Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. ~ Steve Jobs
Life is above all else a series of choices. Every moment that we are alive, we choose how we are going to spend our time and how we are going to respond to the world around us. The sum of those choices–the big ones and the small ones–are the substance of our lives. What we eat, what we read, the people we surround ourselves with, how we earn money, how we spend money, who and how we choose to love–these are the things that determine the quality of our brief time on this Earth.
Sadly, too many of us make most of our choices in reactive mode, responding to emotional hot buttons like fear, humiliation, anger or pride. We do things we don’t want to do, say things we wish we hadn’t said, and spend our days reacting to perceived emergencies, both internally and externally defined, jumping through hoops of our own creation or unthinkingly agreeing to the demands of those we consider more worthy than ourselves. And because we do, we give up the only power we have–the power to choose how we wish to live.
Do you know your hot buttons–the tender points in your heart that, when touched even very slightly, cause you to react in ways that are contrary to what you want or believe ? For many people, they are emotions like shame and guilt; for others they are rooted in fear–fear of failure, fear of success, fear of disappointing someone else or –worse–themselves. For others, they are about shame–feelings of unworthiness that they have carried with them all through their lives. But no matter emotion triggers them, every one of our tender points is inevitably rooted in impossible expectations that we have come, for whatever reason, to believe.
Today and every day, pay attention to the choices you make and the reasons you make them. Write in your journal about the decisions that made you feel good and whole and integrated and those that left you feeling as if you were playing by someone else’s rules. Then look closely at the emotion behind your actions. When you begin to see what motivates you, you will know what you need to do to change the things you want to change.
One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying. ~ Joan of Arc
Next Exercise: Healing