“Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibilities.”
– Oprah Winfrey –
Lately I have noticed that a lot of conversations about dealing with the stresses of modern life seem to conclude with someone advising that we should all stop worrying so much and trying so hard, that we should go with the flow and “just live our life”. Sometimes this is good advice, as many things are beyond our control and worrying about them will not make any difference. And we can often be so focused on the future that we miss out on all there is to enjoy in the present moment. But this advice has a serious downside: “just live your life” can lead us to turn our back on our most sacred privilege, our ability to choose our own path. In the guise of freeing us from stress and struggle “just live your life” can actually have the sinister effect of preventing us from making the most of our life.
When the injunction to just live our life becomes a license not to choose, we end up being pulled along by other’s choices, simply behaving the way we always have in the past, passively reacting to life rather than actively creating the life that we really want to be living. To make the most of our life, we must first of all choose to choose – this is the fundamental choice underlying all other choices. We must commit ourselves to the idea that there are far more possibilities than we normally see, and then to the effort that it takes to examine these possibilities and choose the one that is best for us.
At some point, almost all of us have had the feeling of being trapped. We may hate working for an impossible boss who doesn’t respect us, but because we need that paycheck – and this is a lousy time to be job searching – we feel we have no choice but to stay. We may be in a relationship with a partner from whom we have long felt alienated, or whom we no longer love, or who treats us badly – but we stay because we are terrified of being alone.
There are other ways of feeling trapped, as well. We may think things are actually going quite well in our life personally and professionally and yet have the feeling that something important is missing. We may realize that, objectively, we have a lot to be grateful for, and yet feel that this realization is not enough, because nothing seems to excite or inspire us any longer. Whether by our negative circumstances or even by our good fortune, we feel trapped and cannot see a way out.
It is at such moments when we feel trapped_ that we must choose to choose, that we must commit ourselves to looking for new ways to change our life to finding within ourselves the keys that will unlock the doors of the prison we are trapped in. this is the time to recognize that while objective constraints may, at least in part, shape our life, the trap has at least something to do with our own mind- set as well: Paths are almost always open to us, small or large changes we can introduce to improve our situation. Choosing to choose means searching for the paths that lead to change.
Recognize the power of choosing to choose. Sit yourself down to reflect, to analyze, to think about the possibilities that are open to you. Ask yourself some difficult questions: What do I have to do for my life to be the way I want it to be? Where do I want to go? How do I intend to get there? Write about your options, discuss your situation with those you trust. Refuse to accept “I have no choice” as an answer.
Choosing to choose is not easy. It requires not only effort but also courage. It is about being deliberate and strategic instead of just going with the flow; it is about charting unknown paths instead of resigning yourself to the road already taken; it is about being willing to struggle and fail, rather than succumbing to the comfort of the safe and the familiar. Choosing to choose does not guarantee a solution to the feeling of being trapped, or to any other difficulty that you may be facing, but it is the mind mind-set that increases the likelihood of finding a solution, the mind – set that is required of you if you are to realize more of your potential for success and happiness.
So what will it be? Do you just live your life and passively resign to your predicament, or do you choose to choose and actively create the kind of life that you want for yourself? That is the choice that you have at every moment, a choice that are ahead of you in this book, and of the many more that can help you create the life you want.