The Question that Will Set You Free

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June 17, 2014

True freedom isn’t doing whatever we feel like. It’s being able to do what we want to accomplish.

There is a difference between doing what we want and doing what we feel like. The former takes discipline.

Life is stressful. Besides all of the frustrations of making ends meet and getting work done, there never seems to be enough time to do everything you should be doing. Besides work, you’ve got your health, exercise, self-improvement, relationships, education, volunteering, cooking, playing…the list goes on and on.

Sometimes, it can get overwhelming, and it’s so much easier to just turn on the autopilot and let things drag you along without thinking.

Do you ever find yourself doing any of the following?

  • Drop in front of the TV as soon as you get home from work, out of habit?
  • Arguing with your girlfriend or boyfriend over stupid things?
  • Reaching for another cookie (or scoop of almond butter) because it’s there?
  • In a bored moment, or just for a quick break, reaching for your smartphone to idly browse Facebook?
  • Overindulging in a treat you know you shouldn’t?

Everyone does these things. I do these things.

They are easy to do because they are compulsions. They don’t require any thinking. You eat carbs when you’re stressed. You argue when you’re tired.

These are not things you consciously choose to do. Your actions are being controlled by your circumstances.

So, how do you wake your mind up and actually engage your presence in living your life?

All it takes is a simple question.

Do I have to do this?

  • Do I have to eat that third cookie?
  • Do I have to watch another episode of this TV show?
  • Do I have to click that headline?
  • Do I have to have this argument?

The answer is almost never yes. You choose your actions, whether consciously or not. By realizing you are not being forced, you gain a special insight.

Simply by asking that question and bringing attention to it, you turn a compulsion into a choice, which returns power to you.

You can still go ahead with the action, but at least now you are accepting full responsibility for what you’re doing, which gives you the agency to direct your life. When you are griping about how you never have time to read those personal development books on your shelf, you will realize that you chose to spend that time watching TV, and that next time, you can choose to invest in your education.

That’s the power of attention at work. Which is a powerful truth to hold in your hand.

Use it wisely.

Photo credit: Duncan Hull on Flickr