One of the definitions I found of choice was the "power
of choosing." How refreshing to find that even a dictionary can
see that choice and power are intertwined. But what kind of power? What
is the power that is found and freed in the acts of choosing?
I will tell you now that I am not going to go to my trusty
dictionary to define power, for the definitions I find there are not
those that I want to perpetuate. No, I choose a different definition,
an idea that I first found in Starhawk's book Truth or Dare - the idea
of Power from Within.
Starhawk describes it better than I can. She says that
this type of power is "our willingness to act... akin to the sense
of mastery we develop as young children with each new unfolding ability:
the exhilaration of standing erect, of walking, of speaking the magic
words that convey our needs and thoughts. But power-from-within is also
akin to something deeper. It arises from our sense of connection, our
bonding with other human beings, and with the environment."
Wow. It seems amazing. To be that connected to the world
around us creates a sense of the impact one person can have on their
surroundings. It speaks of finding within oneself a sense of inherent
inner worth, not based on authority, not based in acts that are looked
upon as "good" or "bad"- just the act of being creates
worth. This type of power also creates an emotional response from me.
Something along the lines of, "Oh no!"
This idea, while wonderful, makes a person like myself
nervous. I want to shout at the top of my lungs, "So you want me
to be fully responsible for the choices that I make for myself ???"
This sends off a shock of emotions, all related to the
choices I have made throughout my life. Whether they lead to situations
that I found pleasing or petrifying, there were no right answers, only
choices. Tough to swallow.
There are many things that happen in life that we feel
we have no control over. Sometimes we find comfort in thinking that
things just happened to us. If we have no control, no choice, we can't
be blamed, can we? It takes the responsibility out of the equation.
"I have no time to write, I have so much cleaning
to do around my house, and I am at the office late working on projects
four nights a week. It's impossible!"
I don't know how many times I have said this to myself,
leaving out the fact that I choose to worry about dust bunnies under
the bed and I choose to stay late at work to finish up on daily tasks.
If I choose to clean the entire house, I can't yell at my partner because
he didn't help me; it was my choice to clean the house. If I choose
to spend my time watching daytime soaps, I have to acknowledge that
I didn't choose to write in my journal, or any of the other things that
I could have been doing.
It seems that power from within, coupled with the acknowledgment
of choice, leaves very little room for opting out, blaming others, or
blaming a situation. One of the biggest fears the comes with this idea
is that if we are responsible for our choices, there is no way that
people can support us when we fail. If I own up that I chose to quit
my corporate job to open my own store, what if my store goes under?
Who will be there to help me through it? I read once that choice confers
responsibility, not blame. I choose to define responsibility as 'being
accountable'. When I am responsible, I am accountable for my actions,
whether they garner praise or scorn. When I acknowledge that I have
choice, I have to take the good with the bad, stand on my own two feet,
and be accountable for my actions, my speech, any everything else I
do. No one said it was going to be easy. But no one said that caring
individuals, whether they be friends, family, etc. wouldn't be there
to help me in the situations that I have created.
Choice can also be freeing. It can begin the process
of letting loose of patterns that are destructive, annoying, or outgrown.
Yesterday, I chose to go to work. Yes, I experienced the same disillusionment
and lack of fulfillment in my job that I have felt every other day,
but I did it. It was my choice. Tomorrow, I can choose something else.
I can choose show a different example at work. I can choose not to go
in to work at all. I can choose to start my own business. I can choose
to reclaim my own power through acknowledging that I have the power
to change my own circumstances. Things don't just happen to me, day
after day. I can change them. And that's a powerful understanding.
How can we work with choice? How can we find within ourselves
the voices that will lead us to responsible change in our lives? Power,
through responsible choice, takes thoughtful action- where should one
I have found that working with the elements has helped
to give me a starting point. Each year I pick an element to focus on
that reflects the areas I want to change. This year, I have chosen Earth
because I want to learn how to listen, to witness other's growth, and
to honor that growth without interfering. I wanted to learn not only
how to have choice in my life, but to allow others to do the same.
Other elemental lessons about choice could include:
Air: I choose to learn about communication. I choose
to speak for myself, using "I" statements, because I know
what I think, but I can't necessarily comment on what others think.
I choose to balance other's opinions as having just as much value
as my own. I choose to value communication over having to be "right"
and therefore I choose to be a courteous communicator. I choose to
learn about my power through words and communication from the element
Fire: I choose to learn about what makes me come alive.
I choose to take time out of my day to do what nurtures me spiritually,
even if the laundry waits. I choose to find my own path to happiness,
and to let my enthusiasm encourage others. I choose to celebrate life.
I choose to learn about my power through my expression of my uniqueness
from the element of Fire.
Water: I choose to feel, even if those feelings may
not be comfortable. I choose to acknowledge that how I feel may not
be how others feel. I choose to find healthy ways to express my emotion.
I choose to ask others how they feel, instead of assuming that I already
know what they are feeling. I choose to learn about my power through
my experience of emotions from the element of Water.
Remember that these are choices. You can take all of
this or leave it. But I encourage you to take a look at your life and
the choices you make. Image what would happen if you stopped giving
the power of your life over to the circumstances around it. This can
be a very hard process. In a world where shoulds are more prevalent
than coulds and we are taught that we have very little power, it can
be a hard shift to acknowledge the innate power of choice. Change doesn't
come overnight, but eventually it does.
I didn't choose to do laundry today. I thought it could
wait. I didn't choose to read a book, watch some TV, or go running.
I chose to write this article and you choose to read it. And you can
make the choice to celebrate and claim your power.