“You choose, you live the consequences. Every yes, no, maybe, creates the school you call your personal experience.” – Richard Bach (Running from Safety, 1994)
In Chapter 3 of his book titled “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” Deepak Chopra argues that we are all free, all the time, to make our own choices. Even when things over which we have no control affect us, we have the choice of how to react.
“If I were to insult you,” Chopra says, “you most likely would make the choice of being offended. If I were to pay you a compliment, you would probably make the choice of being flattered.”
But in either case, he points out, it’s a choice. “I could insult you, and you could make the choice of not being offended. I could pay you a compliment, and you could make the choice of not being flattered.”
Even though we have the capacity to choose our reactions, most of us choose not to choose at all. Instead, we condition ourselves to react reflexively — as if that will make life easier for us. In fact, it makes life more difficult. And it results in lifelong patterns of bad choices.
The solution, Chopra says, is to “bring your choices into the level of your conscious awareness.” By that, he means pausing and considering the effect of the instinctive reaction vs. the effect of some other, non-conditioned response — and then choosing that which is the better.
Your boss, for example, may be fond of criticizing your memos. And if he is, you may have conditioned yourself to get angry when he does so. Next time this happens, try taking a moment to consider another response. Consider a feeling that makes you feel less tense and more in control — such as compassion, for example.
When you make a choice, Chopra recommends that you ask yourself two questions:
1. What are the consequences of this choice that I’m making?
2. Will the choice that I’m making bring happiness to me and to those around me?
Your body, Chopra says, will send you a message that will help you. The wrong choice will usually feel uncomfortable. It may feel tense or tight. Your heart may beat harder. The right choice will feel comfortable. It will relax you and give you a sense of serenity.
The more often you make your choices conscious — by asking and answering these two questions — the more often you will make the right ones.
In the next hour or so, you will undoubtedly be faced with a choice of some kind. Prepare for this choice by trying to stay conscious of your freedom — by keeping extraneous thoughts outside of your mind and focusing on the present.
When the moment of choosing arrives, ask Chopra’s two questions and listen carefully to your body. Feel your way to the right answer. (Remember, figuring out how the choice affects others is as important as how it affects you. In fact, if you understand the Law of Giving and Receiving from yesterday’s message, you will recognize that it is only by considering what is good for others that you can find out what is good for you.)
Finally, don’t chicken out at the last moment. Do the right thing. Take the right action. It may seem to take more energy at first — because if you have become reflexive you may be “addicted” to bad choices — but the more often you make conscious choices, the more easily you will make the right ones.