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Control Your Life, Don’t Let Life Control You

May 17, 2009

We often fall into the mindset that we have no control over our lives. Usually, we like to play victim when things aren’t going so well – maybe our job sucks, we’re overweight, we’re in an unsatisfying relationship, or we’re lonely. We’ll blame whatever shortcomings exist in our lives on our past, bad luck, or on other people, all the while denying that we have the power to do anything about it. In fact, we’ll do pretty much anything except to turn that accusing finger around and point it at ourselves. We don’t like to admit that it’s the choices we make that control our lives.

How much do you think you could change your life in a day if you really wanted to? The answer is however much you choose to. Conscious choice is tool with which we chisel our reality.

Let’s start by taking a look at what you are experiencing in your life right now. Consider that what you are experiencing in your life at this very moment is the net result of the choices you have made up to this point in time. Essentially, all that actually exists is the present moment. The past doesn’t exist except within your memory. You can never revisit it. You can never go back. You can never change it. End of story. So while it’s useful to own, accept, and learn from your past, there is no point in stressing about your past decisions. All of the possibilities that existed have converged for you to experience your present moment reality.

How about the future? Actually, the future doesn’t exist either. The future is merely a construct of your imagination – an array of infinite possibilities. Any one of these possibilities may occur depending on the choices you make in the present moment. Whenever you conjure up an image of an event, or consider what you’re having for dinner, or think about your next interaction with a given person, consider that it is only one of an immeasurable number of possibilities. Some possibilities are more probable than others. Some possibilities take more courage to make happen than others. What every possibility has in common though is that it only becomes a reality once you make a conscious choice to make it happen. Until then, the future exists only in your mind.

If our pasts and futures are non-existent, that leaves us with only one more possible time. That time is right now. Right now is the only time that actually exists. Right now you have  a wide range of choices to make. Right now the decisions that you make are converging the possibilities of your future.  Let’s look at a simple example. Most women can relate to dieting at some stage in their lives, so we’ll run with that. So let’s say you’re overweight and have just started a new health and fitness regime. So far, you’re on track. But today you’re just home from a long day at work. You missed the bus, you’re tired, your boss yelled at you, your boyfriend is being a jerk, you tripped up the stairs, and you’re missing an ingredient to the healthy vegetable stir-fry you’re supposed to make tonight.  Right now, you have a decision to make. Let’s look at a small range of possibilities:
1.    You can’t be bothered going to the store or exercising, but you really don’t want to spoil your healthy eating plan, so you settle for some fruit for dinner, lie on the couch, and call a girlfriend for a drama queen whining session.
2.    You decide it’s all too much and drown your sorrows in front of the TV with a tub of ice-cream and a bottle of wine.
3.    You decide that you are in charge of your mood, not everyone else in your life. You get changed and do a 15 minute jog or walk to the corner store, get your ingredient, and prepare yourself a quick, healthy stir fry.

If you choose option 1, you’re living reactively. You’re doing okay, but you’re not putting much effort into achieving your goals. You’re not going to achieve the results you want in life by going with the flow when the flow is off-course. If you chose option 2, you’re setting a precedent to say “screw it” when the going gets tough. You’ll feel worse about yourself for lacking self-discipline, your results will be heading in the opposite direction of what you intended, and next time you have a bad day you’ll be more likely to cave because you’ve given yourself permission to do so before. If you chose option 3, you’re really going to start seeing changes in your life. You will feel good about yourself for sticking with your plan, your body will thank you, you’re building your self-discipline, and the possibilities of your future are converging to a more positive concrete reality.

That is the result of only one decision. Think of how many decisions you make during the day and how much you could affect your life if you made your decisions consciously and in accordance with your goals. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Give that old friend you have been meaning to catch up with a call instead of just thinking about it. Ask that cute person you see at the bus stop every day if they would like to go out some time. Put on a smile and go out and meet new people instead of sitting at home alone. Your life presents you with an infinite selection of choices with every passing moment. How you choose to respond right now is what shapes your life. So get out there and start creating the reality you want!

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