What do you choose?

August 27, 2010

“It is not, and never will be, about how you feel. It will ALWAYS be about what you choose.” Dr. Zonnya

So often, I think to myself, or hear someone else say, “I have no choice.” or “What choice do I have?” Every day, we are faced with decisions that involve unpleasant choices, choices with unknown or undesired consequences, or choices that we just plain don’t want to make. This is a very stressful and frustrating situation, and one that happens over and over again.

While it is true that we will find ourselves forced to make a decision, does it necessarily follow that we “have no choice”? Even though we may feel like we don’t have a choice, chances are what we really mean is that we are in a position where we don’t like our options. Sometimes, it helps to think about what we CAN choose.

We can choose to be happy. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” We can choose how we perceive a situation, and how we are going to react. So often, we think of happiness as the end result of becoming successful, and wait for something from outside to “make me happy.” In reality, happiness is something to search for on the journey to success, and that can only be found inside ourselves. We can choose to see only the down side, to remember only the painful part of the lessons we learn, or we can change direction by thinking positively and looking for things to be happy about. No one and nothing can make us miserable unless we choose to let it.

We can choose our companions. It’s hard to be happy when we are surrounded by negative people. This is a harder choice because it means that we may have to give up a friendship, or limit our contact with a family member. Toxic people, people who are constantly choosing to be negative about their own journey in life, can overwhelm others with their dark, unhappy thinking. Negative attitudes are contagious, and the only remedy may be to quarantine the source. We can choose to be around people who help us think positively by being positive themselves. We can choose to give the “gift of goodbye” to the dream stealers and negative thinkers around us.

We can choose to be grateful. In times of stress or uncertainty, I forget about the many blessings I have. I am learning to redirect my thoughts from unhappy or negative emotions to things I already have to be grateful for. It’s hard to maintain a sulk or being unhappy when you are thinking about the good things already in your life!  “Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Cicero. If we find things to be grateful for, and thank people who help us, this gives us the opportunity to sow positive seeds in others’ lives as well.

Sometimes things happen to us that we just don’t like. “I don’t have to take that!” is frequently the beginning of an argument or a confrontation. Sometimes it may be triggered by a criticism, a negative review at work, or a snide remark by one of those negative people mentioned earlier. Sometimes it can be the negative consequence of a choice or an action we made ourselves. The key is to decide how to deal with the situation. I CAN refuse to “take it” and try to fight my way out of it, convince someone else that I’m right, or just hold my hurt feelings in my heart and feel bad. Although I am guilty of all of these reactions, I am learning to apply a more practical approach. William James said, “Acceptance of what has happened is the first step in overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” I can choose to accept the criticism or the consequence, refuse to get angry or hurt, and examine the situation for the meaning of it. If I can see a reason for the consequence or the criticism, this gives me the opportunity to improve and learn from it. If there is no merit, I can let it go and move on.

Choice can be a scary thing. It means taking responsibility for ourselves, our actions, and our happiness. It removes the ability to blame other people or circumstances for what is going on in our lives. The other side of this issue  is the fact that it gives us the freedom to change things, to choose how we will react, and how we look at things, and to choose the people with whom we will spend our time.  It actually gives us the power to make our journey on our own terms.

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