Choosing the Life You Want
Imagine growing up in a protected courtyard enclosed on all sides by twenty-foot-high stone walls. Let us also imagine that from birth, you never ventured beyond your four walls. Your only perceptions would be your walls; the sky above; the rhythmic transits of the sun, moon, and stars; occasionally some rain or snow; visitations from a few curious local birds; and an occasional leaf carried by the wind. If I asked you what you thought about life, you might shrug your shoulders and insist that the world is an altogether dull place without much opportunity. You might go on to report that you feel quite safe and secure, but lament the lack of passion or interest in your life. You wouldn’t forget to tell me of your interminable boredom, which at times seems almost unbearable. But mostly, I suspect, you’d be anguished over the loneliness and lack of intimacy in your life.
In a stone-walled courtyard, none of that reporting would be false; it would be a reality dictated by the circumstances of your enclosure. It wouldn’t be fair to say that your reality is distorted. It’s just limited. This limited, courtyard view is exactly what insecurity-and-control does to your life. It narrows your field of view and leaves you convinced that the world is a place with few choices, a place where you’re a prisoner–confined and helpless. There’s a whole world of choice just beyond your courtyard of Reflexive Thinking. I’m certain of one thing: once you leave your prison of controlled living, you’ll never return.
Life is change and life is choice. Self-Coaching can teach you to break free of your bottled up, limited, courtyard mentality. I remember when this notion that life is choice first lit up my life. I was in graduate school and was involved in my PIG (personal identity and growth) group. We were talking about death and dying and other such control fears when our group leader asked a rather poignant question: what we would want written on our tombstones. As unsettling as this notion was, it appealed to me.
I did a little research and found, for example, that Edgar Allan Poe’s gravestone reads: Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.” And Will Rogers’ states, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” How would I sum up my life? After a few days or so it came to me quite unexpectedly; I decided that I wanted my epitaph to read, “I’d rather be reading this.”
“I’d rather be reading this” is my way of telling the world that my preference is life. And life is choice. Only death is choiceless. Once in a while, when life pelts me with too many obstacles I remember that I’m alive and as long as I’m alive, I’ll be okay. And if I’m not feeling okay, then I’ll do whatever it takes to change! Of course, there are always those who will moan, saying they’re trying to change, but they just can’t be happy until they get into that particular college, land that job, or marry Mr. Right. If your happiness depends on what’s on the other side of the mountain, then for your sake, I hope you have good climbing shoes.
Spontaneous living requires living with trust. Sure, it’s a risk to let go of the false gods of control and just live life instead of trying to anticipate and prepare for it. Some will feel this is a reckless way to live, but that’s only because they have so little trust in their ability to respond to life from a source other than Reflexive Thinking. But once you step out of control’s box and realize a whole new world of effortless, unrehearsed living, you’ll understand why no-one ever returns to his or her courtyard, why no-one ever longs for the old days of control and rigidity.