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Diving Deeply Into the Joy Of Deliberate Living

by Leigh Shulman Feb 5, 2010
Do you choose your life or does your life choose you? This question, asked in an article by Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll, prompts us all to wake up and take a long careful look at the way we live our lives.

I consider Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll to be friends even though we’ve never met face-to-face. I know them through their blog Uncornered Market — a favorite of mine — and through Twitter . Social media friends, I suppose you can call us.

Their most recent article, The Joy Of Living Deliberately, posits seven separate questions to ask yourself in order to help decide if the life you’re living is one you live because you’ve just somehow accidentally fallen into the patterns and choices that run your life or if you’re living consciously and deliberately by design.

This post provoked much thought for me; these are only some of my responses.

Question One: What are your priorities?

Priority is defined not just by what you want, but by what you avoid as well. Problem is, our emotions tend to blind us to what we want. Fear, sadness, worry, anger, even the so-called positive emotions of love and fidelity distract us toward the path of least résistance.

Oh, it may not feel like the easy way, but generally, when we choose to stay with that which leaves us unhappy, it is because we are more comfortable with discomfort than the idea of change.

How do you become more conscious of what might be standing in the way?

Sorry, I don’t really have a definitive answer for you. I do, however, have a couple thoughts.

First, discomfort is a good indicator of something. Think of it this way. You have a pair of shoes. You love the look. You used to love the feel, but suddenly they’re wearing thin at the sole and are rubbing in back. You’re getting blisters. You may not like it, but it’s time to move on from those shoes.

Another wonderful article by Kelly Diels titled Relationships. Hold On (Maybe) lists a number of ways to know when it’s time to move on. While she specifically discusses relationships, her guidelines apply well in other areas as well.

The truth is a beast. Ugly. Big teeth. Relentless. Patient (sometimes). Hungry. It will be fed. Sometime.

If you know, you know.

And all the reasons in the world that are stalling your exit – kids, family, property, social expectations – are just that: stalls. The biggest stall is the dream. The myth. The internal myth making and myth busting….is more dangerous and damaging than anything inflicted on you from the outside.

Myth breaking:
• fairy tales and happily ever after, always
• The One [way of doing things]

Myth making:
• I can’t commit to anything
• I quit again
• I failed again
• This is all my fault
• I should be stronger.
• I should just buck up and grit my teeth and get through it
• I will never find another
• I will die alone with cats because that’s what the unlovable do.
• I will never have children
• [I will never reach my goals if I don’t continue]

All those “again”s. They indicate personal narratives and toxic loops you’re knitting yourself into.

Sometimes we enslave ourselves to our stories. So tell yourself a new story. Tell yourself the truth. Start with this:

If you know, you know. If you don’t know, wait until you get to the knowing. More heavy lifting, hard works, stillness and listening.

Question Two: Do you recognize that you have choices? Always?

Ok, Audrey and Dan. In this one point, I disagree, at least partially. I get that the point of this is to say that even when it seems we have no choice, we still have control over ourselves and can make choices within the situation, but something about that doesn’t feel quite right.

There are those in this world that have been egregiously, unfairly robbed of choice. Disaster. Disease. Mental illness. Totalitarian regimes. Lack of resources.

Unfair, though, is a child’s word and has little reflection in real hard life. Try telling an earthquake that your loss isn’t fair. Thus, the loss of choice robs you of your childhood – that is innocence, love, hope — leaving pain and despair in its place.

Yes, there are those individuals who overcome, but I certainly cannot fault anyone who does not. I’m not sure what I would do in such situations.

I am, however, able to look at my own life and be fully conscious of the fact that I am one of the luxuriously lucky on this planet who can still look at the world without that potentially soul-crushing sense of loss. That is a great blessing.

Question Three: Do you regret?

What are your regrets? Mine tend to be of the things I did not do. I wish I got a teaching certificate in NYC instead of being put off by Board of Education bureaucracy. I should have gone to cooking school instead of continuing in my job at MTV. Things like that.

Regrettable things I’ve done? I have my share of unfortunate choices, but aside from a horrible haircut I got in college that I call the Duckbutt Cut, really, none stand out as regret.

Something broken may not ever fully return to normal, but it can almost always be makeshift fixed to some degree. Something that never existed? There’s not much you can do about that.

Question Four: What’s better? Talking or doing?

I will agree with them and say definitely doing.

For Audrey and Dan, that meant taking big steps such as quitting their jobs, selling everything and leaving to travel. The same doing does not apply to all.

My best friend’s mother’s name is Linda. She’s from Connecticut. She married and moved a few hours north to New Hampshire where she’s lived ever since. Linda raised three amazing children, encouraged each to be self sufficient while still following individual desire and direction. She works in social services teaching families how to better care for themselves. She has worked steadily in this area for decades, and because of her, countless people have been fed, received adequate health and dental care, prenatal care and countless other useful information to improve their lives.

Linda gets up every morning, early. She brews a pot of coffee, reads the news and is always open for a chat, to give advice or to babysit for a mom who badly needs a break (Thank you!).

Question Five: Do you realize your choices have consequences?

Yes, you will make mistakes. You will hurt people. You will hurt yourself at times, and that may well lead to regret. Ultimately, you can only do the best you can do at any given time with the information you have at that moment.

Can you with a clear mind and heart say that to be true? When you make a mistake, will you take responsibility for your error and move on?
If you can say an honest “Yes, most of the time,” then you have done supremely well.


So now, tell me, are you choosing your life? Or is your life choosing you?

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