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The great end of life is not knowledge but action.
-- Thomas H. Huxley


The MONTHLY Motivator - November 2002

Choosing the best

It’s easy enough to see that life is a series of choices, and that living successfully is largely a result of making the choices that will take you where you intend to go. Yet you can often become so overwhelmed with the consequences of your choices that you lose sight of the very process that brought about those consequences. As a result, you can fail to appreciate the very real power that you always have, no matter what the situation may be, to control and direct your life by the choices you make.

It can often seem that life is dictated by events over which you have no control and therefore that you have no choice in the matter. But even when something is beyond your control, still you always have the choice of how you respond to it, and that can make all the difference in the world.

To see life in terms of choices is to become empowered in a very real way. The alternative is to see yourself as a victim of circumstance, dependent on blind luck or on the pity of others, burdened by your needs and the unfairness of your situation, with no choices available to you. But the reality is that you always have a choice, and those who make good and positive and valuable things happen are those who understand the value of making choices. Those who achieve are those who frame their world in terms of choices.

Choices are powerful and valuable, yet they do have a price, and the price is responsibility. That’s one reason people are so often reluctant to acknowledge that they have a choice -- because they know that by accepting that choice they are also accepting responsibility. Sometimes it seems easier just to ignore the choices, avoid the responsibility, and let yourself be tossed around by the circumstances of the moment. But choosing not to make a choice is itself a choice, and usually one which you will eventually regret. You cannot really run away from responsibility, as daunting as it may be. You can only choose to ignore it, and by so doing you practically guarantee that your choice will work against you.

Look around you, and you will see quite clearly the life you have chosen. That statement may sound cruel and unfair, particularly if life has dealt you some difficult blows. After all, no one, for example, chooses to be born to an abusive parent. Usually no one chooses to be laid off from a good job. No one chooses to contract a debilitating illness. Few people ever willingly choose to bring any kind of difficulty on themselves. Yet everyone experiences difficulties and challenges. The power of choice comes in the way you respond to those difficulties, in the way you meet those challenges. By stepping up and making intentional choices, you can determine whether the difficult circumstances bring you down or whether they give you a reason to push positively forward.

Often, life is viewed in terms of needs rather than choices. Unfortunately, seeing something as a need takes the focus away from the power of choice. Seeing something as a need often leads to resentment and a feeling of being trapped, while seeing it as a choice leads to a sense of empowerment and control. The fact is, most of the things you see as needs can be transformed into choices by a change in thinking.

All too often, much of the focus of day-to-day life is on striving for more in order to satisfy what you perceive as your needs. It can be draining, it can be stressful and it can be frustrating to always keep your efforts directed toward getting more and more, always driven by those needs which never go away. Usually when you get more, it’s never enough. You find that you need even more. Is there any way out of this vicious cycle?

Yes -- the way to get more from life is not by needing more. The way to get more from life is by needing less and choosing more.

Certainly there are some basic, fundamental needs which cannot be denied or ignored. To stay alive, you must have air to breathe, water to drink, and nutritious food to eat. You need clothing and shelter to protect you from the elements. Beyond those basic requirements, however, things become much more flexible. Beyond those basic needs, almost all of your needs become more a matter of choice. Indeed, the majority of your more complex and burdensome needs are very likely things which are imposed upon you by your own choices or by the choices you’ve allowed others to make for you.

Actually, most of what you perceive as needs are not really needs at all. Rather, they are strong indications of your desires and your driving purposes. When you start to see them as such, and relate to them as such, it can make a tremendous positive difference. When you see them as choices you are able to make, then they no longer have the power to burden you.

Interestingly, the more you see yourself as needing something, the less your likelihood of having it. When you can let go of the need, you also let go of the negative sense of lack and limitation associated with it. When you no longer focus on the need for it, you can begin to focus on creating the reality of it. When you need it less, you begin, in a very real sense, to have it more. You go from being desperate about it to being confident about it.

Consider, for example, the need for approval from others. Think of how much time, money, thought and energy you put into objects and activities which are solely for the purpose of impressing other people.

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--Ralph Marston

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