By Marc Beauchamp
According to my Merriam-Webster dictionary, choice involves the right, power or opportunity to choose freely. The key word being freely. It's all about freedom, the freedom to pick one thing over another.
We all have the capacity to choose to either take responsibility for our own results or live from an alternate place, the land of excuses, stories and reasons why we can't have the life we so desperately want. The truth is that most of our decisions originate from the prison of the past. We typically make choices about the future but base our idea about what is possible on the past. In many instances, we accentuate negative outcomes. We react based on old behaviors and past events that happened long ago. We carry scars or old stories into present life and are willing to tell anyone who asks (or doesn't ask for that matter) about the bad hand we were dealt or extreme challenge we faced.
This bond to the past creates a prison in which we live, killing choice. We continue to play the same tapes over and over. I call this the Doom Loop (see Figure 1).
(see Figure 1)
The first step toward true choice is to know and internalize that the past does not exist. It's over. The reason you get an endless loop of the same results is that you are living from the limiting stories you created in the past. I'm sure you've heard one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. True choice is having the ability to make a decision based upon the here and now and the future you want to create.
You are a meaning-making machine. Your mind is constantly giving meaning to everything in your environment. The past is just that: the past. You assign a meaning or story to all the experiences of your life. You determine what those experiences mean. If you think you had a failed business venture, you are the one who gave it that meaning, and you are the one perpetuating it.
Remove the word failure from your vocabulary. There is no such thing as failure – only results. Learn from the results you create in your life. Tony Robbins puts it like this: "Success is the result of good judgment, good judgment is a result of experience, experience is often the result of bad judgment." Any so-called failed business venture can be recast as a learning experience.
Have you heard the story about how they catch monkeys in India? They build a small, weighted box, with an opening large enough only for a monkey's hand. They place a tasty, ripe banana inside for bait. And we all know monkeys live for bananas (just like many of us live for our excuses). The monkey smells the banana, hesitantly puts his hand in the box and grabs it, but his hand will not fit back thru the slot unless he drops the banana. Now he has a dilemma. Does he release the banana and go free or hold on and live a life of quiet desperation at a zoo for eternity? The monkey invariably holds onto the food.
Guess what? If you haven't released the past, you're living your life like a monkey. So, the first step to true choice is removing the illusion of the past.
Now let's go to step two of true choice: responsibility. Responsibility entails being answerable, or accountable for something within one's power, control or management. Responsibility begins with the willingness to be cause in the matter of your life. You are causing your life on a perpetual basis whether you are conscious of it or not. Let me state it this way: you are creating intentionally or by default; regardless, you are the creator. Responsibility is taking ownership in the cause of your life. Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the viewpoint that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are. There is no middle ground in responsibility. You can't say you think you are responsible for your life; you either believe you are, or you don't.
Responsibility does not connote burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. There is simply what is, and who you are willing to be in a particular area of your life. When you live from a context of being responsible, you live from authentic freedom.
If you are having trouble unraveling the past and are unable to see how your stories and beliefs are literally shaping every decision you make, I recommend looking at The Work by Byron Katie. I had the privilege of attending a workshop with Katie many years ago, and she really put the pieces together for me regarding honestly evaluating my thoughts and unraveling my false stories. I love what Katie says about arguing with reality: "I realize that it's insane to oppose it. When I argue with reality, I lose – but only 100% of the time."
Her website states: "A simple yet powerful practice. As we do The Work, not only do we remain alert to our stressful thoughts—the ones that cause all the anger, sadness, and frustration in your world—but we question them, and through that questioning the thoughts lose their power over us. Great spiritual texts describe the what—what it means to be free. The Work is the how. It shows you exactly how to identify and question any thought that would keep you from that freedom." Katie offers all the training and material to do The Work free of charge on her website, www.thework.com.
So, here is the choice: you can decide to be a slave to your stories or the creator of your future taking 100 percent responsibly for your results. What's it going to be?
Marc Beauchamp is author of Survive and Thrive in the Merchant Services Industry and founder of Bankcard Life, a community for payments professionals. He is offering a free copy of his book to all payments professionals at www.bankcardlife.com/greensheet. Marc welcomes your comments and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.">href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org.
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