Before you read this, jot down 10 characteristics about yourself, all from the point of view of an outsider – an employer, a parent, a sibling, a significant other. How would they describe you? Good, bad, ugly…doesn’t matter. Just write down 10.
Don’t cheat, just do it. 10 characteristics.
Everyone has their own self-told story. We define ourselves in “always” and “never” and “sometimes” and “rarely”. We hold ourselves steady on a path that is hedged by boundaries we created before we knew we were creating them.
Some of the boundaries were created by our parents. Some of the hedges were planted thousands of years ago, cultivated by people over the generations to keep us from straying from “the path”. Some of the curbs are completely arbitrary, while some have good reasons for being there. Sometimes there’s a cop to enforce the boundary, but most of the time, there’s no actual enforcement…it’s just us versus us.
But every single self-enforced boundary has one thing in common: they are all optional.
You have the option to work or not work, the option to work in your profession or in a different one, the option to be in your relationship or to be in another or to be in none at all.
You have the option to change your mind about things that have always defined you.
You have the option to start completely over again, or to plug away and see if the answer is right around the corner.
But in every conceivable way, the option is yours.
When you say, “I’ve always been this way,” what you are actually saying is, “I have always chosen to be this way, and I am fearful of what changing would look and feel like, so it’s more comfortable to pretend it’s all out of my control.”
When you say, “I’m just not good at that kind of stuff,” what you are really telling yourself is, “I really haven’t thrown all of my effort into testing that, and I don’t particularly want the outcome anyway, so I’ll chalk this up as an innate shortcoming – totally out of my control.”
For me, I’ll bare my own soul to make this point, because I need to read this as well:
I’m struggling in my life because I’ve made choices along that way that have had consequences. I’m struggling because I’ve used “balance” as an excuse for easing off on the accelerator a bit. I’m struggling because I’m bitter, because I look at people who are doing better than me, and it’s easier for me to blame luck than it is to throw 100% of my effort into the possibility of changing my fortune. I’m struggling because I am depressed and depressed because I am struggling, yet I have failed to make a doctor’s appointment to see if there’s a better solution than the one I’m currently using. But one level deeper, could it be because I’m afraid of a consequence? Because I’m afraid of what would happen if my built-in reason for struggling was taken away?
Let’s break it all down:
I choose to work, and I choose to work specifically in my profession. I could do something else, but so far I have not chosen to do so. It may be hard to change, but it’s far from impossible. I could return to school, I could quit and live in my car, I could start a dog-walking business, or I can stay where I am…I can literally do whatever I want, as long as I’m okay with the consequences of MY decision. But it’s totally MINE to make.
I choose to be overweight, and I could choose to lose weight. I simply have not chosen to do so. It may be hard to change, but it’s far from impossible. I could work out every day, be vegan, get surgery, starve myself, or I can stay where I am….I can literally do whatever I want, as long as I’m okay with the consequences of MY decision. But it’s totally MINE to make.
I choose to be depressed, and I could choose to be different. Depression has been my constant companion for my entire life, and I don’t know how to be without it. It may be hard to change, but it’s far from impossible. I could muster the strength to call a doctor, a second doctor, a social worker. I could look at my own lists of what actions make me feel better and what actions make me feel worse, and align my life to stack the deck in my own favor, I can jump off a bridge, or I can stay where I am… I can literally do whatever I want, as long as I’m okay with the consequences of MY decision. But it’s totally MINE to make.
When I look at the outcomes as results of MY decisions, and I look at the possibility that changing my own decisions would change those outcomes, I’m both inspired and angry.
I’m inspired because I have THE most important voice in how my life goes.
I’m angry because many of the issues I face are my own damned fault – no matter how much I want to blame someone else – because I’ve made choices and refuse to change direction based on fear of the consequences.
About 4 minutes ago, you jotted down 10 characteristics about yourself. Now – go back to that list, and rewrite each one as “I choose to be _____________ because ___________________________________.”
Or don’t. (see what I did there?)