The Choices Within and Around Us

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in the midwest. It’s amazing what some fresh air can do for you, the quality of your thoughts, and your perspective.

After work, I enjoyed a nice, long walk by myself. I listened to music that I chose. When I didn’t like a song, I changed it. If I got tired of a song before it was over, I changed it. If I remembered a song that went well with the scenery, I searched for it. I took pictures of what I found beautiful. I walked the path of my choosing. I laughed and smiled enjoying children and dogs who played, asked questions, and lived in the moment.

I got to choose all of this for myself. The air I breathed was free. The experience was free. And life was good.

At times last week, my attitude was not so easy breezy. I worked hard to be professional and polite. I worked hard not to bring others down. However, the more I focused on everything I couldn’t control and what wasn’t going well or the way I hoped, the harder it was for me stop thinking that way.

There is brain research to support this. Our brain craves when it experiences consistently. So, if the brain has been miserable, it would rather be consistently miserable than experience momentary happiness. Pretty messed up, right?

The lesson in all of this is that we must train our brains to see the good. In ourselves. In others. In our world. What we look for, we find. It doesn’t mean we won’t see and confront the hard stuff too. We must. We must actively work to make our world a better place. But we also owe it to ourselves to enjoy this one life we’ve been given. We don’t have to be consistently miserable to confront the miseries of this world.

The only person who suffered from my disappointments last week was arguably me. We must find ways to confront very difficult realities without letting it consume us, mind, body, and spirit. I’ve shared this quote from Shawn Achor many times, but it bears repeating again, “Our brain at positive is 31% more productive than it is at negative, neutral, or stressed.” So, if we aren’t actively working to keep ourselves above the line, over time, our potential is diminished. We deserve better.

This week I’m choosing to focus on what is in my control. There are going to be times when we have to REALLY look for it, but it’s always there. Something as small as choosing my music or podcast during a walk or a drive, that’s a choice and it’s a choice I’m truly thankful for. I also get to choose how I show up for myself and others. And while there are times that despite my best efforts, things don’t go the way I hoped, I still showed up. I chose my productive response. And something about that brings me peace.

I saw a quote the other day that said, “If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.” Whether that’s moving outside for a walk, shifting our perspective, or changing our role or where we work, there are always choices.

And there is something very liberating about finding those choices and recognizing they exist.

Perhaps Matthew McConnaughey said it best in his book, Greenlights, “…don’t choose anything that would jeopardize your soul. Prioritize who you are, who you want to be, and don’t spend time with anything that antagonizes your character.”

Let’s belong to ourselves first and always. I want to be able to stay close to who I am, my joy, and my purpose without letting the hiccups, setbacks, and the behavior of others disrupt my inner peace in a big way. Peace. We deserve that. Maybe if we work to hold a bit more tightly to inner peace and a bit less tightly to what is happening around us, we will have a better shot of reaching our fullest potential.

And have fun doing it.

What has been disrupting your inner peace?

What is one small move you could make on a daily basis to reclaim that inner peace?

How might you simply have a smidge more fun every day?

What choices do you have in your daily life that are worth celebrating?

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