You have two choices — choose wisely

By Daniel Okon

Almost every choice we make is predicated upon two forces. There is a beauty in this. A choice can be made by us, or a choice can be made for us.

Think about that for a moment, really.

Our choices are rarely forced upon us, when we don’t have the ability to choose one thing over another.

A series of choices leads us to working for a boss that we disdain, following his orders and just putting up with going to work every Monday through Friday and living for the weekend. Do you feel like this is not a choice you’ve been given? Remember, the journey began with you accepting this job, going to work every Monday, and continuing on.

On the other hand, a series of choices lead us to taking that trip of a lifetime that we never thought we could do. Or starting that foundation that is truly impacting people in need. It started with one step, and one choice, and then a series of choices that lead to this.

That’s how the story of Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx — a multi-billion dollar company began. She had an idea, and spent months and months being rejected by manufacturers to produce her idea. She didn’t stop until one guy “took pity on her, because he had daughters.” Sara focused on her idea — continued to focus on her hope, in the midst of rejection and was able to not only create an incredible business, but also started a foundation focused on empowering women and committed half her net wealth to the cause (north of 1 Billion dollars).

What impacted these different choices? It breaks down to two simple root forces: fear or hope.

What does fear mean?

Fear — noun: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Many of our choices come from this place. We choose that job because we are afraid we will run out of money. We choose to stay with that person because we are afraid of being alone. We put up with those friendships because we fear rejection. It’s crazy how fear can shut down our brains.

According to Nicole Currivan, scientific research shows that our amygdala can actually shut down our prefrontal cortex. Our prefrontal cortex is actually the part of the brain that helps make logical decisions and helps us assess a situation and think critically. When that is shut down, we go into survival mode. As humans, we have been focusing on a few important things: food (or money now), and survival. If you want to know if you’re living in a place of fear, look at your decisions and see if they are coming from a desire to preserve these things.

The crazy thing? Most of the things we are fearful about never happen. Mark Twain was the one who famously said “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

So what’s the solution? How do we adjust? How do we make sure that we are living a life that is not out of fear?

Hope.

Hope — noun: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

What if we changed that noun to a verb (side note: verb means action for those like me who daydreamed through 3rd grade).

What if we developed a hope — or a dream that propels us forward in a powerful way? How do we do that?

We start with why. Simon Sinek in his book, Start With Why shares:

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.

True hope is understanding what we want in our lives, and believing it will happen without a shadow of a doubt. It’s the expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, and then taking massive action to see it come to pass. This core belief will affect your choices in such a way that it will truly change the way you live your life.

Instead of letting fear shut down the most important part of your brain that helps you make decisions, you will make choices that help you stay true to your path.

Once you discover your source of hope, you’ll no longer dread Monday mornings, as your choices will flow toward that dream of yours. You’ll no longer stay in a situation that isn’t going to maximize your ability to live out your hopes and dreams. You’ll make decisions instead of letting fear make them.

The crazy thing is, we really don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We don’t have a set amount of time, and things can change very quickly.

Marcus Aurelius shares in his storied book Meditations,

Every man lives only the present…and that all the rest of his life is either past or is uncertain.
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

This is significant because I think we sometimes make choices out of fear because we think we have a lot of time left. But we really don’t know that, do we? We have no assurance we will be here tomorrow, in 3 hours, or even three minutes. You may say to yourself, “well that’s not me,” but guess what, many others have said the same for ages — even the oldest person on earth ceases being so at some point.

We have no assurance we will be here tomorrow, in 3 hours, or even three minutes.

I ask you this, why continually live in fear when you can live in hope? Why waste another moment that you’ll never get back making choices that only preserve your life, when you can make choices that can truly enhance it and expand it?

Don’t stop and think. Commit to building this hope — this dream for your life. Commit right now. Take 5 minutes or 5 hours — however much time you have, and dig deep to know what that hope is. I am pretty sure you already know, but you just need to believe again. Hope again.

Daniel Okon

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