I’ve been excavating my adulthood—in a manner of speaking.
I’ve been taking a long hard look at how my choices have shaped my life and how circumstances have shaped my choices.
I have a Master’s of Counseling degree, and I practiced as an addiction counselor for a while, and then family counselor. While I no longer work in the field, the knowledge I retained from those years of study and work stayed with me.
In psychology, we learn that there are factors that affect our self-efficacy, or our ability to take care of ourselves and respond to the situations that arise in our lives.
People who are self-reliant and respond well to change tend to have an internal locus of control. This means that they believe their own actions are likely to affect the outcome. They believe they have some control over the situation.
On the other hand, people with an external locus of control believe that circumstances have brought them to where they are in life. These people are not typically as self-reliant and are likely to blame circumstances, rather than accept personal responsibility, for their choices.
I’ve always thought that I had more of an internal locus of control, and, for the most part, that’s true. But, I look back at my life, and I see so many times when I made hard choices only because the circumstances around me changed in such a way that I was pushed into making a choice.
I look back at jobs that I only left because I got laid off when I should have left because they weren’t a good fit. I look back at relationships I stayed in for far too long because I wasn’t forced to make a change. On the surface, it looks like I took so many risks and reaped so many rewards as a result. But, the truth is, so often I only made a leap when I felt there was no other choice. What I thought was courage now just seems like resilience and adaptability.
The truth is—I want to be courageous.
I want to take the big risks without being pushed by circumstances to do so. I want to empower myself to choose what’s best for me without the Universe having to shove me every step of the way. Did I need those shoves? Hell, yes! But I hope that I can begin to follow my path without needing that anymore. I want to be a person who is self-reliant and has that internal locus of control—rather than one who simply reacts to the world around me.
How do we make that transition from being chosen by change to choosing the changes?
I don’t have all the answers. I wish I did. But, I do know that our lives are richer when we choose what we need rather than settling for something less—when we shape our lives rather than allowing our lives to be shaped by the events around us.
We are capable of choosing our lives, and I’m not talking about some creepy science fiction kind of way where we control everyone and everything around us. We can choose to change our lives for the better every single moment of every single day.
We can choose how we react when things happen, but we can also choose to create the changes we need rather than waiting for them to simply happen to us. We don’t need a white knight to save us. We are the “white knight.” Saving ourselves, choosing beautiful lives, is for us to do.
Here are a few ways to get started:
>> We can spend time looking at the choices we’ve made so far. Are we happy with them—our jobs, our relationships, our homes? If the answer is no, we can choose what to do next. We need to ask the tough questions and decide how to address any unhappiness that we find when we take a close look at our lives in the present moment.
>> We can visualize the kind of life we want to live. I’ve made it a daily exercise to spend a few minutes thinking about the life I want to have. I don’t allow myself to set limits on those dreams during the exercise. I simply envision my ideal life. When we know what we want, we can start making the choices that will take us in that direction. Our dreams are unlikely to happen overnight, but we can start taking the small steps to get us closer.
>> We can start being bold. Do we hesitate to wear this outfit because of what someone else might say? Do we censor ourselves when we post on social media? We can practice courage and authenticity so that we’re able to choose what’s right for us without fear or hesitance.
>> We can remind ourselves that we are more than capable of creating the lives we want. We can use positive affirmations or meditate on our goals. We just have to believe in ourselves a little more and remember we are resilient and capable of so much more than we ever knew before
I’ve decided that I can be changed by circumstances or I can begin to make bold choices. I can stop reacting to what’s going on around me and start being an active participant in charting my course.
We don’t have to let life be something that happens to us. No, we need so much more than that.
We need to love the lives we’re leading, and that takes courage. To choose. To create change. And, if we go the wrong way, to choose again.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Simon Greening/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson