We make choices every day, from whether to sign up for a dating website to what to eat for supper. Everything is a choice. And our choices shape us; they dictate who is in or out of our lives, define what does or doesn’t get our attention, and ultimately determine what we become. But what happens when our decision-making is on autopilot?
“During our early life we began making agreements. Our parents rewarded us when we did what they wanted and they punished us when we didn’t. We also learned behaviors and habits in school, church, and from other adults and children on the playground. The tools of reward and punishment were often emotional and physical. The impact of other people’s opinions and reactions to us became a very strong force in the habits we created”(http://www.toltecspirit.com).
In his book The Four Agreements author Don Miguel Ruiz points out that most of our habits, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors are heavily shaped by others. Teachers, parents, pastors, sports heroes, actors, friends, and even politicians have all influenced us at least a little. Of course it is normal, natural, and necessary to hear and rely on these kinds of voices as we find our own footing in the world. But at some point in life, when we are ready, we can stop and decide how much of that influence we will own and how much we will let go of as we consciously direct our thinking and choices.
If we never take the time to determine which principles or perspectives will guide our choices and to develop the discipline to follow through, we may find ourselves unsatisfied and unpeaceful. Forbes ran an article on conscious choice not too long ago. This kind of drives home the point:
“Whenever a new opportunity rises up to meet us, the great temptation is to look only at the temporary benefits. So, the knee-jerk reaction is to jump at the chance to connect, because your inner voice of insecurity warns that such an opportunity may never come again... We often allow our lower selves to rule, and then we find ourselves in “situations.” The key is to shift from simply reacting to making a conscious choice.”
Examining the factors that drive our choices can be hard work, and making changes in our responses to different situations takes time. These steps can help the next time you are faced with a choice where you are inclined to react without much thinking.
The more you get in touch with yourself, the more you are empowered to choose what is best for your life. While others may help along the way, there is ultimately no one else who can do this for you. Not your mom, not your boyfriend, not your boss. You get to own your choices and use them to shape your own experience. You can begin making conscious choices today, if you so desire.
Here are just a few quotes from thoughtful figures past and present that help to underscore the value of conscious choice.
“Living consciously is like giving yourself permission to really matter in your daily decisions. Living consciously, moment by moment, is an ongoing act of checking in with yourself to see what would feel most comfortable for your overall sense of self. Choosing in this way is a very loving process.” -Cheryl Wolf, LCPC and Lynn Bos, LCSW
“...Choices drive your actions throughout the day, even the small ones you aren’t aware you are making, including habits that you don’t even recognise you have.” -Faith Styles, International Results Coach
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” - Amelia Earhart
“...far too many individuals choose to be anonymous members of the pack, therefore suffering from the inner remorse that makes them feel like failures, filled with conflict and resentment and wondering what the meaning of life is.”- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer