The Beauty of Choice

“Because you never know where life is gonna take you and you can’t change where you’ve been,

But today, I have the opportunity to choose”-India Arie, ‘I Choose’

Monday to Friday I rise at 5:15am to begin my day. As I shower, brush my teeth, and give my face a light touch of makeup, I listen to a mostly upbeat playlist on Apple Music, curated by yours truly to get my mind ready for whatever the day might bring. I don’t listen to every song on the playlist daily, but India Arie’s ‘I Choose’ is a mandatory tune for my mornings:

There are a number of reasons why this song touches me. I dig Arie’s husky, soulful voice. I dig the touch of funk imbued throughout the track. But most of all, I dig the simple truth espoused in the lyrics: the beauty and power of realizing you have autonomy over your life.

It can be quite tempting to point the finger at others, to focus on the wrongs that have been to you, and the myriad of things that may have gone wrong in your life. But even in negative situations, you can choose how you respond to what you’re facing. This is something I have struggled with in the past. I’d spend so much time ruminating on what others-my family, society, past partners, etc-that I viewed myself purely as a victim. I only pictured myself as being acted upon by others, disempowering myself and guaranteeing my stagnation in the process.

However, through increased self-awareness, I gradually moved away from such self-defeating thinking. It became clearer to me when I finally read “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, the classic self-help book penned by the late Stephen Covey. Covey’s explanation of the Circle of Concern versus the Circle of Influence was a revelation for me! I immediately recognized that I devoted most of my mental energy to issues that belonged in the Circle of Concern while neglecting my Circle of Influence. Once I faced this tendency in myself, I made a constant effort to re-train my mind to fixate on what I actually have control over instead.

In constantly affirming the control I have in major and minor decisions, I’ve become a better, more level-headed person. Even when things don’t go as planned, or I’m angered at someone else’s actions, I am strengthened by the knowledge that I still have the ability to choose my response. In remaining mentally centered and asserting my autonomy at all times, I’ve increased both my emotional intelligence and my joy in life and gained a peace that I previously thought impossible.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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