In life, we generally have two choices to make at any given moment. Many times, the choice is obvious like choosing life over death.
When the Choice is Easy
Imagine, you are going to cross the street in busy traffic. You could just run out in front of the cars without waiting for the stop light or the cars to stop. That option is there. What happens when you do that? Chances are, you’ll get a nice wake up call or lose your life. This makes the choice pretty clear doesn’t it? Wait for a break in the action.
Life and death type choices are easy. Most of us are wired to avoid things that will give us pain or death. If the stove is on, you have the option to place your bare hand DIRECTLY onto the burner. But just try that next time you turn your stove on. Put your hand or finger on the hot burner. You’ll notice how your reaction is to lift it off as quickly as possible due to the pain. It’s actually DIFFICULT to make a conscious choice to feel pain.
To sum that up, we’ll choose the path of living and not feeling pain given that option more often than not. Only in rare cases – to save a child or loved one, will someone intentionally let themselves get hurt.
When the Choice is Not Clear
Sometimes the choice gets a little more difficult. This is especially true in our relationships with those around us. How do you know when to talk to someone? And then what do you say? What happens if you are feeling pain because you feel shut out by someone? Do you continue to try and talk to them knowing their intent?
It’s the people equation that now makes the two choices harder. On the one hand, we don’t like to feel pain. If someone is distant, doesn’t it make you feel like you’re a lesser person – that you’ve somehow done something horribly wrong to that person? Isn’t the instinct to continue to try and remedy that situation by reaching out? I know for myself, my instinct is to continue to reach out until the problem is corrected.
But what if that isn’t possible – at least in the short-term? What is a great survival mechanism for life and death now becomes a hindrance when it comes to building friendships and relationships with other people. This requires a change of approach – overriding our instinctual programming to something higher.
I recently read through a free E-book, “Letting Go” by Leo Babauta, owner of the Zen Habits website. Leo talks about how over the last few years, the zen philosophy of learning to let go of his attachment to situations and outcomes has made for a much better life – and made him a much better person.
I look at this as the next evolution beyond our programming to try and always make everything right with people all the time. What I’ve come to realize that with people, it really is more about them than it is you. Each of us needs certain things in our life to feel centered and happy. Very rarely is someone thinking about someone else besides themselves, unless they are deeply in love or in service.
That helps give pretty good perspective. Even if someone is obscenely mad at you, it’s there reason and not yours. It’s possible to treat yourself like a simple observer of life, taking notes of situations and what is going on. When I think of myself more like an observer in life, without expectation, I find myself being more fascinated with outcomes, rather than attached to them.
Getting To a More Evolved Choice
I think most you probably have the choice of living rather than dying down pat. You also probably have the choice of avoiding pain pretty solid as well. My greatest lesson this year so far has been what to choose when there are intense feelings and emotions surrounding people close to you. How do you learn to cope when things are really hard in personal relationships?
My approach now is pretty straightforward. It’s taken quite a few days of high blood pressure I’m sure as I’ve had to discover and work through this. And I have by no means perfected this approach, but here it is – with some insights taken from Leo’s E-book.
- When I wake up each day, be thankful I have another day to be a part of life.
- I send love, care, and appreciation for those I care about, regardless if I am in contact with them or not. I do this mentally through meditation.
- I focus on the things I am working hard to accomplish in my life.
- I stay physically active and engaged in work and exercise.
- I embrace and accept any stress or anxiety I am feeling about attachments or otherwise. I then practice letting go of that attachment as I am but a simple observer in life.
This is by no means a one-size fits all list. But for me, it helps me to be thankful, send love and care to those I love and care about, no matter how they might feel back. I do this without expectation – I just send love and care. By exercising and keeping my body fit, I have the energy to focus on my goals, work, and other activities each day.
My CHALLENGE for you then is this:
What are you holding onto that is causing a rift in your life? What are you doing where you could instead learn to let go of fear and attachment and instead be accepting of? Are you creating any negative emotional responses about anything or anyone? Is it possible to let go of this?
I send my love, care, and support for you, whoever you are. I know some of my family and close friends read my blog and I appreciate that. It’s knowing that I have people who read my writings that gives me additional encouragement to keep doing it.
- Life Is Choose Your Own Adventure
- Paralyzed By Choice
- Having Choice Is Cool
- The Real Stages of Grief
- I Found a Crossroads and Made a Choice