CLICK HERE TO GET A PDF COPY OF THIS POST >>This post is from www.OptimizedNow.com **Why think about choices?** I’ve been soul-searching recently. Delving into my attitudes towards myself, my career, my relationships with friends and dating. I’ve reflected a lot on the nature of choice and motivation. Two questions continually resurface themselves. What are my values and beliefs? What does my ideal future look like? Is that ideal vision reasonably achievable and aligned with my values? Where do our beliefs originate? I’m slowly training myself to see the advice I’ve gotten from parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, and books is not what defines me. This advice is important to me, but it isn’t 1) my belief system or 2) the belief system I need to rebel against. It is a set of beliefs I’ve gathered that help inform my personal beliefs and practices. I’ve found I am often motivated to figure out ways to 1) satisfy others’ expectations or 2) rebel against others’ expectations. Neither of these is a healthy decision-making method. This realization is not a slight on the people I love and surround myself with. It is an acknowledgement that I am responsible for the choices I make and the lifestyle I live. I alone can be assertive, express personal integrity, make conscious choices, live purposefully, accept myself, and be responsible to my family, friends, community, country, and religious institution. With this personal responsibility comes tremendous power. It requires tremendous vigilance against my inclination to satisfy others or to rebel against others.
[Tweet “Are you looking in these places to find personal joy?”]Over the past few years I’ve leaned towards challenging the status quo of the communities I am a part of. I felt these communities (family, friends, church, political system) assumed that I would: wait patiently for an acceptable wife (because good things come to those who wait), give up everything for my eventual kids (because it’s my duty and I’m a selfish millennial if I don’t), buy a house in a boring neighborhood, severely restrict my ability to travel, deal with crippling anxiety over the fact that I don’t control anything in my life anymore, and live a life that was somewhat happy but lacked adventure and spontaneity. These are gross generalizations. Reality is never so simple. I don’t mean to discount these things. I do believe they are valuable. But they are valuable because I find them valuable, not because I either desire to express obedience or rebellion against the powers and people who preach these values. My association of my own life choices with a reaction to others’ is the source of the judgements I’ve made about those choices. Thus I hear others’ say things like “marriage is all about sacrifice” and “it’s not as easy to travel when you have kids” and my immediate reaction is to fight against these things because they sound terrible. A healthier option would be to evaluate the pro’s and con’s of each lifestyle choice from the way their ultimate impact on my life as a whole. The way people I see as authority figures and influencers communicate their “life advice” feeds into my reaction to them. However, it is my duty to take what they say in this context: people are naturally inclined to present themselves as heroes and martyrs and leave out the positive aspects of decisions. The positive aspects of marriage, children, and sacrifice are difficult to communicate because these are lived experiences, whereas the loss of one’s freedom is nebulous and easy fodder to fearmonger single persons. **Looking back at past choices** I can admit that I’ve certainly erred on the side of adventure and spontaneity. I’ve sought out travel, company, and activities that feed this desire. This desire was and is primarily based as a reaction to the beliefs I feel it is assumed I am supposed to have by those around me. Don’t misread this that I’ve destroyed my life or made destructive and dangerous decisions. I haven’t. But, I’ve lived and made choices with the fear that, if I don’t, my ultimate fate rests in a boring, pointlessly sacrificial life. I often allow fear, guilt, and respect be the benchmark for my choices, whether a benchmark to follow or eschew.