we have a lot of choices.
the collection of words we string together to use for self-expression, the inflection of our voice, the focus of our thoughts, and the depth of each breath. we determine the amount of energy we invest in our goals, the perspectives we take, the direction in which we lead our lives, and the topic of conversations we speak about. we get to decide the kind of responses we have to other people’s words, behaviors, and life situations. and we choose what we allow to make us angry, how we let it influence our day, and how to let it go.
what i know is that sometimes we forget that in each individual moment we can choose. and without awareness of these choices, it becomes easy to respond out of habit or initial reaction instead of in a way that promotes inner peace, contentment, and happiness. and so a seemingly isolated incident of frustration can lead to a day of irritability, a week of anger, and a month of gloom. and after collecting these thoughts and holding on to these lingering emotions, you might start to feel like you are out of sync with yourself, discouraged with the way things are going, or overcast with negativity.
i’ve learned that if you want a different outcome you must make a different choice. this is important because our individual choices result in a collection of events; they directly impact the flow of our day and shape our thoughts, moods, and the relationship we have with our life. our outward perspectives toward life are the result of our inner experiences and so it’s important to remember that the way we feel isn’t always the truest reality; often times, our experience is impacted by the thoughts in our mind, shaped by the emotions in our heart, and altered by the kinds of days we’ve been having. our days are colored by the thoughts and emotions we choose to entertain in our minds and hearts.
in the last few weeks, i’ve been doing a lot of grumbling. i complain about too much sleep, too little sleep, too dirty of a house, having too much to do and not enough time. i’ve been finding fault with strangers at the store, drivers on the road, and in the people i appreciate. i’ve been argumentative with other people’s perspectives, contributions, opinions, and beliefs, and annoyed with the resulting disagreements and negative emotions that often accompany it. as a result, i haven’t felt like myself. i’ve felt anxious, dissatisfied, frustrated, disappointed, annoyed, lonely, or upset. not only do i not like to do these things, i also don’t like to feel these ways either. so of course, i started to think. and before long, three c’s came to mind- condemnation, complaints, and criticism – and slowly i started to remember all of the ways in which i have the choice to separate myself from them. and so here i am, drinking hot tea in an adorable coffee shop, deciding to make a different choice.
here’s what i know:
criticism– when your attention is focused on a person’s misgivings, shortcomings, and flaws, you fail to appreciate the light they have to offer, the laughter a person brings, or the happiness they bring to you. i know that constant attention to all that is wrong leaves us feeling ungrateful, unappreciative, and discontent. criticism naturally makes us focus on the flaws in a situation and the more we identify our frustrations the more identified we become with them. and so the more we complain, the more complaints we have. soon, you might notice that all you can see are errors, flaws, and mistakes in any given situation. as a result, all that you feel is dissatisfaction, anger, and annoyance. and while there is a time and place for contstructive criticism, it’s not for every place, every stranger, and every moment. i’d rather be an enjoyer of life than a constant critic of it and in this effort, i’m attempting to replace fault seeking and negative judgement with appreciation. i’ll compliment more. i’ll search for the good.
condemnation– when we condemn another persons’s beliefs, opinions, actions, or life choices, we limit our ability to take on another person’s perspective. we lose empathy, tolerance, and openness. i believe that condemning others- especially large groups of people- encourages feelings of superiority and further divides us from one another. and when you condemn another person’s actions it becomes easy to disrepect and disapprove of the individual as a whole. condemnation is about judgement– a belief that your way of seeing and understanding the world is more accurate than another’s– and it’s about shutting doors. and with a shift in focus, what i know is that i hope to use my life to open doors. for other people, for opportunities, and for a greater understanding of the diversity and richness that exists among each human being.
complaints– we complain about the food we eat, the vacations we take and the clothes we wear. we complain about weather, work, and our morning commute. about our sleep, the television we watch, and the co-workers, family, friends, or spouses we surround ourselves by. and what i know is that complaints are hardly ever a positive reaction to the situation we are in. we have become so used to expressing our dissatisfaction with a circumstance that we have forgotten how to express excitement, gratitude, and appreciation for what is. too often and too easily, complaining has become our natural response and makes it difficult to find beauty and satisfaction with where we are. and the problem with constant complaint is that it fosters negativity, does not alter the situation, and results in unhappiness. i’ve began to practice recognizing that both people and things are imperfect and i’m trying to find value in learning how to appreciate these shortcomings. i’m choosing not to open conversations with a complaint or go to bed with words of dissatisfaction on my heart.
what i know is that these three words- criticism, condemnation, and complaint- are focused on the self. they bring unhappiness and leave us cycling in negativity- all of which serve little purpose in our lives. you have the choice. you pick your words and choose your focus. i challenge you to ask yourself what relationship do you have with the current moment? how do you choose to interact with your life? what thoughts are you forming? what words are you speaking? and what emotions do you have lingering in your heart?
what choices are you making?
and what will you do different this time?