Stan was lying on the ground, watching his guardian typing away on her laptop. He chose to stand up, walked towards her and started to tug her trousers, indicating clearly, “Time for a walk!” She looked at him and proceeded to get ready for a walk. At the carpark, he saw a dog with a juicy bone. He really wanted it. However, he saw how fierce and big the dog was and decided against it. He chose not to engage and walk away instead. At the fork, he chose to take the river walk instead of the wooded walk. As a result, he played in the river chasing floating leaves and had a great time. When he ran out, dripping wet to his guardian and could see his guardian, being cautious, knowing that he was going to shake himself, making her wet, he chose not to do so and just went to stand beside her. She was amazed and grateful at this thoughtfulness and rewarded him with a sausage. Stan was elated.
Stan made choices throughout his day, not all of it but whenever he could.
In your life, what choices do you make? More importantly, why did you make those choices? The reason behind the choices matter greatly. You might look beautiful today, but if that was a result of a vain obsession in the mirror this morning, are you actually beautiful? A body built from hard work is admirable. Taking care of your body because you are wanting to use it as a vehicle to live better and live longer to achieve your goals, bringing value to the world is indeed a worthy reason and one to be proud of. A body built to impress gym rats, to keep up with an image that is deemed desirable and does not have any further meaning deeper than purely cosmetic is not.
You may be rich today, but if that is the result of a mad obsession to gather as much riches as you can, are you actually rich? To strive for great riches by providing immense value to the marketplace and helping others through philanthropy is a worthy reason and provides a shining example for others to follow. To amass riches just for the sake of being rich, hoarding your money beyond excess would render you poverty no matter how much money you have.
If you are in a bad situation by choice (or seemingly, without a choice), you do have an opportunity. You can either choose to believe that you are a victim, being led to suffering as you do not have a choice and that is your fate or life. Or you can choose to see it as a training ground to forge your resilience and build your creativity to improve your situation. That is the difference between the successful and the unsuccessful. Successful people see setbacks and bad situations as stepping stones to becoming something more whereas unsuccessful people accept the same as their fate or life. You cannot be a victor with a victim’s mindset.
So understand that what your world sees of you is a result of the choices you make. More importantly, you cannot help what your world thinks of you. If you are physically beautiful, your world will see you as beautiful. If you are rich, your world will deem you rich. If you are in a bad situation, the world cannot see past your bad situation. However, here is the catch. The reason for your choices unbeknown to the world but only to you matters. You can almost say that it is the only thing that truly matters. No matter how the world sees you, it is more important how you see yourself. The reason why you made those choices permeates your very being and resides in your soul. In fact, the reality is that you cannot control how your world sees you. Their view is filtered by their experiences, expectations and beliefs.
Conversely, when looking at others, whether it is their beauty, finances or seemingly bad situations they appear to be in, it is important not to see how things appear, but what effort, reasons and choices they are a result of. When you learn more about the choices others make, you will learn more about them and not merely see their choices at a superficial level. You will get a chance to see their values, beliefs and intentions, and perhaps even a glimpse of their soul, taking another step to embrace humanity.
In life, many people have great achievements without great fulfilment. The biggest failure has been said to be someone who has immense success in achievement but does not feel the equivalent in fulfilment. The difference between achievement and fulfilment is subtle but distinct. Basically, gaining achievement is what you do for yourself whereas getting fulfilment is what you do for others. So, be mindful of the reasons behind your choices. If you are seeking achievement, it is likely to be selfish and the result may not bring you fulfilment. If you are seeking fulfilment, it is likely to be for someone else. Challenge yourself to make the reasons both an achievement and fulfilment, ie for yourself and others too.
Stan made active choices whenever he could. His motivation is joy. As a result, he received joy. What reasons drive you to make the choices you make? Are they for yourself or for others?
‘You are not the body and hair style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.’ – Epictetus, Discourses, 3.1.39b-40a