“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
The truth of the matter is that each of us chooses the life we live. We choose to be happy or sad. We choose to be content or angry. We choose to take responsibility for ourselves or we blame someone else.
I’m not saying that making the right choice comes naturally, nor is it necessarily easy to do. But, in every instant of every day, we have a choice to be the way we want to be.
Life doesn’t just happen to us. It happens because of us, because of our choices.
How do I make my life, my everyday experience, what it is that I want it to be? Especially when I have a million errands to run, work to do, and a small child to mind? By setting an intention, letting go of negative energy, and practicing self-reflection.
Set an intention.
Every morning, I try to take time to think about what part of my self, a part that is rooted in my values, I’d like to grow. Today, do I want to be kinder? More peaceful? More mindful? Whatever it is, I think about simple ways that I can live that way just today. For example, if I want to be kinder, I tell myself that I will smile at everyone I meet.
Once I’ve thought about my intention, I articulate it. May I be kinder to others. May I smile at strangers I encounter. When you set an intention and articulate it, you commit yourself to doing things that will help you realize the intention. The intention is both the end and the means to the end.
Let go of negative energy.
Anger. Judgment. Resentment. These emotions may be natural, and they may play a role in protecting you from harm, but I’m talking about physical harm, not harm to your ego. It’s hard to let go of negative emotions, but I don’t want to give them space in my mind. When I do, it wears me down, exacerbates negativity, and prevents me from being my best self. Lose-lose.
So, I take some deep breaths and go back to my intention. It’s likely that if you want to manifest your intention, holding onto negative emotions will prevent that from happening.
Our lives are often so busy that we can lose sight of the present moment and get overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done. Feeling overwhelmed leads to anxiety, stress, and emotional paralysis. So, it’s important to create time in your schedule to center yourself.
How you choose to do this depends on what works best for you. I meditate, run, and write. That’s what I need to do to take of myself. Maybe for you, centering yourself is working in your garden or relaxing with a good book. Whatever it is, take time to do it daily or thoughout the day. It will help you regroup and reenergize, allowing you to keep going with a calmer presence.
I try to return to my intention throughout the day. Sometimes this means I wear a certain bracelet or set my iPhone alarm to go off to remind myself to stop and contemplate how I’m doing. Have my words and actions supported my intention? Are there things I could or should have done differently? Asking myself questions like these makes me more aware of areas where I still need to work in order to reconcile my intention with my behavior. It’s all about becoming more aware of who you are and who you want to be. Reflect, develop awareness, grow up yourself.
My life is my choice. What I say, what I do, how I orient myself, and how I respond to others. My life is my choice. I don’t always make the best choice, but it’s a practice I work on daily.