Thursday, May 29, 2008


What choices do we get to make and how are we going to make them?

We want to understand our goals, and the context in which we work (that is to say those things that we cannot or will not try to change), but our options are what deserve the great focus. What kinds of outcomes follow from our choices? It is in the focus on the choices that we are most empowered because we are focusing on our actions.

I'm thinking about this right now because I'm anxious. And I'm worrying about things that are beyond my control. I'm not thinking about what I can do; instead I'm thinking about what I can't do, or at least what I believe that I can't do. And that doesn't really feel very good.

This post, then, is an exercise on focusing on things that I can do. Writing, for me, offers an opportunity to work on directing my attention. It's not a meditative sort of thing, but it does force my focus on to the present, and on to what I can do.

If Cognitive-Behavioral psychology is correct in presuming that negative emotional states are strongly related to the stories we're telling ourselves, then an exercise like focusing your attention to write about something positive will help us change the stories that are giving us trouble.

For me, fear is a big problem, fear of other people. But to let that rule me? I have choices of how to act, and as I pursue my choices, I want to choose those that are the most able to help me face my fear. And one of those choices is to keep in mind that any possible course of action has negative potential outcomes, many of which have little or nothing to do with me. So I know that I could choose to focus on negative outcomes for any and all potential courses of action. Or I can try to choose the course of action that will help me move towards my own goals, even in the face of the fear-inducing negative outcome.

I haven't figured out how to choose to turn off the emotional switch. I think that's possible, too. But for now, I know that in the long run, I feel best when I choose a course of action and resign myself to the possibility that it has something bad in store for me, because I see that there is also a possibility that it has something good in store for me.

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