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Take Charge of Your Life

Let’s face it. Being human is often no easy task. Myriad challenges can greet us on a daily, even an hourly, basis. We face struggles both intrapersonal and interpersonal. There are work difficulties and home difficulties. Illnesses physical and mental rise up to block us in our quest for a life worth living. All of this is enough to make anyone want to hole up in a dark, quiet room and rarely leave.
To be sure, the challenges of life can be daunting. They can seem so all-encompassing that it feels as though the challenges are what our lives are all about. Happily, this is not at all the case.  When you think about it, any challenge, no matter the size and scope, is external to us, not at all who we are as human beings.
I’ll be the first to admit that the idea that challenges are external to us can be a bit hard to buy into. Certainly, when we’re struggling, it really does feel that the struggle is part of us, that it’s taken root deep inside of us and is growing, snaking around our core being and reaching out into our lives. Or perhaps a struggle feels the opposite, that it has taken root in our very lives, in the people and circumstances around us and then has invaded our inner being. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what the root of the challenge is. It doesn’t matter because it is separate from us.
I’ve lived through challenges and struggles. I’ve had relationship/marital challenges, physical challenges in the form of a traumatic brain injury and its consequences, and I live with bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety issues, both significant mental health challenges. And of course there are the little irritations of daily experiences that drift in and out of my life.
What will be different when you open your windowSailing through life without hitting choppy water is pretty much impossible. Part of the human experience involves storms, roiling waves, and seasickness. That’s a given. What is not a given is our reaction to it.
A wonderful thing about being human is that we always have choices. Further, we can empower ourselves to make those choices. We can choose our actions (do we decide to stay in bed, or do we decide to get up and do something, even if it’s small at first?) and our reactions (do we allow someone else to have the power to make us react negatively to him/her and then to dwell on a problem for a long time?) We can decide where to place our focus (do we think a lot about what is wrong and what we don’t want, or do we think more about what is right and about what we do want?).  What we focus on, what we think about, becomes our reality.
Another wonderful thing about being human is that we have the power of imagination. What we can imagine, we can create. A very effective first step in creating your life worth living is to clearly visualize what that life is to you. What fulfills you? What brings you joy? Where do you get a sense of meaning and purpose? Think hard about the who, what, where, and when of your ideal life. As you do this, remain focused on the positive. When we think of terms of “I don’t want x,” we are focusing our attention on that “x.” Therefore, that’s what materializes.
Define and embrace what you do want your life to be like. When that happens, you can begin to take steps, both little and big, to create your life. You’ll still be in stormy seas here and there, and you’ll have challenges, but theses won’t engulf and drown you because you’ll remain focused on your life vision.
In Leave of Absence, characters Oliver and Penelope are in a behavioral health hospital facing seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Penelope is wrestling with schizophrenia and the impact it’s had on her life, and Oliver is dealing with (or, more accurately, not dealing with) the traumatic loss of his wife and son. In this particular scene, they’re in a counseling group, a music group. The leader, before playing Natasha Beddingfield’s Unwritten, instructs,
“As you listen, I would ask you to reflect on what will happen when, like it says in the song, you open your window even just a small crack. What will be different?”
And as you create your life worth living, that’s a great question to ask: When I have my ideal life, what will be different? As you answer that question and keep it in your mind to help it take shape, you will be taking charge of your life.

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