A bold choice is one that is free of the influence of our prior choices.
Is your brain programmed for independent thought? You decide.
While we are aware that we want to think for ourselves when it comes to being influenced by others, we fail to see our own brain bias. For all the focus on free will we fail to see that we do not have independence from our own thought processes. We are anchored in previous and reflexively allow what was to determine what will be.
In my life, change is afoot. My kids are all off to school and we are empty-nested. Yet, as I contemplate moving forward, instead of getting excited about what lay ahead, I find myself feeling constricted by the the past.
I see what I did not pursue. I feel that the choices I did make, limit the possibility for what I can do. While it is the norm to assess the ‘now’ through the lens of what was, and to learn from our experiences, it can also cause inertia and self doubt as well as guilt and regret.
I started to talk to my daughter about my indecisiveness while we were at lunch and she very simply asked, 'why does what you are choosing today have anything to do with what you chose in the past?' Genius.
She shared that she always wanted to be a journalist. To make that dream come true she invested a lot of time in her writing, taking journalism classes in high school, choosing a college that had a journalism major and spending her freshman year in college taking classes toward that major. Years into the process she realized she didn’t really enjoy journalism and she chose to start fresh. There was no salvaging it, or doing something similar - it had to go. Now she is focussing on math, something that had never been on her radar because of her focus on journalism. The moral of the story is that new possibilities cannot emerge while we are trying to salvage or maintain the old.
Letting our past choices dictate the choices we are making today is surrendering to sameness - a favored brain program. ‘Stuck’ is the brain recycling previous thought to the exclusion of making new ‘independent’ choices. To sidestep this programming we often end up choosing something practical, or close or in line with what we have always done. This is not new.
Interestingly, what we call a bold choice is simply a choice that is not extension of previous choices.
Breaking the habit of predicating the future on the past is first noticing that we are doing it. Thanks to my daughter’s intervention, I was able to catch my brain running a safety program that would have had me avoiding change rather than being excited by it.
The bottom line is we should not choose anything because we have chosen it before. That is called a habit, and life should be new everyday. If the circumstances of our relationships, employment or finances have changed over time we must look at where we are not where we have been. Seeing everything anew will open up possibility never available to us before and offer us a clear path for what we should do now.
The brain may tell you that not using your past choices to dictate your future choices is the equivalent of anarchy, chaos and stupidity, but it is really the opposite of the obvious. Actually, it is the opening up of unforeseen possibility and unimagined freedom for everyone involved.
For Fear: Go Bold
We continue to do what we know until we direct our brains to do otherwise. Without giving up the old story nothing new will happen. Freedom from a brain training perspective is freedom from the past.
This week practice making choices without relying on history and let new possibilities emerge.
Make a list of choices that are currently on the table in your life or the places you feel most stuck
With each choice - notice where your brain goes when you are trying to decide i.e fear, guilt, regret, fear of other’s reactions. These are all based on previous experience.
Ask yourself, if you were seeing this situation as completely new and you could have no regret or self doubt, what would you be choosing.
This is what you consider to be your bold choice
Know that you can make that choice, even if you decide not to
On a scale of 1-5, assess how free you feel to choose the bold choice.
What choice can you make right now to feel a little more free?
Giving up the past and all its limitations is the key to caring less and living more.