A Chance to See Beyond Oneself
 
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About one month ago I finished the A2 Level of the German language courses and decided I would take a week or two to assess what my next step would be before signing up for another class. That "week or two" turned into a month. What I didn't expect was how, what appeared to be, the simple act of "assessing my next step" would throw me into a state of great uncertainty, where everything aspect of my life seemed ripe for scrutiny and reassessment. I'll share some experiences and reflections below about facing life choices and creating a positive mindset.

What Should I choose!?

The freedom of choice is a tricky thing. Whenever our freedom is limited, whether it's in a work situation, living situation, relationship, etc., we beg the cosmos for a chance to be free from these chains that tie us down so we can have the chance we have always wanted to soar in the euphoria of unrestricted opportunities. Once you are finally free, you run as fast as you can towards the edge of the cliff, ready to use those wings of freedom that have been cooped up under your work attire or have gone unused as you have been saving to pay off your car loans, and then you reach the edge, jump at full speed, spread your wings...and begin to plummet towards your doom. You look down at the quickly approaching ground as you realize you have forgotten how to fly.
 
The freedom to choose how you want to shape your life is an incredible privilege but it can also be a scary prospect to realize you are fully responsible for the outcome of your life - no more blaming anyone but yourself.

Though I started this move without having much of a plan, except to study German and look for work opportunities here, it made it easy to step into the controlled environment of a classroom and be told what to do, i.e. how to learn German. I felt I had a purpose and a goal, and though it was challenging, I had a direction. When I decided about a month ago to assess what I was doing here, that sense of direction quickly collapsed and so did my sense of confidence and inner peace.

As I felt the gravity of choice weighing me down, my pessimism got the best of me and I begun despondently questioning everything: "Why am I studying German? Why did I move to a country where the language barrier can make the simplest tasks incredibly time consuming? Why don't I know what I want to do as a career? Am I missing out on life's opportunities by being here? Shouldn't I be having the time of my life, I'm living in Europe!? Why am I complaining? Why don't I feel grateful for all of the blessings I have? Why am I questioning everything and not just flowing with life?"

I felt overwhelmed by all of these unanswered questions and found that this freedom of choice crippled my ability to live joyfully and, ironically, made it difficult for me to feel a genuine sense of freedom.


Choosing Joy...and Apple Strudel


"Is your fear of failure greater than your desire to succeed? - Zig Ziglar

And then through a combination of encouragements from friends, inspiring articles, and great internal struggle, I saw choice in a new way: I had the freedom to choose the things I loved most about life. That same freedom of choice that debilitated me for weeks and made me painfully confront my many fears of failure and inner uncertainties, suddenly became a magnificent opportunity to choose the things that I find to be most beautiful, meaningful, and fulfilling in life. 

I came to realize that for years I have conditioned my mind to be obsessed with the fear of failure by always focusing on my short comings or on the improbability of my goals succeeding or always focusing on the things I didn't have.

My mindset and internal state drastically changed when I came to the realization that I can choose how I want to feel (perhaps it sounds simple to most but for me it is profound). Even though I haven't reached a place in life that seems ideal for me (and perhaps I never will), I can stay positive by putting myself in the mindset of where I would like to be. At any moment, I can choose to intensely focus on all of the things I am grateful for in life to the point where I begin to feel the joy of actually experiencing those things....like apple strudel. Try it, the next time you are down or in a glum mood, think about the last time you ate a piece of warm apple strudel topped with whip cream - I guarantee if you focus on the experience with enough enthusiasm, you can't help but feel good.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” – Buddha

If we don't intentionally and proactively manage our thoughts, they can drive us to states of hopelessness and depression (especially for those of us who can easily spiral downwards with negative thoughts). We must cultivate our minds as if they are a garden: we must choose which seeds to plant and nurture so they can bloom into beautiful vibrant plants and we must be vigilant in pulling the weeds that will choke the life from those plants. We must intentionally create habits that condition us to choose a perspective of hope and joy. It all comes down to our choices. Reality is what we perceive it to be and we have the capacity to control our perceptions.


Want to try it?
  • Monitor your thoughts. Recognize when they begin to start creating negative feelings. Pay attention to how your environment or particular behaviors are affecting your feelings.
  • Create a habit of saying "no" to every negative thought, regardless of how "truthful" or "real" it may seem. 
  • Choose to focus on thoughts that make you feel joyful, peaceful, grateful, and hopeful.
  • Create a habit of starting each day with at least 15 minutes of focusing on and feeling grateful for all the things you find beautiful and fulfilling in life. Begin to feel grateful for the things you don't yet have in your life but would like to have.
For additional inspiration, I would recommend checking out this e-book. It is very cheap and will help give you that extra boost of motivation to accomplish your goals and stay positive.

The Essential Motivation Handbook


My Plans

One of my passions is helping people create harmonious conflict-free communication. I would like to be professionally involved in this by working in conflict mediation and communication coaching. I have realized that I am not passionate enough about learning German for German sake and am now searching for conflict mediation work and certification opportunities in English-speaking countries. If you know anyone that works in this field, I would greatly appreciate if you could put me in touch with them.

Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed it please subscribe.
And check out some of my new photos and the quote section I added on the website.
 


Comments

Anne
26/11/2010 6:24pm

Thank you so much for your written thoughts!!! During the last weeks, I felt the same and I don't know how to order all the things I think about and I feel. Maybe, I should follow your mission and starting each day with some minutes of focusing on wonderful things...

Reply
27/11/2010 12:17am

Hi Anne,

Thanks so much for reading and sharing your response here. Give it a try and let me know how it goes; let me know what works well for you, I'm always interested in learning new techniques for cultivating a life of joy and fulfillment. Have fun with it :)

Reply
28/11/2010 11:36am

Here is an interesting article about how letting your mind wander, or perhaps pondering too many questions, can lead to depression.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/magazine/28depression-t.html?pagewanted=1

(Thanks Marguerite for passing it on)

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