The One Decision | Less but Better

How we live each day matters more than what we do in our lives. There is nothing to achieve. There is nowhere to arrive.

The One Decision

A friend of an acquaintance along with his son had applied to a top school for an undergraduate program. It would be a few months before they would hear back from the school. When asked about it, the father said it was going to be stressful for both of them until they heard back from the school (with the result they were hoping for).

They had implicitly chosen to postpone their lives and decided to put themselves on a leash that was in the hands of someone else. This meant they were going to keep thinking about the school and put their lives “on hold” before they could mentally move on, even if they didn’t quite say it in those words. Basically, they had chosen to be stressed about the outcome they had desired. In other words, they decided they were not going to be okay until they heard back from the school (with the result they were hoping for).

How many of us live our lives this way today. We put our lives “on hold” based on the success or failure of future events in our lives. We choose to get stressed until we get the outcome we seek. Make no mistake. It’s a choice we make. When we get the outcome we desire, we breathe a sigh of relief maybe thinking that all of this time stressing over the thing was worth it? When we don’t end up getting what we want, we may think all of this time spent stressing over it was for naught. Regardless of the result, we decide to put ourselves in a state of misery until we find out about the outcome. This could be for weeks, months, or even years depending on the outcome we seek. But, is that really how we want to live our lives?

We define our existence based on what we achieve in life. We may spend our lives forsaking our happiness in the interest of “getting there” whatever that means for you only to be disappointed in the end. When things don’t go our way, we may react as if it makes it any easier. Although, it never feels quite right, we never learn from it. We live our lives in fear hoping things go our way, but, is it wise to live in “hope”?

By the way, it’s not about getting the “best hand” in life, because you can get the best hand and still end up losing big.1 It’s about playing the cards you have been dealt, in the best way possible. You can always choose to play well by being (and doing) your best irrespective of the events that unfold in life. This is good news, because it levels up the playing field for everyone, despite your lot in life.

Here’s the thing. We try to control our lives through people and/or situations and then we try to “make things happen.” When things go our way, we are happy. When things don’t go our way, we are unhappy. We stress about things that are beyond our control. But why do we wish for something to happen that was beyond our control to begin with?! By the way, this isn’t to say that we don’t strive to be (and do) our best in whatever we do, because that is entirely within our scope. We are only ever entitled to the journey, which is the point anyway, but I digress.

The bottom line is we make it harder for ourselves (and not others). We implicitly suffer through life. And, despite what we might believe, the events that unfold in our life have little to do with our suffering. Most of us end up resisting life by way of living reactively by default. We are so used to living the way we have been living (and for so long) that we don’t even know we are suffering.

The two ways to live

It boils down to this. There are two ways to live life. We can either try to make the world go our way, so we can be okay; this is how most of us live by the way. Or we can be okay irrespective of what happens outside. In other words, we can either choose to accept or resist. We are either already implicitly living our lives reactively by default OR we can choose to live our lives proactively by design. One way to live is way easier than the other, but more on this below.

Put in another way, we can live our lives from a place of love or from fear. Everything stems from that. When we are not intentionally choosing love, we’re unintentionally, implicitly, and inadvertently choosing fear. This is apparent in our thoughts, words, and actions. We can either try to control our lives and make it go a certain way, or we can surrender to our resistance to life and be okay with whatever happens, whilst being (and doing) our best. We can either choose to stay open or close forever.

Choosing to stay open (to all) is a decision you make once irrespective of what others say/do to you. Your response to people and situations is not dependent on their words and actions, because you have a higher standard to live by. It’s called having personal integrity.

One way is easier than the other

As I alluded to earlier, one way to live is way easier than the other, but most of us don’t know that, because we are suffering; we are so used to the way we have been living that we don’t even know that there’s a better (and easier) way. Despite what we might believe, we are making life difficult for ourselves (and not others). We are standing in our own way of growth, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can start focusing on the inside, rather than relying on things outside to go our way. Here’s what I’ve learned:

It’s easier to love than to hate.
It’s easier to stay open (to all) than to close (to some).
It’s easier to be light and happy than to (choose to) be weighed down by the travails of modern life.
It’s easier to accept life as it unfolds than to resist.
It’s easier to be filled with love than to hold a grudge and resent others for what they said or did (in the past).
It’s easier to be yourself than to be someone else.
It’s easier to be centered than to be at the extremes.
It’s easier to be free from inside than to keep protecting yourself from the outside.
It’s easier to go with the flow of life than to go against it.
It’s easier to be in the here and now than to live from our past or future.

You only decide once

Pain is real and unavoidable, but suffering is voluntary. You only have to decide once that you’ll choose love over fear, come what may. That you’ll stay open regardless of the ebbs and flows of life. That you will do your best in life within your scope by accepting the events as and when they unfold. That you won’t try and “make things happen”, which is entirely different from being (and doing) your best. That you’ll stay light and happy and you won’t let anything bother you nor let it disturb your peace, no matter what happens.

You only have to decide once and then not look back, because you can’t drive forward looking in the rear-view mirror, as much as you’ve tried until now.

Once you have made the choice to stay open and to accept life as it unfolds, then life itself will be your only teacher. You won’t need to learn anything from anyone. Life will test you in little and big ways, and while you will be tempted to cave in, particularly in difficult situations, you keep reminding yourself of the choice you made.

Trust life

True freedom comes from acceptance. It’s actually liberating when you stop trying to control the events in your life. It’s way easier to live this way. Then, you only have to engage appropriately with your situations, and trust that life will show you the path, if you let it. All you have to do is be ready, willing, and able to walk on it.

This is actually good news, because no matter what happens now, you win. When things are going well, great. When the going gets tough, then you get to stay open. There is no downside. Living life becomes an adventure. You’ll wonder how you ever lived any other way. You’ll look forward to waking up every day and being (and doing) your best in whatever you do. Not only will you stop running away from your challenges, but now, you’ll embrace it with both arms, and you’ll be all the more grateful for it. It’s only when we keep acting from our true selves in difficult circumstances over time do we give ourselves the space for real growth.

What you’ll find as a result of living this way is, time and again, you’ll have to face your past. Until you fully embrace your past, you can’t fully arrive in the present, much less go to the future. That means you will need to keep letting go of yourself in everyday situations, so you can become who you really are. There is no greater opportunity for growth by way of letting go of our past in our daily lives, so we can truly live in the moment.

Final thoughts

There are only two ways to live life. You are either implicitly living your life reactively by default OR you can choose to live your life proactively by design. You always have a choice, even when you don’t think you do. You are always making a choice (implicitly or otherwise), even when you don’t think you are. Life is a matter of choice after all.

Most of us are already living a reactive life by default. No question about it. Just because you implicitly made this choice up until this point doesn’t mean you have to keep living it for the rest of your life. You can choose to be proactive. You can choose to surrender to the resistance of life. You can choose love over fear. You can choose to accept life as it comes, which does not preclude not being (and doing) your best. You can live a less, but better life of meaning and depth, instead of living a shallow and a meaningless one.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how dark things may get on the outside, because as long as there is light inside you, you’ll be okay. You’ll be more than okay.

  1. Rich people are no more happier than poor people.

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