Thursday, January 27, 2011
WE HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE
We all want to live fully, to give 100% to our life, because we know that this is what gives meaning to our lives. We can achieve this only by learning to live consciously–in other words, by learning how to choose. We all can alter the course of events and increase our capacity for consciously changing the direction of our lives by learning how to choose.
In spite of the fact that there are things we cannot change, we still do have the possibility to choose consciously in many areas of our lives. This power to choose is what makes possible the progress of an individual and development of a society. Of course, there are some aspects of life that we cannot change, for example, the past. We can't even change our past and we cannot change any of its consequences. The best we can do with the past is to accept it and learn from it. But we have freedom to choose our future.
The only way of having some positive control over our future is through our wise decisions in the present. The most fundamental choice a person makes is what to do with his or her life. This choice is made not only with regard to how to earn a living. There is a deeper choice than the choice of a profession–one that affects all our decisions. It is the choice of the level on which to live. That level implies how we will live and what values we have. This decision touches every part of our lives and shapes the rest of our choices.
The world one chooses to live in depends on the meaning one gives to one's life. What does he want to do mainly in his life? What are his life goals? When one chooses the meaning of one's life, one is also choosing the meaning and the scope of one's struggles and achievements. Once a person's fundamental choice has been made, he enters another level of choice. He has to choose the steps he will take to fulfill his ideal.
Each choice has its consequences and is a limitation. The consequences of one's decisions are usually easy to foresee. The person who chooses a professional career knows beforehand that several years of his life will be committed to study or to specialized work. The artist doesn't choose just the road to fame; he knows very well the effort that choice of life will demand of him.
When someone chooses something, he also chooses everything that choice implies. If I decide to buy something expensive, I cannot complain that it costs too much. If I spend my money on luxuries, I cannot complain that I don't have enough to buy necessities. Yet not everyone accepts this obvious fact. Many people choose what they want, but reject what it implies.
Every time we choose, we limit ourselves. This is impossible to avoid. Sometimes we don't want to choose in order not to limit ourselves. But if we don't choose, we don't fulfill our goal. To be able to fulfill something, we need to concentrate our efforts. Even though we might be able to fulfill several objectives at the same time, we would never be able to fulfill all the possibilities we have.
We can never stop limiting ourselves because we cannot avoid deciding–even when we have not intended to make a decision. Not to choose is to decide to wait, to let time go by. This means that we are limiting ourselves by not channeling our efforts into something determined, something we would like to fulfill. Among our various options we make that choice not to choose. To limit ourselves is counterproductive when it reduces our capacity to understand and participate. But when we limit ourselves voluntarily, it makes us conscious of what we are doing, conscious of the responsibilities we assume and the meaning of our efforts and achievements.
Each choice we make determines our future possibilities. Each choice establishes a course of action, and within each course of action there are certain possibilities. It is important to know, each time we choose, what possibilities we have from then on, and which options we are giving up in order to fulfill our desires.
Every time a person completes a stage, he encounters new possibilities. While a student is in high school he appears to have many options, but in fact he has just two fundamental ones: to finish high school or not. While he is still in school he can think about all he will be able to do when he graduates, but it is only after he completes his studies that he has the real option of going to college. New possibilities appear after the conclusion of a stage.
If we make a habit of choosing consciously and are aware of the stage we are going through, we have greater strength to fulfill our objectives without wasting time. We know beforehand the path we will follow, the responsibilities we will assume, the work we will begin and the obstacles we will have to overcome. But when we don't choose consciously, we simply drift into danger. A person wandering on a mountain in the dark may come to the edge of the cliff without realizing it. The best he can hope for is to escape with his life and reach safe ground. That is, to get back safely to his starting point. Conscious choices help us to avoid not only wasting time but also suffering unnecessarily.
In addition to the choice of our ideal and the means to fulfill it, there are the countless decisions we make, every moment of each day. What mood will we be in today? How will we relate to others? What tasks will we do and how will we perform them? Though we may not be aware of it, the sum of the small decisions marks the path we will follow throughout the day, just as the wake behind the boat indicates in what direction it is headed.
Sometimes a person is surprised upon arriving at a particular place because it isn't the one he thought he had chosen. However, it really was the place he was choosing when he made all his little decisions, the ones that seemed unimportant and which he didn't associate with his ideal. Let's take the example of a father who almost never spends time with his son. Whenever he has the opportunity, he chooses something else, without seeing what he is doing: he goes out with his friends, watches television, or takes a well-deserved nap. As time goes by, the father-son relationship becomes increasingly distant. Finally the father realizes that his son is like a stranger to him. Although he had always wanted to have the best possible relationship with his son, the little decisions he made every day produced a very different and unexpected result.
Although one's ideal is chosen once and forever, it is fulfilled at every moment. When we understand this, we become more and more conscious of our choices we make and their consequences. To live consciously, then, is to choose intentionally the way we live all the time, both in the moments of great decisions and those of small, apparently insignificant ones. As we establish the habit of choosing consciously, we become better at handling our life successfully and we become masters of our lives.