By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on January 31st 2017 on huffingtonpost.com
“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” - Joseph Campbell
If you’re like me, you have a Facebook feed full of posts by friends who have imagined, visualized and set intentions for the New Year. And if you’re like me, you were similarly inspired to ask yourself, “What do I really, really want to express and experience in 2017? Does my life have a deeper calling that I have denied? Am I allowing myself to move toward my desires, or am I making excuses to stay where I am?”.
Though I ask myself a similar set of questions each year, no matter the answer, I’m always left with the same realization: I can have my dreams, or I can have my excuses. But I cannot have both.
We Create Our Lives
What does it mean to say, “You can have your dreams or your excuses, but you can’t have both”?
In short, it means that we always have a choice.
Our biggest gift and greatest responsibility is that we are creator beings. The ability to choose what we are creating is what differentiates us from any other species on this planet. This ability to create also makes us both our own best ally or worst saboteur, depending on whether we choose the path of the conscious mind or the path of the ego.
We often get so caught up in the to-do lists of daily life that we spend our hours putting out fires rather than focusing on the long game of nurturing and developing our goals and dreams.
I ask my clients, “What puts a smile on your face, what makes your heart sing and captivates your imagination?” Often it takes some time for them to really get in touch with what it is. Once they do, I ask the follow up question, “Why aren’t you doing more of that?”
In fact, I realize setting aside time to do the activities that light us up could be a very frightening act. This is because the things we are excited by are actually in alignment with our deepest desires and highest purpose, and going after that is terrifying to the ego, whose primary concern is to maintain comfort, safety and security – even at the expense of our dreams.
To calm and soothe our ego, we often sabotage ourselves with the endless to-do lists that keep us both chasing our tails and snug within our comfort zones. We find all the “right” excuses to not do what unblocks our energy and sets us free from the drudgery of everyday thought patterns.
We do things like tell ourselves that getting support from an expert is “too expensive” or that we don’t have the energy after a day of work to go for that surf session, bike ride or dance class. We let our paints sit in a closet, untouched for years. We think about our great book idea but hit the snooze button rather than get up early to write.
We can have compassion for ourselves once we understand what’s actually happening behind the scenes. To do this, we must understand what the ego and function of the subconscious mind really are and where they have led us astray.
The ego was created by the subconscious mind. This is the part of our mental body whose original job was to simply record data. In the collective human journey of duality in which we began to think that we are separate from the planet, each other and Source itself, we felt so cut off from our essence that the ego panicked and believed it had to take charge in order to survive. So, while its intended and perfect purpose was simply to log information, it instead began to use that information as evidence of reality. From that evidence it began constructing beliefs that shaped other realities – often frightening realities, and sometimes delightful ones, too. Thus began a cycle of experiencing life via perception rather than conception. In other words, we became conditioned to think that reality is what we perceive and then react to, rather than what we believe and then conceive. We began to think that we are at the whim of a capricious and sometimes brutal world rather than powerful co-creators with a magnificent and abundant Universe. Yet the truth is…
We Always Have a Choice
This is because we still have a conscious mind. The conscious mind is the part of our mental body that is able to accept, reject and discern. Using the conscious mind we get in touch with our essence, our soul, activating the part of us that knows how to create and expand, to get much, much bigger than the fears of the ego. The conscious mind is the part of us that is in contact with our divine blueprint and soul’s gift to life. And the best part is, to access our conscious mind, all that is required is to accept personal responsibility for the circumstances of our lives and to choose to move forward.
Every moment of every day we have the opportunity to take 100% responsibility for our circumstances. It’s easy to be at the affect of life, letting the ebb and flow of tasks and other people’s wants and needs dictate where we go, what we do and how we think. It’s as easy as breathing to sit back, become passive and allow ourselves to be victims to our circumstance.
Ultimately, we must own the fact that we are completely responsible for everything we experience. Everything. Even when the circumstances seem totally out of our control, we have the ability to choose how we respond and that will dictate what happens next.
It is important at this point to remember that passivity is a choice not to choose.
Passivity, looks like procrastination, avoidance, and constantly silencing the little voice inside that yearns for something greater. Passivity looks like allowing your life to be chiefly steered by the wants, needs and desires of others.
It can also take the shape of becoming overwhelmingly tired when it’s time to work on a creative project, or continually pushing the most important action steps to the bottom of your list. Or perhaps passivity takes the shape of action steps that haven’t even been defined yet because your desires have not had the opportunity to be truly heard and acknowledged.
Exchanging Excuses for Dreams
There’s a question I find interesting by Robert Holden, which I will paraphrase: If life really loves me, what’s available to experience in this very moment?
To me, this question is a nudge to examine whether I am willing to consciously continue to co-create with a benevolent Universe, or if I am going to let myself bail on my dreams.
Setting aside time for meditative reflection can help clarify our choices, especially when unsupportive beliefs are ingrained in our consciousness.
Quiet time and real honesty is sometimes required before we can choose our dreams. Often, we unconsciously sabotage ourselves because we simply don’t realize there’s another option.
For decades we are conditioned by our parents, our teachers, our community, our society, and our friends to think and act a certain way. Typically, that conditioning has helped us to survive. Sometimes, when it comes to achieving our greatest aspirations, that conditioning works against us.
It doesn’t matter whether the beliefs instilled in you are true or not. The ego does not distinguish between what is reality and what is story – it just reacts to the appearances that are a result of your beliefs. For example, if you believe that it’s hard to be successful, then chances are, your experience has been that it’s hard to be successful.
The first move toward choosing your dreams over your excuses is awareness. What thoughts are you thinking around your dreams and desires? In a moment of quiet, ask yourself these questions:
What is it that I deeply desire to create?
Do I believe that I can have this thing or situation?
What feelings and thoughts arise when I visualize myself already living the experience that I want?
What excuses did I use today in order to not take action on my dream?
Am I willing to choose my dreams over my excuses?
You are a beautiful part of the Universe with much to offer. Your dreams are not just yours, they are the expression of a much greater power desiring to move through you and fulfill itself.
I challenge you to spend some time reflecting on your dreams, and honing your awareness on the areas where you may be choosing excuses. What happens if you’re willing to choose the dream instead?
Imagine where that could take you.