All that we need to be in control of our lives is to know that we have choices. We do not even have to exercise them so long as we own them.
Our lives are not determined by the situations that confront us, but by the choices that we make when confronted. If I am born into a poor family I can accept my lot and make the best of it, I can work hard to overcome it, or I can become a thief, or a drug dealer. We are not victims of the situations that life puts us in, we are victims of the choices that we make within those situations. It is vital to living a full life that we accept this fact.
I knew a woman who began with every advantage and ending up on welfare. I saw my daughter reacting to life in the same way and it worried me. I feared that if my daughter saw through the same lens she might end up same way. My daughter’s response to my fears was, “Don’t worry I won’t end up like her”. That statement had such an impact on me, because I knew that no one decides to destroy their lives. Our lives follow the paths determined by our choices and those choices are made one at a time. When we perceive that a choice we made was not right, we should then try to make a choice that is right for where we are now. Instead, most of us lose sight of where we wanted to be and instead focus our choices on making our initial choice right. Each choice is taking us in one direction or another. If we are not aware that we are making choices, we will not look around for options. The path that my friend was on was not the path that she thought that she had chosen it was the path that she took because she believed she had no other choice.
When we are in a place that is not where we had planned to be, we feel unhappy; either with ourselves or with the circumstances we hold responsible for putting us there. Usually we prefer to believe that it is anything other than our own choices that put us where we are. It is generally a partnership, life presented the choices and we made them. Acknowledging that we made the choices helps us to be more aware of the choices available to us in the future. It helps us to stand back when things seem bleak and see other options, and other ways. If we feel like victims, we react without assessing our possibilities, if there is a turn – we miss it because we are not looking. We continue on the path that has caused us suffering since our initial choice. What we can do is we can choose to dig ourselves out instead of choosing to dig ourselves in deeper.
My childhood was very difficult and I felt that I was a victim. I got involved in drugs, tried to kill myself, and I married for the wrong reasons. I married to escape the pain at home. As victims do, I sought escape from the suffering of my life, rather than a better life altogether. I exited through the only door that I could see simply because I was not aware that there could be others. I was not living in choice. I married the first man who asked. I felt very sorry for myself. Each choice that we make out of a feeling of helplessness places us in a situation that increases our helplessness. All of my limits, fears and pain simply changed form but remained consistent with my belief that I was a victim. I continued to make choices dictated by my perception of the situation rather than dictated by what I wanted, or who I was or where I wanted to be.
One day during therapy the therapist asked me why I chose to take drugs. I came from a town where taking drugs was the accepted means of dealing with our pain. However when I had to explain it as a choice, something changed. I never thought of anything that I had done as a choice; I just did what I believed I had to do. This covered anything, I had to react, I never thought that I could choose to act. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had made a choice and it was one of many choices that I could have made.
When we are children we do not have many obvious choices, we can fight, we can hide but we cannot change our situation. We actually have very little apparent power. Within that context I did not see myself as making choices I simply reacted.
I accept the choices that I made then; I accept my reaction to that environment because I did not see at the time that I had choices. I could never look back and blame myself for walking through a door that seemed to me to be the only one open. It was the door according to my belief system, but not the only one according to who I was and what I really wanted. Victims are always blind to where they are going because they live their lives running from instead of going to. They never plan a future – only an escape. Yet knowing even after the fact that I did have choices gave me the power that I needed to move on. I finally realized that each step along the way in my life I did make a choice for which I alone, not my parents, not my life, and not my situation, was responsible and one hundred percent accountable. I made the only choice that I could see, and that was fine, because a person who owns the power of choice owns his life. A person who makes choices, regardless of the outcome of those choices, is a person with a future to live, a life ahead of them rather than merely an expanding prison cell. I may have made choices that did not turn out as I planned, but those choices were mine. This freed me.
The fact that my life is made up of my choices has given me my wings. Nothing could stop me but I myself, and that was fine. I knew that in my life I may reach many dead ends, but if I built the road that reached them, I could build the road that would take me around them.
We suffer not because of what happens to us in our lives but because of the choices that we make in reaction to what happens. Each moment we live, we are making a choice, and that choice will determine the next experience. There is no choice is our last choice until we take our last breath.
We cannot assess our worth based upon one choice. Rather we must assess ourselves based upon our willingness to accept responsibility for each choice. If we do this, it will drive us to make each choice responsibly. Remember that so long as we have another breath we have another choice. Sometimes we are meant to make what we believe to be the wrong choice so that we can arrive at the right destination. When a situation is painful it is not working. If we cannot find a way to make it work there probably is no way. Here is where we have to make a choice. If we stay that is our choice and if we keep moving that too is our choice. The controlling factor is not the situation it is the choice that we make.
If I want my partner, but only if he or she fits into a certain image that I hold, I really want the image and not the person. I should look elsewhere or change the mold. If I need a job but I will only work under certain conditions, I cannot complain that I cannot get a job. I just have to choose what I want more and follow my choice. It does not matter what we do or do not do, we are making choices. What happens to us is and will always be a result of those choices not ever a result of the reason that we made those choices.
There is a person with one leg who chooses to play tennis and live a full life and joyful life. Then there is the person with one leg who chooses to sit in a room lonely and bitter feeling that life has given him nothing but pain. Both choices are understandable. The former is the choice of one whose choices are founded in a belief in challenges and not limits. The latter is the choice of one whose choices are founded in limits, a victim. Why should we sit and make ourselves miserable over those things that we cannot control? The time that we are wasting, and that pain that we are suffering is due to our choices, and not due to our situations. Difficult and painful things happen in our lives, but how we choose to deal with them will affect our entire lives. When we find ourselves facing an ocean of suffering we can choose to swim through it, facing only the far shore, or drown in it.
It used to anger me when every time I said that I could not do something because it was too hard, or even impossible to accomplish someone else did it. Someone would come along with less going for them than I thought that I had and do what I thought that I couldn’t. But I chose to let that help me grow. I could have said that that person was lucky, I chose to look at that as a sign that it could be done. When I took responsibility for my choices I had to examine their foundation. My choices were founded on my belief that my life held only a lose lose potential. Those who accomplished what I chose not to even attempt chose based on a belief that anything is possible.
I once would have decided that they must have been better or luckier than I. That way of thinking was once a choice that validated my self-pity. Instead I now choose to allow the accomplishments of others to empower me, and to make it more difficult for me to say, “I can’t”. We have to take responsibility for our choices, and embrace our ability to choose.
Some souls have chosen a more difficult road than others, yet however difficult or easy the road may be, we have all come here with everything that we need to reach our own destination. The pot of gold is behind one of the doors. All that we have to do is to find it. And we find it by choosing doors. Life is a treasure hunt, each experience gives us something, a direction, a tool, or a clue to the next door until we have it all.
The key is not to give up if it is not behind door number one. We have to keep in mind that the goal is just to find the treasure not to be right. First we find the treasure and then we know where it is, we do not have anyway of knowing where it is before we find it, so we should not expect that of ourselves. God knows where it is and He will lead us to it so long as we choose to seek it. Life does not force us ever to give up, that is a choice, sometimes it is the wise one, but in any event it still is a choice.