Step Two in Becoming Your Best: Choose
YOU get to decide your experience of your life.
Wow, does that sound epic! And maybe a little nerve-wracking.
You mean, I’m in charge of this thing?!
Yep. Your life is literally a choose-your-own-adventure.
A word about choices…
When you go on a quick errand for milk and eggs…and you are there for 45 minutes because you get to decide what is important, and to whom, and how much. (Omega 3? Vegetarian fed? Free range? Cow? Goat? Soy? Almond? Coconut? Cashew? On sale? Quantity? Packaging? Sustainability? Brand?)
What about taking time to choose the perfect angle, lighting, balance, frame, or filter for an Instagram post? [guilty!]
Decision fatigue IS real. And yet…
Living your life on purpose doesn’t have to be hard.
As I’m relearning with my new coach cohort, when you align any choice with your values, it can feel really easy.
The folks who ascribe to radical responsibility ask us to acknowledge that we own our life as it is. The world is blameless, and every moment is a potential jumping-off point for creating more of how you want your life to go.
Note: This is not to say that it’s your fault you’re experiencing a strong emotion, or that you prefer to have a certain past trauma triggered. No victim-blaming here. Our environments are powerful. What I am saying is that you, too, are powerful. Every situation of a thwarted societal takeover (real and imagined) was because of individuals who realigned with their values and made a different choice. Every drastic turnaround happens because someone chooses a different outcome.
You are allowed to struggle and suffer…but you don’t have to.
Choosing is not about reshaping your PAST self or your PAST environment. It’s about acknowledging that you get to choose how it goes NOW and NEXT, moving forward. You don’t have a responsibility to change what happened in the PAST, but NOW you can choose to shift how you think about those past events, and then decide to move NEXT towards whatever outcome you desire. Isn’t that a relief?
Choices are the hinges of destiny.Edwin Markham
Imagine an amazing outcome for something (a meeting, a date, a performance, a day).
What does it feel like? What are you seeing, hearing? What is the experience of it?
Name it in words. (It feels warm! I am laughing joyfully among friends, celebrating at a party! I see bright yellows. I am loved and cared for.)
Now, DON’T WAIT FOR THE VISUALIZED OUTCOME BEFORE YOU LIVE THAT LIFE.
Choose to welcome warmth, brightness, love, joy, connection – in advance of the event. Feel it moving through your body. How does it move, speak, act? Breathe it in. Sit with it. And (THIS IS THE PUNCH LINE), once you are literally embodying it, decide how you’ll allow it to impact your next actions. What would you be willing to laugh about? To celebrate? To rejoice over? Who will you connect with, from this place? How would you bring this Being to the rest of your day, even to mundane tasks?
Bonus round One: Strong Emotion
But what if you don’t feel warm and fuzzy? What if you’re feeling bummed and isolated right now?
Option One: Notice with compassion
Go back to Step 1: Notice. Pay your inner self a visit. Close your eyes and get present. How can you be with yourself, AS YOU ARE, right now? A sweet, connected embrace? Holding space in loving and understanding silence while you rage or weep? A wise and gentle reminder that you are a gift, feelings and all? An invitation to play?
Notice again: do you sense an invitation to a deeper experience? What is it? Feeling loved, valued, comforted, seen, held, honored – even in the midst of your feeling of sadness? ARE YOU WILLING TO ACCEPT THE INVITATION? Are you willing to hold space for both seemingly contradictory experiences, simultaneously?
Notice that this visualization can teach you how to bring your own being to others and connect with them, without becoming them. Honor where you are.
And notice that choosing a new experience does not imply that you should demonize your emotions or make your feelings go away. You can indeed BE your person and BE WITH the feeling. You are not your feelings; you are a person who experiences feelings.
And notice that even if one thread of your emotional tapestry is especially bright and catches your attention, you are allowed to notice how it fits in with others as well.
Option Two: Act As If
Choose an action in spite of your strong emotion – one that is in line with the experience you want to create. Acknowledge if you don’t feel like it. Do it anyway.
Our minds are powerful machines. When they run certain programming for a long time, they get used to it – and so do we. But mindstuff is software – it can be uninstalled, edited, swapped. There are many programs that can behave similarly, so if this one is not producing the outcomes you’re looking for, I invite you to design and choose another that’s more in line with your values. Unlike the software metaphor, however, our habit-seeking minds will reinstall the old program when we’re not looking. This will take repetition and patience.
Won’t this be hard?!?!?
If you’re having a hard time aligning with your values, try going back to Step 1: Notice. What speaks to you? What is important? Discover some of the thoughts and sensations that lead you towards your values, and name them. Designing the new software program is no harder than that.
Bonus Round Two: Waffling
What if making a decision seems impossible for whatever reason? Too much pressure, too little pressure, too many options, too few options, too many great options, too many terrible options, no options…
Answer: Whatever decision you make IS the best one.
It’s like the conundrum when people ask fitness professionals to name the best workout. A wise answer I’ve heard is, THE ONE YOU’LL DO. Whether a workout meet this or that research requirement or metric, most of us frankly don’t give a damn. When we get in touch with the reasons why people work out, they can almost always accomplish those goals or align with those values through several different paths. At some level, it comes down to what you enjoy doing.
My mentors at my coach training program taught us that we have three options:
- Make an empowered choice
- Make a disempowered choice
- Make no choice (which is always disempowering)
Pretty simple, I’d say. And yet…Simple ≠ easy. Or fast. Unless you decide that it is.
What will you choose next from the menu of life?