marriage, like any partnership, is never fully under your control. You can work towards a great marriage through picking the right partner, developing solid methods of communication, being attentive to one another, and learning to accept and compensate for the strengths and weaknesses of the other person. However, people change, and like any partnership, nothing is ever fully in your control. On the other hand, you can certainly guarantee an unsuccessful marriage by not attending to the other person or being abusive and neglectful.
All this is very cheery and I’m sure I’ve brightened your day through sharing all the ways you can tank important aspects of your life. Importantly, this highlights the fact that the negative outcomes are the default, not the positive. Healthy living is an choice and a constant one at that. The couch is the default, the treadmill is the choice. Fast food is the baseline, a balanced diet must be selected and prepared. Squandering money is the default with plenty of credit cards, lending services, and advertisers to help. Financial planning and building wealth requires meticulous planning. Lazy, irresponsible children are the default, respect and character must be actively taught over many years. A crumbling marriage with poor communication is the default. A successful marriage must be fought for and intentionally built.
So that’s the encouragement. Although nothing in life is guaranteed, with meticulous planning and intentional actions we can make some of the most valuable things in life highly probable instead of impossible.
Live with intention