You write your life story by the choices you make. You never know if they have been a mistake. Those moments of decision are so difficult ~ Helen Mirren
I have always felt like an old soul. My earliest memory of this feeling was when I was 6 or 7 years old and I was looking deeply into the bathroom mirror. I was staring at myself staring back at me. I recall thinking “who am I?” in such a way that melted my young, undeveloped mind. Overcome by a feeling that is difficult to put into words, even for me, it was as though I just knew that this was not my first rodeo or first kick at the can. I’d been here before. At least that’s what I believed. That question has never left me, and I’ve been seeking to answer that ever evolving question ever since the bathroom mirror, who am I?
This lifelong quest has so far proven to be elusive. Every time I get close, I change, evolve, grow, finding new pieces of myself to explore and get to know. Or a significant event, shift or mindset changes and part of me is reinvented, causing the getting to know myself process to start all over again. Perhaps this is the meaning of life? Learning who you are, and it’s not actually 42?!?
While watching a self-worth webinar, related to human connection, from one of my favorite Mark’s, Mark Groves, I experienced one of those moments, the ones where you know that nothing will be the same again, where once you know something, and really know it, you can never un-know it. He said, everything in your life you said yes to. Ummmm what? I had to rewind and there it was again. Everything that is in our lives we said yes to. We are responsible for everything in our lives. Wait what?! I wasn’t so sure about this one, I had to mull this over.
While doing my post-graduate work, I remember taking an Ethics course. In this course we had in-depth dialogue around the concept of “survival of the fittest” and the uniquely Canadian social safety net. Naysayers of the our socialist system often point to the ideology of “survival of the fittest”, but we don’t all start on the same playing field. We don’t all have the same starting point or advantages and disadvantages. How are we responsible for that? Not everyone invited the circumstances they live within into their lives. These two concepts have been engaged in a tug-of-war. But perhaps I am comparing apples and oranges. We don’t all have the same start in life, but we all have choices and decisions to make. And those choices and decisions and mistakes and successes are mine alone. Each and every decision and option and choice I make invites consequences. I am responsible for what I choose and decide, who I let in and who I ask to leave from my life. I’m also responsible for how I interpret my experiences and the meaning I assign.
My head still swimming and spinning, at the same time, I turned to my other favorite Mark, Mark Manson, for his take and candor:
There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances. We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond. Whether we consciously recognize it or not, we are always responsible for our experiences. It’s impossible not to be. Choosing to not consciously interpret events in our lives is still an interpretation of the events of our lives. Choosing. ~ Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
I am always choosing, I am always deciding, what it means to me, how I interpret the information and how I respond to it. But I am not always taking responsibility for those choices, saying “I can’t control the outcome.” This is often true, especially when most situations are dynamic and fluid, never knowing how someone else might choose or react, but I am responsible for my thoughts, interpretations and actions. And that is what manifests and creates my experiences. Taking responsibility means choosing with intention, inviting into my life what I am seeking, being mindful about my decisions and choices. And if a mistake is made, then consciously and decisively choosing to move on, or re-evaluate my interpretation of the experience, its meaning.
Ultimately I am responsible for my life and the experiences I have, and that results in great power. Power to choose, to decide, to invite in, to take ownership and not just leave the door wide open.
May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears ~ Nelson Mandela