On Making Positive Choices for a Happy, Empowered Life

Posted on 29 October 2010

“Life is a choice.” ~Unknown

I’ve recently realized that life is a never-ending stream of choices, even when you think you don’t have many options.

Some look insignificant on their own but somehow manage to contribute to a massive whole. Others can feel overwhelming, and you don’t always realize when you make them what the consequences will be—how they’ll shape your life story.

The biggest decision I’ve made in the past six months is to return to university and complete the MA Creative Writing course I began two years ago. It’s almost a choice I never made—a life I never had—though it leads to the future I’ve dreamed about for years.

Good stories aren’t about people; they’re about action. They’re about what people do and what happens when they do these things.

What we do is based upon the choices we make, whether it be in our everyday efforts to keep on top of our washing or in the extraordinary moments when we decide to take that job offer, even though friends and family don’t understand because it’s less money (but a lot more fun).

Over a year ago my ‘action’ was to intermit my studies because I needed to get my health under control. I was hoping the decision of whether or not to return would pass me by like the summer had already done and relieve me of the burden of having to consider my options.

I could still be sitting here now avoiding a decision. Instead, I found the strength to make a choice, and in doing so, I’ve discovered my health problems haven’t gone anywhere. They’re still there, and they’re still creating challenges I can either meet or run away from. Action not only drives us but also reveals us.

Even on my first day back, I had a choice: freak-out or chill-out. Two years ago I would have freaked out completely and done a lot of damage to myself in the process. That day, all of those feelings—fear, paranoia, nausea, panic, irritation, hyper-active excitement, bewilderment, self-loathing, depression—all of them were lined up and waiting for me.

My breathing kicked in just like I’d practiced in meditation and I thought, “No, actually. I won’t choose any of you to wear today. I’ll acknowledge you and observe you but I won’t put on any of you even though you’re all so kind to insist.”

I didn’t exactly chill out but then I didn’t freak out either. I found an attentive, mindful middle-ground instead.

I originally believed that a year out would cure me of my problems, but I was mistaken. It wasn’t until I chose to use the time well that the decision propelled my life forward in a positive way. I couldn’t use the time off to heal my fatigue, but I could use it to learn how to choose which mental outfit I’d like to don on any given day.

Even when I felt trapped in a difficult situation I had a choice that could change my life.

It may not always seem like we have a lot of choices, but we do, every day in small and large ways.

With that in mind, I’ve made a list of the choices we can all make every day:

  • Choose to smile.
  • Choose to not let your boss get you down.
  • Choose to understand other people, even if they seem like the most awful people alive.
  • Choose to be confident.
  • Choose to not be scared.
  • Choose to be who you are, not who someone says you should be.
  • Choose to dream.
  • Choose to believe in the good we’re all capable of.
  • Choose to know that we all hold darkness within us.
  • Choose to ask the questions that challenge rigid assumptions.
  • Choose to walk away.
  • Choose to take a risk.
  • Choose to reconnect with those you thought you’d lost.
  • Choose to open your heart and forgive.
  • Choose to remember those you miss.
  • Choose to keep living even though it seems impossible at times.
  • Choose to move on from everything that makes you miserable.
  • Choose to be strong.
  • Choose to go out there and achieve your desires.
  • Choose to defy.
  • Choose to do the right thing.
  • Choose to do the wrong thing.
  • Choose to laugh.
  • Choose to be happy.

Have any positive choices to add to the list?

Photo by tastygoldfish

 

Being a constant worrier, I decided to take a good look at my past with the intention of noticing everything bad and thus have a reason to justify my current mood. What I found instead was that my life is a never-ending stream of choices that I’ve made and continue to make.

Some look insignificant on their own but somehow manage to contribute to a massive whole, whilst others have been overwhelming and I wonder how I came to choose them as the story of my life and what their consequences, immediate or not, mean to my own character.

The biggest decision I’ve made in the past six months is to return to university and complete the MA Creative Writing course I began two years ago. It’s almost a choice I never made, a life I never had and it contains a future that I’ve literally being dreaming of.

Good stories aren’t about people; they’re about action. They’re about what people do and what happens when they do these things. I’m not just talking about doing your laundry here; what we do is based upon the choices we make, whether it be in our everyday efforts to keep on top of our washing or in the extraordinary moments when we decide to take that job offer, even though friends and family are thinking you’re insane because it’s less money (but a lot more fun).

Over a year ago my ‘action’ was to intermit my studies because I needed to get my health under control. I’m on the verge of saying that I’ve failed in that aspect but that is just as inaccurate as saying that I’ve nailed it. Things have simply taken a different path to the two I rigidly defined for myself. I was hoping the decision on whether or not to return would pass me by like the summer had already done and relieve me of the burden of having to consider my options.

I could still be sitting here now waiting for that choice to come about by itself but instead, I decided to do it myself and as a result, propel my narrative forward to where I discover that going back means that I come to realise my health problems; they’re still there, still making my life a mission to accomplish and still playing games. Action not only drives us but also reveals us.

Even on my first day back, I had a choice: freak-out or chill-out. Two years ago I would have freaked out completely and done a lot of damage to myself in the process. I can’t say it was a choice either, it just used to happen. That day, all of those feelings: fear, paranoia, nausea, panic, irritation, hyper-active excitement, bewilderment, self-loathing, depression; all of them were lined up and waiting for me.

My breathing kicked in just like I’d practised in meditation and I thought ‘No, actually. I won’t choose any of you to wear today. I’ll acknowledge you and observe you but I won’t put on any of you even though you’re all so kind to insist.’ I didn’t exactly chill out but then I didn’t freak out either. I found an attentive, mindful middle-ground instead.

I believed that a year out would essentially rest and cure me of my problems but I was mistaken. What that choice did though was give me a space to learn how to manage the madness and the constant fatigue and eventually know how to choose which mental outfit to don at any given time, without denying my feelings or my thoughts no matter how insane other people may judge them to be.

Whilst others have been adamant in trying to influence my story to match their own plots, insisting that what I’m experiencing isn’t real (like they’d know), I’ve sat down with all of this mess, sifted through it, tried to burn bits, tried to re-bury other bits and then realised that I don’t need to do any of this. All I need to do is act.

We are all entitled to our own choices and how we deal with the consequences of them. If a family member does criticise your career move, for example, you could have an enormous row and get it all off your chest; you could let it get to you; you could secure a quick, petty revenge by sharply reminding them about their dead-end job; or better yet: tell them that whilst you value their input, you’re going to pass on taking up their advice.

These are but a few of the choices that are in your control if something like this were to happen. Which would you go for – the argument? I’d personally be inclined to let it get to me. But the point here is that those are passive choices, things that don’t lead your story anywhere.

Like writing, life is about action and the choices we make to move forward not matter how small or unattainable they seem. When faced with a choice: act.

With that in mind, I’ve made a list of the choices we all come across. Do you have any to add? What has acting on them meant for you and your story?

  • Choose to smile
  • Choose to not let your boss get you down
  • Choose to understand other people, even if they seem like the most awful people alive
  • Choose to reassure your kid that you’re not angry at them for not making it to the bathroom in time
  • Choose to be confident
  • Choose to not be scared
  • Choose to be who you are, not who someone says you should be
  • Choose to dream
  • Choose to wear that outrageously coloured dress with those heels!
  • Choose to believe in the good we’re all capabl

Being a constant worrier, I decided to take a good look at my past with the intention of noticing everything bad and thus have a reason to justify my current mood. What I found instead was that my life is a never-ending stream of choices that I’ve made and continue to make.

Some look insignificant on their own but somehow manage to contribute to a massive whole, whilst others have been overwhelming and I wonder how I came to choose them as the story of my life and what their consequences, immediate or not, mean to my own character.

The biggest decision I’ve made in the past six months is to return to university and complete the MA Creative Writing course I began two years ago. It’s almost a choice I never made, a life I never had and it contains a future that I’ve literally being dreaming of.

Good stories aren’t about people; they’re about action. They’re about what people do and what happens when they do these things. I’m not just talking about doing your laundry here; what we do is based upon the choices we make, whether it be in our everyday efforts to keep on top of our washing or in the extraordinary moments when we decide to take that job offer, even though friends and family are thinking you’re insane because it’s less money (but a lot more fun).

Over a year ago my ‘action’ was to intermit my studies because I needed to get my health under control. I’m on the verge of saying that I’ve failed in that aspect but that is just as inaccurate as saying that I’ve nailed it. Things have simply taken a different path to the two I rigidly defined for myself. I was hoping the decision on whether or not to return would pass me by like the summer had already done and relieve me of the burden of having to consider my options.

I could still be sitting here now waiting for that choice to come about by itself but instead, I decided to do it myself and as a result, propel my narrative forward to where I discover that going back means that I come to realise my health problems; they’re still there, still making my life a mission to accomplish and still playing games. Action not only drives us but also reveals us.

Even on my first day back, I had a choice: freak-out or chill-out. Two years ago I would have freaked out completely and done a lot of damage to myself in the process. I can’t say it was a choice either, it just used to happen. That day, all of those feelings: fear, paranoia, nausea, panic, irritation, hyper-active excitement, bewilderment, self-loathing, depression; all of them were lined up and waiting for me.

My breathing kicked in just like I’d practised in meditation and I thought ‘No, actually. I won’t choose any of you to wear today. I’ll acknowledge you and observe you but I won’t put on any of you even though you’re all so kind to insist.’ I didn’t exactly chill out but then I didn’t freak out either. I found an attentive, mindful middle-ground instead.

I believed that a year out would essentially rest and cure me of my problems but I was mistaken. What that choice did though was give me a space to learn how to manage the madness and the constant fatigue and eventually know how to choose which mental outfit to don at any given time, without denying my feelings or my thoughts no matter how insane other people may judge them to be.

Whilst others have been adamant in trying to influence my story to match their own plots, insisting that what I’m experiencing isn’t real (like they’d know), I’ve sat down with all of this mess, sifted through it, tried to burn bits, tried to re-bury other bits and then realised that I don’t need to do any of this. All I need to do is act.

We are all entitled to our own choices and how we deal with the consequences of them. If a family member does criticise your career move, for example, you could have an enormous row and get it all off your chest; you could let it get to you; you could secure a quick, petty revenge by sharply reminding them about their dead-end job; or better yet: tell them that whilst you value their input, you’re going to pass on taking up their advice.

These are but a few of the choices that are in your control if something like this were to happen. Which would you go for – the argument? I’d personally be inclined to let it get to me. But the point here is that those are passive choices, things that don’t lead your story anywhere.

Like writing, life is about action and the choices we make to move forward not matter how small or unattainable they seem. When faced with a choice: act.

With that in mind, I’ve made a list of the choices we all come across. Do you have any to add? What has acting on them meant for you and your story?

  • Choose to smile
  • Choose to not let your boss get you down
  • Choose to understand other people, even if they seem like the most awful people alive
  • Choose to reassure your kid that you’re not angry at them for not making it to the bathroom in time
  • Choose to be confident
  • Choose to not be scared
  • Choose to be who you are, not who someone says you should be
  • Choose to dream
  • Choose to wear that outrageously coloured dress with those heels!
  • Choose to believe in the good we’re all capable of
  • Choose to know that we all hold darkness within us
  • Choose to ask the questions that challenge rigid assumptions
  • Choose to walk away
  • Choose to take a risk
  • Choose to reconnect with those you thought you’d lost
  • Choose to open your heart and forgive
  • Choose to remember those you miss
  • Choose to keep living even though it seems impossible at times
  • Choose to move on from everything that makes you miserable
  • Choose to be strong
  • Choose to go out there and achieve your desires
  • Choose to defy
  • Choose to do the right thing
  • Choose to do the wrong thing
  • Choose to laugh
  • Choose to be happy

Make your choice; act. Your story will unfold and life will open up.

  • e of
  • Choose to know that we all hold darkness within us
  • Choose to ask the questions that challenge rigid assumptions
  • Choose to walk away
  • Choose to take a risk
  • Choose to reconnect with those you thought you’d lost
  • Choose to open your heart and forgive
  • Choose to remember those you miss
  • Choose to keep living even though it seems impossible at times
  • Choose to move on from everything that makes you miserable
  • Choose to be strong
  • Choose to go out there and achieve your desires
  • Choose to defy
  • Choose to do the right thing
  • Choose to do the wrong thing
  • Choose to laugh
  • Choose to be happy

Make your choice; act. Your story will unfold and life will open up.

About Sam Russell

Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at http://cackhanded.wordpress.com/.

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