Life can often become overwhelming. We feel as though so much is out of our control and that we are hapless victims of circumstance. We become unhappy and even miserable with the state of our work, relationships, and ourselves. It is like God, or the universe, or other people keep derailing us and throwing obstacles in our way. We then resign ourselves to the status quo while wishing all the while things could be different.
The bad news is that, yes, there is quite a bit that goes on in our lives that is entirely out of our control. The weather, how others perceive us, death. The good news is that we have control over something very powerful that can shape our reality. This is our ability to choose.
We have the power to choose our perception of an event, our reaction to it, and how we take action moving forward.
I will paraphrase a saying that basically states that there is nothing good nor bad, unless we perceive it as such. This might sound like the ramblings of Yoda from Star Wars, but it is actually a very meaningful idea that we can incorporate into our lives.
Things happen. Sometimes, shit happens. Unfortunately, we have limited to no control over nearly all of them.
Your partner falls out of love with you. Your company downsizes and you get let go as a result. You or someone close to you are diagnosed with cancer. A drunk driver hits your car. We can collectively agree that these are not ideal events. No one is trying to tell you to choose to them of them as “good”.
What you can do, however, is choose to accept your level of control in the situation. Depending on how much input you have, you can proceed to deciding what reaction would be most beneficial.
Basically, you make the choice to decide what perception you want to have of the situation.
It might often feel like we do not choose our reaction. The thoughts and emotions come unbidden and can take over your mind and body. This is because all humans have triggers. Some are universal, while others are based entirely off of your own unique experiences in life.
One examples is when a loved one might make a comment to you, with no ill intentions, that suddenly evokes hurt and anger. Another example could be you waking up hoping to go to the beach but open the curtains to find that it is raining, putting you in a negative frame of mind.
We can’t control what people say or whether it is raining on a weekend we hoped to get a tan. But our reactions to these external events, are totally within our control.
This is difficult because, as I mentioned earlier, certain reactions feel like an automatic reflex. Through practiced mindfulness, you can become more aware of the internal triggers and actually learn to catch yourself in the process of being triggered.
Simply saying “whoa” out loud followed by one or three deep breaths can go a long way in giving you back control of your mind and body. You can then choose what you believe to be the best reaction given the circumstances.
Once you realize you have the ability how to choose a reaction, you can actually go ahead and make the choice.
Reaction is something that happens in the moment, or very soon thereafter. Action is something you plan ahead of time to be proactive.
Once a situation occurs and you’ve had the time process it and have your initial reaction, you need to decide how you will operate going forward.
Maybe you had to move to a new city or country for work. Maybe your significant other asks for space or breaks up with you.
In any situation that impacts you long term, you have the right to choose what action(s) you would like to take on a regular basis. This could be a frame of mind like telling yourself that you will view the move as an opportunity to meet new people and see new things. It could also mean choosing to give yourself time to recover from heartbreak and focus on you and your needs.
If the situation is a terminal illness, you can make the decision to live each of your remaining days surrounded by the people you care about most and give and receive as much love and gratitude as you can.
The action you decide on might take some time of reflection to get a better understanding of your needs and desires. Take all the time you need, but no more. The longer you go on without committing to a path, the more time you spend dealing with the negative thoughts and feelings within.
Once you realize you are allowed to choose how to react, you can then have your reaction which opens up the choices you can pick for moving forward.
Without realizing it, we can give in to the easier path of thinking we don’t have any choice and we just need to accept how things are. Besides this not actually being the true meaning of acceptance, we are still making a choice; the choice to do nothing.
It can be painful and hard work constantly choosing how we will perceive, react, and act to events unfolding in our lives. That being said, this is what true freedom looks like.
Giving up on a relationship is a choice you (and your partner) make. The relationship might actually work if you both (in this case, it has to be both) choose to be a team.
Giving up on your dream is a choice. The road might be difficult, and you may have practical and pragmatic reasons to quit, but it is still a choice.
Even if you go to a psychic and they tell you life will happen for you a certain way, you get to choose whether that is the case or not.
Viewing life as a constant struggle is a choice. If you are clinically depressed or have some other condition, then please seek the best help you can find. For those of us in a funk, it is a thought pattern embedded in us that we are choosing to follow. We can choose to think otherwise.
In summation, you get to choose whether something is good or bad. You get to choose how you react to the good or bad event. You also get to choose how to carry on acting now that the good or bad event has happened.
Now that you know, be free and choose wisely.