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Making Choices: Taking Responsibility For Our Lives

Think about this: everything you feel, think, and do is totally your own responsibility. All your reactions to others and to what they say or do to you are also your own responsibility. And all your reactions to neighborhood, community, and global events are also your own responsibility. That means there is no one whom you can blame for how you feel about negative things…everything becomes your own choice. Are you having a hard time swallowing that? Responsible for War? “Of course I am,” you say. “How can I be responsible for a war in Iraq, a hurricane hitting New Orleans, or a spate of robberies in my neighbourhood? How can I be responsible for a person who mugs me, insults me or hurts my feelings?” OK.

Fair enough. You are certainly not responsible for any of those things … but you are responsible for how you react to them. And that is where choice comes into the picture because at each and every turn of the way you have a choice. Only you decide exactly how you will respond to all of these events. No Choice? “No!” you cry.

“I have no choice but to be afraid if I have been mugged, or horrified if I see a war unfolding, or hurt, if someone upsets my feelings. What else could I do? How else could I react?” Indeed. How else? Here’s how else. If you have been mugged, you could choose to take self-defense classes, in order to better protect yourself in future and in order to feel less afraid. You could join a neighbourhood watch group to better protect the community. In the case of war, you could work towards change in government in order to ensure that events of this nature have less and less possibility of repeating, and you could work on your own “war-like” reactions to other human beings in your daily life, in the knowledge that change is created one individual at a time. In the instance of having your feelings hurt, you could decide to ask yourself why you were in that position in the first place; why that person is in your life, and decide that the best reaction is to look at your own role in the situation, rather than at how much you are hurt. Not in order to blame yourself, but to ensure that situations of this nature have less and less chance of developing in your life, or that if they do, they will no longer have the power to hurt you. And you might choose not to allow such a person into your life in the first place… Different Possible Realities? A lifetime is composed of choices. Each choice leads to a probable different possibility or reality.

Not choosing is also a choice. The choices an individual makes literally set the scene for much of the joy and misery that subsequently take place in that life. Are Some Choices Mistakes? Does this mean some choices are a mistake and others are right? That some choices lead you to a better place than others? At first glance, the answer to that may appear to be affirmative. Evidently if you choose to complete your university degree in your early twenties and work at your chosen profession, you may appear to have achieved better results than the person that dropped out and never had a profession. So person number one reaches 40 and may now be firmly and unbendingly entrenched in a fixed mindset of his or her profession, continuing there until retirement. Creativity and vibrancy may appear to have fled from that life, whereas person number two experienced life – perhaps fraught with painful difficulty - until the age of 40, deciding only then to go back to finish a degree in order to use all that life experience to apply to his or her profession in a life-enhancing way. Which one of these two made the wrong choice? Or did both do the right thing? Who can judge? Perhaps the way you ultimately feel about yourself is the benchmark. Evidently if you do not feel good about yourself, it is once again your choice to change that. Choice and Freedom Choice – and the more we are willing to embrace our right to choose and see alternatives at every turn of the road – brings us closer and closer to the richness of ourselves, to the fullness of responsibility we have for ourselves, and hence brings us closer and closer to a manner of inner freedom that those who choose not to choose will never taste. The author grants reprint permission to opt-in publications and websites so long as the copyright and by-line are included intact and the article is not used in spam.


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