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You are what you choose
Always making fully conscious choices is the key to a positive life
Living your life consciously isn’t a once-and-for-all action. It’s a way of being that will make everything you do more vibrant, more alive, and more fun.
Destiny is made of choices. Most of what will happen to you depends on the choices you make and their consequences in the future. Careful, conscious choices produce positive outcomes; hurried, poor choices lead to regrets. Some people make poor choices about continuing in education and find themselves blocked from worthwhile jobs. Others choose to give up instead of persevering with difficulties and live to regret it.
Choices offer options to respond differently than you have in the past and try new things. Knee-jerk reactions almost always block your opportunities to learn and grow. Making conscious choices restores your freedom to choose your own way.
The interaction of your choices with events around you produces your future. Choice is the ultimate human freedom, but your automatic habits usually block it. Remember these key points and you won’t be blocked again:
- Every choice is a priceless opportunity to seek out new possibilities and change your life for the better. Even ordinary choices may conceal options that will transform your future. Never allow yourself to make choices without thinking them through.
- Other people sometimes give poor advice. Don’t be the kind of person who’s easily lead. Thank people for their views and help, but always make up your own mind.
- Don’t allow habits to rule your life. If you do, you’ll miss crucial new experiences. All you’ll do is what you’ve done before—again, and again, and again.
- To be able to learn from your experience, you must make sure you’re fully conscious of what you’re doing and why. If you can trace the patterns of cause and effect, you’ll know how to repeat what you’ve learned when you need it again. If it goes wrong, you’ll have some ideas about where to look to find out why.
Always look for alternatives
One of the many oddities about the human race is our reluctance to deal with options. People don’t like having too many choices. It makes them anxious.
Every alternative means more complexity, harder decisions, and more opportunities for messing things up. That’s why many of folk are more concerned about not being wrong than they are about being right. They’re always looking for the one, right answer—which makes them oh so vulnerable to manipulation by con-artists; and, when they don’t find it, they let their habits narrow down their alternatives to one or two familiar ones. It’s much less stressful.
If you want to transform your life, re-establish conscious choice in place of all those automatic, habitual decisions. This will give you back your ability to find fresh options to replace worn out habits; permanently increase your opportunities to learn; and free you from repeating past mistakes.
Think about what you’re doing about your future. What alternatives have you been ignoring? Which ones have you skipped over? Write them down. You don’t have to follow them, but thinking about them sure beats rushing ahead blindly.
Stay in charge of your life
You nearly always have more good options than you think. Whenever something happens, you have a choice about how to respond. That’s your choice. No one can take it away.
Let’s look at some areas where simple choices can transform your day:
- Try choosing to listen longer before giving a response. Most of us are too keen to talk and not willing to listen carefully enough before we do so. Better listening will save you from many screw-ups.
- Try never to take action when you’re feeling emotional. Step back and wait until you’ve calmed down. Anger, frustration, jealousy, fear, or revenge make poor advisers.
- Try seeing things from the other person’s point of view. It might look very different.
- Try to avoid making snap judgments. We’re all too eager to rush into deciding who’s right and who’s wrong. Do you like people making such judgments about you? No? So why do it to them?
- Don’t tell yourself what you can’t do. As soon as you do this, it’ll be true. Try telling yourself it’s okay to try it and find out.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously! Mistakes aren’t the end of the world. They’re so common, anyone can make them. Just remember the person who never made a mistake, never made anything else
- Don’t be a wimp! Don’t be afraid to be bold, try new things, take a few risks. That’s the only way to create a life worth living.
Revisit your unused options
Many people find it really helpful to take an objective look at themselves and their past choices from time to time. It may seem silly to think about what you haven’t done as a source of things that might help you transform your life in the future, but it’s not.
You may be surprised to notice how many of those unvisited and unused options are either still available, or suggest ideas for solving your current issues. The good news is that maybe the majority of poor choices can be undone or reversed. All it takes is to stay aware of what you did, why you did it, and what the outcome was.
There’s really no point in making mistakes unless you learn from them; and no point in learning unless you do something differently as a result.
Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. Recent articles there on related topics include Why procrastination is sometimes the very best course of action and Chickens, eggs, and happiness. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization
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