Living by choice is not a puzzle. The steps are very simple. However, it doesn’t come easily, especially at first.
If it was easy, everyone would let go of their old habits and start living with intention so they could reap all the benefits and live healthier, happier and fulfilled lives. The challenge of living by choice is to dedicate yourself to practice the following steps consistently over time.
Set an intention to make conscious choices throughout the day, each day
The first step involves a lot of focus, of deciding how you want to direct your thoughts. Since the greater part of us live quite unconsciously most of the time, setting the intention to make conscious choices is a necessary step that needs to be revisited over and over again.
Cultivate an awareness of how often you make unconscious choices throughout the day
Notice those times when you are engaged in doing something you didn’t deliberately choose to do. For instance, eating a food that isn’t healthy for you, eating until you feel full, or obsessing over an upcoming medical appointment. You don’t need to change anything with this step. Just notice when you’re doing something you didn’t choose to do. This can prove extremely illuminating, and you will get better at it with practice.
Notice how often your behavior is not aligned with your personal values
In this lies the true power of living by choice. Finding the things you think, do, and say that don’t line up with what you value most—those qualities and behaviors you began to distinguish in the preceding chapter. This distinction is the source of great emotional distress and physiological stress. When you develop the ability to recognize the discord, you gain the opportunity to choose a different, much more wellbeing affirming course.
Make conscious choices as often as you can
After some time, you will figure out how to recognize the great variety of decision points you reach throughout the day. When you notice that there is a choice to make—regardless of whether to keep ruminating about an upcoming medical procedure, maybe, or whether or not to call upon a friend for support—you will improve your skills in living according to your personal values. In the former cases, the values are peace of mind and support.
Make conscious choices throughout the day that are in harmony with your personal values
This is with what you can satisfy the promise of living by choice. If you esteem self-care, for instance, and you find yourself presented with the conscious choice of what to have for lunch when there is little time, you can decide to select something that’s nutrient dense, yet light and quick to eat and then drive past that fast-food place instead of to it.
If you have been practicing loving self-care, you will have prepared nutritious meals in advance, cooking a little extra food the evening before and setting it aside in order to have a healthy lunch each day instead of eating fast food.
Lets say you’ve been avoiding asking for a friend’s help for fear of being a burden. However, when you consider your own values, you recognize how much you value support, loving self-care, and authentic self-expression, so you pick up the phone and make the call.
Taking valued action not only serves to allow you to live by your personal values, it cultivates a strong sense of mastery. Mastery results when you make conscious choices that are in line with your personal life values. It is in such seemingly minor decisions that the promise of living by choice is found, because all the choices that line up with your values contribute to your health and wellbeing. And they add up!