Making Choices, Pt. 1

beth oliverI met Beth Oliver when she attended one of my Wimberley retreats. She immediately revealed herself as a delight and inspiration. Recently she published an open letter to her niece and nephews in a new book entitled Leaders & Legends. Graciously, Beth agreed to share her wisdom about life choices with us here. I hope you’ll consider passing it along to the young people in your life. I know my nephews will be receiving the link.

Dear Benjamin, Abby, and Sammy,

What grand, exciting lives you have ahead of you. I adored your grandfather, my big brother, who died of a brain tumor before you were born. I wish he were still alive to guide you and share his knowledge with you. Since he’s not, I thought I would share with you a some of the wisdom I have gleaned.

Your lives will be full of choices. Hard choices and easy choices. Most people focus on what to do in a particular situation. What is more important is who you are being when you make the choice. Make each decision based on being the person you want to become. That is often more important than the actual choice itself.

1.Relish the moments. Today is all we have. Don’t mentally put your life on hold, thinking: when I grow up, when I get out of college, when I get a job, when I make a lot of money–then I will be happy. Decide to be happy right now, right where you are. Focus on having experiences–not things.

2.Be intellectually curious. Keep learning. Read books. Visit museums. Watch foreign films. Ask questions. Take classes. We live in a marvelous world with fascinating cultures and peoples and ideas. Put aside judgment and be open to possibilities.

3.Concentrate on the things you love.
Too often we spend our time worrying over the oughts and shoulds. I should get more exercise. I ought to go on a diet. Give yourself permission to do what you love.

4.Listen to your intuition. Trust your inner voice. If your gut is telling you something is not right, then believe it. Act on it. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.

5.Be enthusiastic. Be joyful. Be grateful. Throw yourself body and soul into every endeavor. No matter how simple or how difficult the task, do it with gusto. My first job was being a clerk in your great-grandfather’s store. I wanted to be the very best clerk he had ever had.

6.Dream big dreams. Be bold. Take risks. Set audacious goals. Give yourself permission to try things and fail. Try out for the school play. Run for office. Give a speech.

7.Forgive yourself each day. Actress Kitty Carlisle said once that each night she looked in the mirror and forgave herself for all the mistakes she had made that day. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, because you never will be. Also, forgive your parents, your teachers, your boss…. They aren’t perfect either. Just forgive them and let it go.

8.Look for the lesson when bad things happen. When you are betrayed or wronged, when you are fired, when your heart is broken, search for the gift in the bleakness. Somewhere in the despair is an opportunity for creativity, for growth, for learning, and for a new beginning.

9.Don’t give away your power. If what someone says about you can ruin your day, then you are giving her/him your power. If a situation can make you miserable, then you are giving it your power. Stay centered and calm in adversity. Only you can control your actions, reactions, and your serenity.

10.Make freedom a core value. Recognize that you always have choices. If something isn’t working in your life, choose again. Choose a new major. Choose another career. Choose a different life. Choose to be debt-free. Choose to double your income. Choose financial freedom. The choice is yours. It is your gift to yourself.

There are many other lessons, but you will learn them as you go. In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell wrote: “the adventure that the hero is ready for is the one he [sic] gets.” You are the hero in your own life, so get ready.

With all my love,
Aunt Beth

(Next time: how nice girls can make better choices.)

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