"Every day, each of us makes a multitude of choices that will impact our lives...the quality of our choices will dictate whether we will struggle in frustration or live an extraordinary life--the life of our dreams." ~ Debbie Ford
Last week, groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted another six weeks of winter which was not good news for many people who are ready for a change in the conditions in which they literally feel stuck. It brought back memories of the movie, "Groundhog Day", where the protagonist (Bill Murray) kept waking up everyday experiencing the very same thing he had the day before--day after day after day--as if his life consisted of only one day which was playing on an endless loop. Sound familiar? Have you ever felt stuck in your own personal version of Groundhog Day, as if you were reliving the same scene day in and day out, and you just couldn't figure out how to initiate the change needed to get you out of that rut? If your answer is yes, you may want to consider examining the level of awareness with which you have been making your daily choices.
It is said that we have over 50,000 thoughts pass through our heads each day and 97% of them are the same ones we had yesterday. The reality is we are so unaware of most of them they slip through the filter of our conscious mind unnoticed and, therefore, go unchallenged, only to repeat themselves in a Groundhog Day sort of way. Our unconscious thoughts shape many of the choices we make that keep us "stuck." Perhaps that is because we are used to flying through our daily lives on, what author Debbie Ford referred to as, autopilot. In her book The Right Questions, the second chapter is titled, "Waking Up From Autopilot." This is sound advice if we want to live an extraordinary (extra-ordinary) life based in healthy, life affirming choices. As we look at the world today, it may seem that the majority of humankind exists at the level of living a life that is stuck on autopilot, actually unaware that the choices we make every moment of every day, individually and collectively, determine our experience on the planet.
When we exist on autopilot, the tendency is to live unconsciously, self-servingly and reactively rather than proactively. As a species, one could say we have made more than a few mindless choices. This is perplexing given the fact that the ability to make conscious choices is one of the primary attributes that separate us from every other species on earth. The good news is it's not too late to transcend the Groundhog Day mindset but we have to wake up and take our lives off autopilot. The practice is to remember that we can make choices today that alter our tomorrow in positive, life affirming ways. My point is that conscious choice begins with being conscious, present in the moment, mindfully witnessing the choices we make. Consider having a dress rehearsal of that choice in your mind before acting on it. If, after examining the possible consequences of that choice, it proves to be less than beneficent to all concerned, mindfully choose again. This is how we awaken from the Groundhog Day effect.
To personalize this idea, I pose these questions: Do you remember everything that you put into your body yesterday? Conversely, do you remember the words that came out of your mouth...do you recall the manner in which you chose to speak to and treat every person with whom you had contact? Do you remember the moment you thought about (or avoided thinking about) doing your exercise program and the action you took (or didn't take) to follow through? Do you recall the day you made the choice to go to college or not to, to buy or sell a home or not to, to have children or not to, to take or leave a job or not to, or enter or exit a relationship or not to? My point is, from the seemingly commonplace choices we make daily to the colossal once in a lifetime choices we make, they all have one thing in common; they define our lives.
Another way to look at it might be to say that irrespective of the degree, every choice we make leads us closer to, or further away, from being the person we desire to be. The more conscious we are in the choices we make, the clearer we are on who we are. That's how powerful our freedom to choose is. Consider the idea that when we come to an intersection while driving our car, the choice as to which way we turn can literally determine what happens next in our life. If we mindlessly drive straight ahead on autopilot without considering the options we may end up on a round-about, going in circles that get us nowhere new. The metaphor is that our lives are always at an intersection. You are at an intersection right now...which way is your life inclined to go? Today doesn't have to be another Groundhog Day because you can take your life off autopilot right now. The off-switch is right there in front of you. It's labeled "My next choice." Punxsutawney Phil would be proud of you.
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