The Two Most Important Questions

Living doesn’t occur by accident.

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The sun bled through my bedroom window with brilliance this morning. Despite short-changing myself an additional hour of sleep to let my mind wander, I arose from my slumber with velocity as the clock struck seven.

My body began to move, while my mind remained at a standstill. I made my bed, got dressed, grabbed something to eat, brushed my teeth, all without any conscious mental activity — it was simply automatic.

Some days, I let the automatic continue. I end up at work, engage in conversations, respond to emails. The automatic brings me home when the workday concludes, setting its sights on a sequence of events your typical, single, going-on-30 engages in after 5 o’clock in the afternoon.

As I lay in bed after a day like this, everything could’ve gone right — work could’ve been smooth, food could’ve been exceptional, the gym session could’ve been invigorating, and conversations could’ve flowed effortlessly.

It won’t matter — I’ll still feel empty.

Why?

Because I had nothing to do with it.

What do I mean?

Allow me to explain further.

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I surrendered to the automatic for much of my life. Generally speaking, things were fine — if my life were a car, the paint job was pristine. But under the hood, there were all sorts of maintenance needs.

I was blessed with mostly favorable circumstances. I never had to take on a real threat to my livelihood. But because I wasn’t living deliberately, a minor bump in the road was perceived as a fiery, explosive car-wreck — and reacted to as such. My protective wiring was left alone to run wild, riding the wave of whatever events unfolded in my direction.

If they were positive or exciting on their own volition, then it was simply luck. I wasn’t producing any sort of outcome (although, I would often take credit as if I did).

And if a challenge or issue presented itself (like, c’mon — this is life we’re talking about), forget it — you may as well chalk it up as a loss. My ability to make a difference vanished.

Without intentionality — something I occasionally still forget to bring with me as I leave out the door for work — I might as well stay in bed. 

I wouldn’t have done nearly as much damage there.

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Living life brings all sorts of varying experiences. While it’s important to know the actions that cause “success”  (whatever that means) most of us are doing these things already. We know what it takes to create a life worth living . 

Do this, read that, eat more kale, and so on.

That’s because the difference lies not in the execution of the actions that thrust us forward, but in the recovery from what holds us back. The handling of a problem or slowdown is exponentially more valuable than what creates momentum in the first place.

So what does that look like?

Well, I’ll answer that question with two more.

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Who Am I?

Contrary to popular belief, you get to choose who you’re going to be each day — what you’ll embody, what you’ll stand for, and what others can count on you for. If you fail to make a selection, something will be assigned to you by default and that nasty automatic will display, through you, whatever the favorable or unfavorable circumstances bring — which, to me, seems like quite the roll of the dice.

However you declare yourself is irrelevant. Write it, speak it, share it — it doesn’t matter. So long as something is put in place for your mind to attach to when the temperature gets turned up several degrees. You’re either the machine, or the pinball — the cause or the effect.

The mind goes where we direct it. When we fail to do so by simply letting the past, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and body sensations respond to what’s in the forefront, madness ensues. There is no “you” anymore — there’s only the wildly unremarkable human condition. The innate, defensive behavior. The “look out for #1” mentality.

When I’m knee-deep in this mode, not only am I a detractor to the situation, I diminish the trust and faith of those around me.

Save yourself the wasted energy, deeper holes, sense of loss, and damaged relationships, and decide who you’re going to be each day — with alacrity, intentionality, and a sense of commitment.

Everyone will thank you — including yourself.

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What Do I Want?

This second question is not distinct from the first, but meant to be asked in succession. Based on who you declare yourself to be, will give you the answer to what you ultimately want in any given encounter.

If I decide that I am love, leadership and contribution today, I will handle the situation a particular way, based on what I would want.

What would the embodiment of love, leadership and contribution ultimately want in a given situation? Or perhaps communication, respect, and honor?

It opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities — ones far more empowering than a simple, ordinary reaction.

However, asking “What do I want?” makes no difference without distinguishing who “I” is first. Anger, finger-pointing, and withholding are all common responses to the question being asked without a context of “I” being present. You must first establish what “I” stands for.

The beautiful thing is, the more you distinguish who “I” is, the less what you want becomes about you—and the bigger difference you ultimately make.

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Bringing It All Together

Like anything in life, these questions aren’t a total failsafe. Sometimes you’ll still get beat by that pesky, automatic human response and end up being the ire of your best self. 

However, will consistent implementation and practice, the recovery time improves. The turnaround isn’t as wide. And the pushback delivers with far more might.

My morning drive to work is currently when I decide who I’m going to be that day — and subsequently what I want out of every situation I find myself in. And while I’m not guaranteed a victory by doing this, if I don’t, I’m guaranteeing a loss.

Grace fills the gap between who I say I am and where I want to go. It takes a certain level of faith and belief that the declaration and desire is strong enough to deliver.

There will always be obstacles, which will always be given power unless we allocate our energy and focus elsewhere.

Labels are powerful. You’re nothing until you say so, and what you say becomes your experience.

You can be anything you want, but until you choose, you’ll end up becoming your thoughts, feelings and physical reactions.

Choose wisely. 

But more important than that,

Just choose.

Who are you? 

And what do you — based on who you are — want to create?

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