For example, when their teenagers started down a road to rebellion, many a parent has been grateful that they had the common sense to see it for what it was rather than choosing to look the other way and hope the behavior would go away.

Taking that second look every time, whether you think you need to or not, is a healthy way to get your thinking going in the right direction. Consider that initial guilt you sometimes feel when you decline to sign up for a volunteer project because your heart isn’t in it. Thinking twice about the situation might give you the insight to remember the truth that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13 NASB). God gave you your desires and abilities, so anytime you feel a gnawing doubt about a situation, give it that second look. God may be speaking to you about a better choice for your time and attention.

Tune In to the Lessons All Around You

The process of shifting our perspective and thinking twice about consequences is not accomplished in a vacuum. One of the ways we “tune [our] ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding” (Prov. 2:2) is by being alert to what’s happening with the people around us. Smart Girls intentionally seek out people who clearly are making good choices. The Scripture says, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces” (Prov. 13:20 MSG). That advice is about as plain as it gets.

One of the basic principles for making good choices is prick up your ears and listen. We all can learn from one another.

Look around at the people in your world. If their lives are working because they have made good choices, lean into their space and figure out how they do it. If they’re content with their lives, find out why. If they have a thankful heart for whatever they have, pay attention to how their words and actions nurture gratitude. If they have well-behaved children, watch how they handle them. If they have a healthy marriage, watch how they treat their mates. If they express a sincere confidence in God even in the midst of difficulty, listen for clues about how they have learned to trust Him. If they excel at their work yet keep life in balance, notice how they manage their time. Watch! And then after you have watched, emulate what they do.

We also can learn from those who are suffering because of poor choices. The grace of God is often most tangible around these people. None of us makes smart choices all the time, so there are bound to be people in your life this very minute who are struggling and yet at the same time listening for wisdom, eager to hear what the Lord is saying to them. This is a great time to draw near with an open heart. You can listen and learn from their experiences even as you pray for the mercy and compassion each person needs amid consequences gone awry.

Of course, not all difficulties result from bad choices. Jesus spoke clearly on this subject when the disciples mistakenly made a broad assumption about a man born blind. As you read this revealing scene, picture yourself standing among the disciples, listening and concentrating in this teachable moment with the Master.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:1–3)

Jesus’ words were simple and straightforward. The man’s condition was not a consequence of someone’s choice; he was just blind. But there was a reason. There always is a reason for whatever challenge or opportunity we face, although we may not know it on this earth. When we face circumstances beyond our control, we are given the option to respond with wisdom or to react with folly. What we choose will determine the course of our lives.