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The other day I was giving myself a "good talking to"… telling myself I really need to exercise regularly, eat better, take better care of myself… You get the picture. It was one of those days when I was determined to do better and was giving myself what was supposed to be a "pep talk" to get myself to follow a path of health and vibrancy. But of course I realized that all this "telling myself what to do" and this "sermonizing" to myself was not getting me anywhere… As with many of us, I still bristle at being "told what to do" -- whether by others or by myself.
What I realized is that when I made those same decisions (exercising, eating better, etc.) from a position of choice rather than a position of "have to" or "should", then I had a much better feeling about it. So I decided to experiment… Rather than saying to myself that I "should" or really "have to" exercise regularly, I said to myself "I choose to exercise regularly".
I Choose to...
It was interesting to note the different feeling or energy that accompanied that statement: "I choose…". Rather than a feeling of guilt, of not being "good enough", of not living up to what I know is "best", or feeling like I "had to" do something, I found myself feeling empowered. Saying "I choose to…" put me in a position of making choices for myself rather than following the dictates of somebody else or of my own "shoulds" and "have tos".
So throughout that day, whenever a situation came up when a "should" or "have to" came up, I would replace it with "I choose". For example, looking at the dirty dishes left over from the night before, instead of saying to myself "I have to do the dishes", I said "I choose to do the dishes". All of a sudden, the energy around washing those dishes changed… It was no longer a chore, something that I knew I had to do, but something that I was doing because I chose to do it, because I no longer wanted to look at those dirty dishes. Then later, as it came time for lunch, rather than saying "I really should eat something healthy", I said "I choose to eat something healthy".
The feelings I had from those two statements were like night and day -- the "really should" statements are usually accompanied by judgment (for failures in the past), by preaching (you know better than to eat junk food), by guilt (you're not taking good enough care of yourself)… Definitely not energies that are supportive of good feelings, not to mention good digestion.
However, when I replaced the "should" statement, with an "I choose" statement, I felt empowered to take care of myself. Saying "I choose" laid no guilt trip, imposed no rules that I "should" be following, did not make me feel like I was not doing it "right". Saying "I choose to eat healthy food" was very empowering and freeing. It took me out of the realm of the "rebellious child" and into the world of the empowered adult making choices of her own for her own wellbeing -- rather than doing what "others think is best" or what I'd been told was best for me. What I found is that applying the "I choose" method to anything that I was balking at doing changed the whole energy about it.
Everything We Do Is A Choice
Even if someone if holding a gun at you and telling you to hand over all your money, that is your choice. You can choose not to. Mind you the consequence of that choice may ensure your being shot, but it is still a choice nevertheless. A little less drastic example? OK. There are times when your body sends you signals -- it's hungry, it needs to go to the bathroom, it's thirsty.
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Even if your body is sending those messages, you choose whether to respond immediately or whether to delay. All of those things are choices. While yes, you will have to eat eventually, you don't necessarily stop in the middle of a sentence and say, oops, I have to go right now, my body is hungry. It is a choice. Everything we do (except breathing possibly) is a choice -- and even with breathing, we can control the speed and frequency of our breath and we can hold our breath (to a point).
How Can This Work For You?
Let's look at some examples. Maybe it's Monday morning and you're resisting going to work. You have those Monday blues. Rather than muttering to yourself "I hate my job" or "I wish I didn't have to go to work", I suggest you might first look at the reasons you're going to work. Probably to earn some money for food, lodging, clothing, fun things, etc. So rather than going to work begrudgingly, you might try saying "I choose to go to work today". This puts a whole new spin on it, rather than "I have to go to work today".
Remember, you always have the choice. There are many people who have chosen to no longer go to work every day -- some are homeless, others are earning a living in other creative ways. Every morning when we get up -- that's a choice. We could choose to stay in bed all day, but we choose to get up (even if we say we're getting up because we "have to").
You could choose to stay in bed. You could choose to stay home all week. You might get fired? You might end up without a job? You might end up homeless? While all those scenarios are a little drastic, all of them are the result of choices made. So in the same way, going to work in the morning is a choice -- one we make each day.
I find myself feeling better about my actions when I remind myself that they are choices -- not "have tos". I choose to get up in the morning, I choose to work everyday, I choose to eat healthy foods, I choose to take good care of my health, I choose to wash the dishes, I choose to take out the garbage, I choose to be loving and patient with myself and others…
Being Aware of Our Choices
In the same way when I find myself feeling impatient, angry, etc., if I tell myself "I'm choosing to be impatient", "I'm choosing to be angry", it puts the whole thing in perspective. All of a sudden, I see that I have a choice. I could also choose to be patient, to be loving, to be understanding.
Now why would I choose to be impatient, when it is only getting me upset? When I see that the impatience is indeed a choice I'm making, I can choose differently. But sometimes, we just want to dwell in a feeling. And that's OK. We can, however, also choose to be honest with ourselves and recognize that being impatient, angry, resentful, etc. is a choice we are making. And then, when we're ready, we can choose otherwise.
This whole process has been quite a revelation to me and very freeing. All of a sudden I'm not doing anything because I "have to" anymore. I see that everything I've every done has been because I chose to do it -- but the difference is that now I'm aware that it is a choice, I no longer have to grumble and complain about it -- because I'm choosing, not "having to" do it.
I choose to wash the dirty dishes because if I don't they will accumulate and I'll no longer have any clean dishes to eat on. I could choose to not wash them and eat on dirty dishes (yuk), or I could choose to go hungry (not), or I could always go out to eat (I don't think so), I could choose to throw out the dishes and eat on paper plates (not very environmentally friendly), etc. So based on these alternatives, I see that I wash the dishes because I choose to… or I go to work because I choose to, or whatever I've felt was a "have to" in my life I really do because I choose to.
Everything is a choice… When we recognize that everything we do is because of a choice we're making, we then become empowered to choose things that bring us wellbeing and happiness -- because, after all, it is our choice.
Random Acts of Kindness
by Dawna Markova.
Named a USA Today Best Bet for Educators, this is a book that encourages grace through the smallest gestures. The inspiration for the kindness movement, Random Acts of Kindness is an antidote for a weary world. Its true stories, thoughtful quotations, and suggestions for generosity inspire readers to live more compassionately in this beautiful new edition.
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About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com