You Choose

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

You Choose

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~ Annie Dillard


The road to well-being is paved with good intentions… and decisions… and actions. Obvious? Maybe. But how many of us fail to exercise the powerful force of our own will to create the kind of life we desire? Or, I should say, co-create?


While there’s no stopping outside circumstances from derailing our plans, the way we focus our own attention is always under our control. And, whether we like to believe it or not, our capacity to execute the formula directed attention + choice + aligned action has a lot to do with the experience that unfolds.


This idea isn’t new. The mid 20th century writings of early psychologist William James reflect a keen awareness of the power – and challenge – of exercising attention to shift habits and affect personal change. Looking even further back, philosophers like Aristotle could also be found musing on our ability to exercise reason and make choices in order to access The Good Life. While both of these thinkers acknowledge the importance of context – we do not think and act in a vacuum – both nonetheless agree that our choices carry weight. Our choices make us who we are.


If you’re thinking: “no kidding! It’s as plain as day,” I completely agree. But simple as it is, mastering this skill in practice is far from easy.


This weekend I had a beautiful opportunity to test the limits of my attention and choice. It was weekend two of our ten month MAPP immersion program at Penn. Despite the confidence and connections I’d established in our first month, I couldn’t help but feel insecure when I heard that a few of my new friends were planning a secret trip to New York. The trip, of course, wasn’t the problem. The problem was: it wasn’t clear whether or not I was invited.


True, its 2014. I am a 34 year old woman with a full and fulfilling life. There is little I lack. I have great friends, an incredible line of work, and a beautiful condo in the heart of a city that’s quickly becoming home. And yet… suddenly I felt small. As plans were made around me, I could feel my chest tighten and the hair stand up on the back of my neck.


Suddenly, it was as if I was again 10 years old, with the same old habits and fears. The more I thought about the possibility that I really didn’t belong, the harder it was not to shut down.


I tell this story not to blame my friends (in the end, I did end up joining in on their adventure). I tell it to illustrate how quickly the situation can sneak up on us when we allow our minds to wander to the worst case scenarios of our past. In those moments, I KNEW that I had the power to re-focus my attention and to choose. There were at least ten other options, no doubt. But in order to actually re-direct my thoughts and choose openness in the moment, I had to execute a feat of willful attention akin to performing full blown aikido on myself – body, mind and soul.


This week I invite you to practice your own body-mind-soul Aikido, by exercising your own attention and choice to create the experiences you desire.


Take a moment to think about your habits. Is there something you do that isn’t working? Maybe an action you repeat that you’re not proud of. A reaction you fall into all too often. A way you tend to see the world that doesn’t actually serve your goals.


What would it take to choose another path?  Here are some ideas.


In your daily movement practice,

you might decide to break a habit. If you like to dance to the beat of the music, try instead focusing your attention on the melody of an instrument or the vocals. With intention, align your body, mind and soul. If you jog, pay attention to the sensation in your ankles and knees… or the expanding and contracting of your chest… then adjust your pace or style, seeking greater comfort or economy of motion.


Decide, for example, rather than push yourself to the max, to exercise in your target heart rate for 20 minutes. With out the use of technology, can you use only your attention and will to accomplish that goal?


In your life,

pay attention to the pre-set routines and patterns that define your interpersonal relationships. Do you find yourself in the same old dance steps with someone, executing a dance that doesn’t quite get you the results you desire? Imagine you had a choice. No really… regardless of how certain you are that things cannot chance, take a moment and actually consider the roadmap.


Choose one new thing to focus on.


Practice for one week (or 21 days if you’re looking for real results) with the force of your own will – choose to refocus your attention, align your actions and observe what unfolds. Regardless of what you choose, you may notice that choosing itself will change you.


Imagine a world in which we trusted our birthright – the capacity, with attention, choice and action, to truly co-create.


Imagining with you…







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