Most recent stories I shared with you were my little travel reports. I didn’t go anywhere lately – although I am planning new adventures for the upcoming months. Instead I have been thinking, reflecting, just here in my lovely hometown Amsterdam. What about? Everything. And nothing. I decided to share with you some thoughts which have been inspirational for me this year and might be inspirational as well for you. Maybe they’re not. But here’s a thought on how to stay happy and free.
1. Be able to make decisions
My “reflection period” started when in August I found a quote from Paulo Coelho: “Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.” I think this is actualy true. It’s not always easy to make a choice. You cannot do it always right away. You never know beforehand which choice is the best – if you knew, it would not be difficult to choose! – but whether good or bad, at least you make a decision.
2. Be proactive
It took me, for example, some months to decide whether or not to become an independent professional. Actually, to do so turned out to be the best choice I have made in years, maybe in my entire life. Not only because I love the freedom it brings, but also – or more importantly – because I am fully responsible for the success of it. I cannot hide behind others (believe me, sometimes I try), I cannot blame the circumstances (which I also try). There is just one rule: I need to act. If things are not going well, I can choose (hey hey) to get stuck on that road or embark on another path. I did got stuck this year and I used the opportunity to return to my original passion, marketing and communications. A good choice it was! All this choosing and acting and making decisions has everything to do with the theory of Stephen Covey I do strongly believe in.
“Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. […] Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment.”
“Our life doesn’t just “happen.” Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. […] Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.”
Yet, I realized a few weeks ago I had ended up again in the reactive mode. During the last months, I let myself rule by my work, by other people, by dreams, assumptions, fears, desires, expectations, and so on. When I realized this, at first I blamed myself for having done so. But since I also adopt the theory that you don’t have to regret what you did, but what you did not, I consequently started to blame myself for the one thing I should have done and did not. Finally, my friends were there to remind me that we are not perfect (being a born perfectionist I really need my friends to tell me this, preferably each week!).
3. Fight for what you want
You cannot reach the things you desire without acting. Even more, you cannot reach them if you are not willing to suffer. Mark Manson wrote a splendid article about this which you can read right here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/the-most-important-question….
I translated this concept of “willing to suffer” into the concept of “willing to fight”. To be honest, I fought a lot recent years and I’m a bit tired of fighting (and suffering). But perhaps, it is just that the words ‘fighting’ and ‘suffering’ have a negative connotation. If you are fighting for things that are within your circle of influence and not within the circle of concern – to speak with Coveys terminology – fighting is good.
I can honestly look myself into the eyes and say that this year, generally I have fought for the things that are indeed to be influenced. When I started to fight for things beyond my influence, my mood went down and I turned into the reactive pattern.
4. Be able to be
Last weekend, after running my weekly weekend run, I rested a bit staring at the water at the beginning of the Bosbaan, a rowing canal in Amsterdam (see picture). I stood there, overlooking the scene, high above the water, and an extreme peace came over me. It was all good. I suddenly understood how many things are interconnected, like the thoughts I have been writing about here.
We can do it right or we can do it wrong. It doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that when you’re able to make choices, to be proactive, to fight, then also you’re able to be.
And I am. Are you?
“How high does the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you’ll never know.”