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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

C is for Choice

"[The sorting hat] only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin…"

"Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more. "Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).

There are approximately 7.9 billion people in the world and each and everyone of us has a different perspective on life and it is these different perspectives that influence the choices we make. Our perspective comes from our personal point of view on life and is shaped by many things including life experiences, the values we form, our current state of mind and the assumptions that we bring to a situation.

“We all have different perspectives on life. We all do take different decisions in life each day based on our convictions. We may take wrong or right decisions knowingly and or unknowingly. We may regard the decisions of others as right or wrong. We may have a right or wrong reasons to judge others. We have a choice to condemn or uplift others regardless of their situation. May we, instead of finding reasons to condemn, find reasons to uplift others.” Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

We can’t always choose our circumstances but we always have a choice about our attitude in any given situation.

“All of us, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, can make a conscious effort to search for possibilities around and within ourselves.” Tal Ben-Shahar

In Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” the author describes how the ones who survived the concentration camps were not the fittest, but those most connected to life. The recurring refrain of the book is based on Nietzsche’s words:

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Values make life worth living; they help us overcome challenges when life is difficult.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way”. Viktor Frankl

People come in all shapes and sizes and with all sorts of experiences and baggage, we can be certain that we will not agree with everyone and not everyone will find us their cup of tea. Rather than reacting negatively to those that don’t align with our ways of thinking it is more constructive to respond gently with integrity and self-respect seeking to understand not prove a point.

“You cannot control the behaviour of others, but you can always choose how you respond to it.” Roy T. Bennett

In a podcast by Hal Elrod, he describes two types of people - Person A or Person B –

Person A is typically unconsciously choosing who they're being; they're being reactive.

Person B is consciously choosing who they're being and they're being proactive.

There are huge differences between these two people, and consciously reflecting and choosing to be one over the other can determine our quality of life.

Hal Elrod looks at the differences between the two and suggests how you can choose which one serves you the most addressing the implications of the choices we make, and sharing insights on how to effectively choose.

Making conscious choices makes all the difference in our quality of life, mental and emotional well-being, degree of success and almost every other aspect of our being.

"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful. It's amazing to me how much we do, but how little time we spend reflecting on what we just did" Margaret J. Wheatley

Every single moment is an opportunity to make a conscious choice for a happy and fulfilled life. Every day, we make numerous choices consciously or subconsciously about how to respond or react, about what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say, ignore or challenge, reject or embrace, hold on to or let go etc. Whatever choices we make have echoes in our mind, body and spirit and create our reality.

Habits are choices that are repeated so often that it becomes an almost unconscious pattern. It is not the big, once-in-a-lifetime choices, but the countless small choices we make every day almost without noticing that has a direct, long-lasting impact on our happiness.

“Choice is creation. To choose is to create. Through my choices I create my reality. At every moment in my life I have a choice. Moments add up to a lifetime; choices add up to a life. What kind of life do I want for myself? What choices will create this kind of life?”  

Tal Ben-Shahar

We can't always control our circumstances but we do have the ability to ‘co-author’ our life journey.

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.” Anne Frank

We have no control over where we are born and the type of families we are born into, we have little control over the education we receive and the values that are instilled into us. It is all too easy to simply stay in the mould that has been made for us but we have a responsibility to ourselves and the world to become the best versions of ourselves, not be a replica of someone else or to allow others to live their lives through us.

"Please don’t waste the present, we all need to chase after our visions

because we are born looking like our parents, but we die looking like our decisions"

Davanté Dunkley

Other people and factors have an influence on our choices, but at the end of the day we are responsible for our own actions and anything that happens within the boundaries of our control.

“The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.” Steve Maraboli

We often are not honest with ourselves and deceive ourselves in many ways; making excuses and justifying why we have to or can’t do something but this is just being a victim of our own self-deception.

“We tell ourselves lies in a distorted attempt to remain sane, but in fact it is the lies that turn us towards insanity.” Matthew Kelly

We are used to telling lies to ourselves about ourselves, our family, our friends, our work, our situation using excuses such as “Everything would be alright if...”, “If I had more time” “If I was younger, healthier, richer etc I’d."...

“There’s not a chance we’ll reach our full potential until we stop blaming each other and start practising personal accountability.” John G. Miller

What excuses and lies do you tell yourself?

“You are not the victim of the world, but rather the master of your own destiny. It is your choices and decisions that determine your destiny.” Roy T. Bennett

Once we accept that we are responsible for our actions (or lack of them) then that is when we experience progress and growth and to help us, we can use the principle of positive psychology to concentrate on looking for things that will enable us to move forward and flourish.

Your decisions make your life. Are you paying attention to all of them- small decisions and big decisions alike?

“Thinking the same thoughts leads us to make the same choices. Making the same choices leads to demonstrating the same behaviours. Demonstrating the same behaviours leads us to create the same experiences. Creating the same experiences leads us to produce the same emotions. And those same emotions then drive the same thoughts.” Joe Dispenza

You become what you believe, if we don’t believe in ourselves then we are unlikely to take the action required, which will result in lack of results and will confirm our original belief.

Our personal values are our moral compass and are essential to guide us to know what to say, how to act, how to treat ourselves and others, and what life choices to make. Values are not based on temporary feelings which can be destructive and uncontrollable but on stable facets of conscious choices and decisions i.e. based on evidence and are constructive and controllable.

“Values are important because they can guide you and motivate you through situations where your feelings might lead you off course. Acting in accordance with your own deepest values is inherently satisfying and fulfilling – even though it often forces you to face your fears.”

Russ Harris

Our environment can be a determiner of our actions but there are always opportunities within our limitations. We may not always have a choice in our circumstances and environment but we do always have a choice about how to react to those things that are imposed upon us.

“I won't tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world's voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!” Oscar Wilde

When we know our moral principles and use them to guide us rather than our feelings, it can also aid us to find our purpose more easily, make decision-making easier, increase our confidence and help us be more efficient when working through difficult situations

Our energy levels are important when making choices. If our energy levels are low, we tend to make poor choices. These poor choices can eventually compound detrimentally, leading to our gash moments to become GASH moments. (gash v GASH ? Read more here!)

Our action, or lack of it can have a major impact on the quality of our lives.

Habits don’t change in a day, but 1% a day makes every habit work.” James Altucher

In the beginning, you won’t notice much difference between making choices that are 1 % better or 1 % worse, but as time goes on, these small improvements (the practice of Kaizen) or declines will stack up until suddenly you will notice a large gap between making slightly better decisions on a daily basis and not.

“We go through life following the same routine, day after day. But in order to create a rich, full, and meaningful life, we need to stop to reflect on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.” Russ Harris

Most of the significant things in life aren't stand-alone events that lead to success or de-rail us, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse.

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best”

W. Edwards Deming

It is not just a case of time or of organising our time better or setting aside specific parts of our day for certain activities or to rest. To make the most of the time we have, we have to give sufficient thought to the quality of the experience.

“Beliefs are choices. First you choose your beliefs. Then your beliefs affect your choices.”

Roy T. Bennett

Our choice of friends is important for our mental health.

“The choices you make now, the people you surround yourself with, they all have the potential to affect your life, even who you are, forever.” Sarah Dessen,

It is important to develop friendships that enhance our lives. We should look to find people that motivate, inspire, help us and share the same values and reduce the time spent with those that drain our energy.

“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” Tennessee Williams

The relationships we have towards others is equally as important. Our actions, albeit well-intentioned, if not appropriate can diminish the ability of others to take responsibility for themselves and make their own value-based choices.

“Everyone has choices to make; no one has the right to take those choices away from us. Not even out of love..” Cassandra Clare

Inappropriate intervention from us can also provide an immediate source of someone to blame when things don’t go as they would like, hinder others from working through things at their own pace, based on their own values and restricts their ability to flourish and build confidence in themselves and their own choices.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Nelson Mandela

We each have one life and the choices we make will have echoes not only for ourselves but others therefore it is important to take responsibility for those choices and reflect on them and their consequences seeing it as a positive opportunity for intentional growth rather than an occasion for doubt or fear and trepidation.

“Choice, is the most powerful tool we have. Everything boils down to choice. We exist in a field of infinite possibilities. Every choice we make shuts an infinite number of doors and opens an infinite number of doors. At any point, we can change the direction of our lives by a simple choice. It is all in our hands, our hearts, and our minds.” Unknown

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