Tag Archives: choice

How to make fulfilling choices

Just over a decade ago I decided to pursue a writing career. I wanted to be able to tell people that I am a writer. I wanted to have this on my passport under occupation.

The thing that really helped me make this decision was the sense of productivity and purpose I felt when I spent time writing stuff that I intended to be read by others. I equated it to the freedom and ease I would feel cycling along on a smooth, effortless path, with the tic-tic-tic of the well-oiled cogs marking my progress.

Blogging was a god-send. Not only did I get to write, I also got to publish and reach readers at the push of a button. Even if it was just one or two people who appreciated my words – this still made it hugely worthwhile to have written them.

OK so maybe writing – or cycling! – isn’t your bag – so what is? And how do you choose work or activities or pastimes that help you feel on purpose and fulfilled?

The lessons I learned from my decision to become a writer have been very useful and have informed the rest of my life. Here are my biggest take-aways:

  1. Decide that you are going to find what fulfills you – what oils your cogs or floats your boat? It sounds daft, but so many people don’t take this step and end up going through the motions of their life, surviving rather than thriving. If this is not for you, wake up. Choose to be true to the ‘real you’, and commit to knowing who that is.
  2. To discover what fulfills you, pay attention to the moments that feel good; to what you most appreciate about your current experience; to what turns you on. It’s important to expect and accept good-feeling things as if your life depends upon it (which in a way it does).
  3. Then, tell the truth about your desire – to yourself and others. We need as much support as we can get in order to thrive and feel fulfilled – but we also need to fully accept and embrace for ourselves what fulfills us. Doing this wholeheartedly and without compromise makes it easier for others to accept also.
  4. Lastly, trust and follow through on the impulses that feel good. Start small – whether you want another 5 minutes in the sun or you want to get up at dawn and do a three mile hike before breakfast. Slowly but surely, as you pay attention to the good-feeling things, you will feel the impulse more and more to indulge. Over time from the small choices a bigger picture of life emerges, bringing fulfillment with it.

In my experience impulses can sometimes come when I haven’t yet fully accepted the truth of my desire. Yet I follow them anyway. Impulses come from the heart, whereas acceptance is more about aligning the mind. Sometimes it gets messy and people might get hurt (which is not such a good outcome) – but at least we all get to wake up and reassess. New or different choices may be made, and everyone learns and benefits in the long term.

And of course, as ever, journaling is a great way to track your progress.

What impulses are you becoming aware of? How are you honouring them? What effect does this have on the level of fulfillment you are experiencing?

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Filed under The Journal Writer's Handbook

Journaling for consciously choosing

Aung San Suu Kyi was the guest on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs today.

She’s an inspirational woman. And one thing she said in particular struck me:

“I’m not terribly fond of melodrama. When people have chosen a certain path, they should walk it with satisfaction and not try to make it appear as a tremendous sacrifice.”

What she said was in the context of choosing to stay under house arrest in Burma, alongside the people she would represent, rather than retreating to the bosom of her family, or even to the side of her husband who was battling cancer.

These are difficult choices. But they speak of principle and service, and a determination to stand up for the greater good of democracy in her country. It fills me with awe that a woman, a wife and mother, put these things above her family, and that they never reproached her for it.

There can be no question that the choices Aung San Suu Kyi made were not done with great clarity of consciousness. And this gives me an idea for some reflective writing of my own about choices, bearing in mind that we still choose by not choosing, that even though we may not consciously engage in a choosing process, we are still choosing by default, whatever our actions turn out to be thereafter.

So let’s use our journals to get conscious about the choices we’re making. Try these inquiries:

“What am I choosing? How satisfied am I with my choice? How likely is it that I can follow this path without melodrama?”

And if you’ve already chosen and are living with your choice, take a moment to reflect on all that is satisfactory about it with this kick-off phrase:

“I am satisfied with…”

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Filed under Journal Writing, Self-Awareness