Nearly every moment of our precious, short life is spent making decisions. Information comes to us in various forms and, by virtue of our past experiences, we evaluate the appropriate course of action and respond accordingly. Whichever direction we end up going in life, it’s because we made the choices that took us there.

Over my nearly 20 years in Japan, a staple of conversation became the phrase, “shou ga nai” or “shikata ga nai”, which pretty much means “there’s nothing we can do about it”. In the beginning, I said it more as a means of fitting into a culture that firmly espouses the idea that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. The longer I used it, however, the more I seemed to truly take on the belief.

Choice. Choice is everywhere. Moreover, choice is everything. Generally, we can’t control how others behave (nor should we even want to, but that’s a topic for another day), but we can control how we react to behaviour. We make these choices each and every day.

In our interactions with others, we constantly make choices on how to react. We smile and laugh. We get angry. We may even lash out and hit. In each case, it’s because at some level of awareness, we made the decision to do so. We assessed the situation and decided that whatever we did next was appropriate and justified.

This is all good, except that we may be missing an opportunity. Most of our reactions are driven by the subconscious. The subconscious mind is the automatic mind. It is the mind of habit that takes care of us while our conscious mind is off worrying about finding parking spaces and plotting revenge on the UPS driver who always seems to leave our parcel in the snowbank. In our allowing the subconscious mind to drive the vast majority of our reactions, we voluntarily lose our capacity to make real choices. Choices that very literally determine the direction that our life takes.

Possibly the most powerful choice we can make is to be more consciously aware and in control of our choices. In taking a proactive stance on the choices we make, we short-circuit the “nothing we can do about it” logic that is so pervasive in society. In being aware of how we begin to react, we can consciously choose to react in ways that are more appropriate than we otherwise might.

Once we have decided to become more self-aware of our reactions and the processes that drive them, we immediately create a space of growth. We immediately take responsibility for our actions and reactions and drive our life purposefully in our intended direction. As we learn more and more about ourselves, we are empowered to make choices that change the very fabric of who we are.

You’re reading this because of choices you made. How you choose to react and respond is entirely up to you. Choose wisely.

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