My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment – Oprah Winfrey
There are two messages right here and one leads to the other. Oprah’s second statement (which says that by doing your best now, you are more likely to achieve better outcomes in the future) shows that you have this ‘power’ to affect your life, to be responsible for what happens in it in the next moment/future. This is by doing the best you can now in this moment.
It seems obvious that we are responsible for our lives and yet there are many victims out there who have given their power away. They are reactive not proactive as Stephen Covey would say. They react to events – this person insulted me, that person fired me, my parents gave me low self esteem, she made me happy, that puppy made me laugh etc etc. This implies that all those others just mentioned created our lives and we are at the mercy therefore of everything that happens and everyone that speaks to us until we can break that bond, become an observer and step outside ourselves for a while. That person may have fired you because you stole. That person made you happy because you accepted what said or happened to like what they did. That puppy made you laugh because of the experiences and beliefs you have accumulated in life that found what the puppy did was unexpected and therefore funny. We might like to examine and guard carefully this pathway to responsibility and rethink the filter on our lives and what we think about and accept as true or likely, with our mindless stream of thought. You are responsible for your life, even if it caused you to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get mugged. This is quite contentious because no one wants to feel they have navigated life so badly that they have been injured. Bad stuff does happen to all of us in different measure, depending on how we judge it. The responsibility is more that we are responsible for how we interpret our life’s events and the choices we make from then one. Why does a piece of ‘bad’ news floor one person and barely touch the feelings of another?
So going back to Oprahs’ second statement which says that doing the best you can prepares you for the best outcome in the future. Seems clear and obvious. An example off the top of my head is that if you clean up that little spill you just made on the kitchen floor, your child is less likely to slip. Not rocket science there. If we go for that run today we will release endorphins and feel good for the rest of the day or at least feel ‘good’ if that is the judgement we place on that action. My mother would say ‘always look your best; you never know who you might meet’. Her belief was that by putting on make up, it put us in the ‘best’ place to attract any possible Prince Charming we may encounter through our day. But this is where you can examine this seemingly obvious statement. There is the inherent belief here that this ‘Prince Charming’ would be more impressed by me with make up than me without it on. Alternatively if I happen to value make up and feel better in it than without it, my attitude might change, I may smile more and that would be more likely to attract Prince Charming. Can you see the assumptions, beliefs and endless variables here? This is where we have the ‘power’ and responsibility. Responsibility for what is in our heads; our attitude to life, our tolerance for things and acceptance and openness to what goes on.
I love to look for patterns and now age 46 I hear the conversations of my teenagers with their friends. These are conversations I have had hundreds of in the past, and not just as a teenager; conversations you take for granted. You may not even realise that these conversations you are having are unnecessary, that really you are not that bothered but you are enjoying the challenge of the analysing and the drama of it all. This is when we are trapped in our mindstream. This is when we could step out and go – Yes, Shit happens, move on, now what are we DOING today, other than sitting around talking about what he said? The analysing may not help. No conclusions or magic answers may come of it. Some ideas for harmful action may come of it. We are negotiating our beliefs with these conversations. If he does this and I do this, then he will do that. But it is impossible to predict. I don’t even know how I am going to react in certain situations, let alone how someone else will. It can depend on our mood on that day.
Have you ever seen your mood change in the blink of an eye? I once stood overlooking Sydney harbour, watching the sun sparkle off the water and the ferries go by and I was overcome with joy. Joy that I had made the decision and carried through with emigrating to Australia; joy that I could come and see this sight any time I wanted – a feeling of power over my future. It was just a thought and a lovely feeling. Of course, anything could happen and I could move away and not end up enjoying the sights of Sydney or I could be ill and only see a hospital bed, but in that moment a thought which I instantly took to be the absolute truth sunk in and changed me physically. My heart literally ached in my chest. Sometimes my mood changes when I arrive at a holiday spot or at someone’s for lunch and it looks so beautiful and stimulating that I instantly predict that I am going to have a great time in the next 2 hours for lunch, or two weeks on holiday and experience all that future happiness at once. This assumption caused me to be suddenly filled with happiness. Again I feel it in my chest. Even if the meal is awful and the holiday is rained out, I am glad to have had that reaction, that joy, for however long it lasted. I am alive, I am human, I am a sensing being.
Unfortunately this can also go the other way if we are not the gatekeepers of our thoughts. I might suddenly jump to a conclusion that my life is rubbish, I talk too much, I will always irritate people and will never be truly happy. And that is how we get depression. We listened to that nonsense and take it to be true. Stop listening, say out loud ‘that’s rubbish!’ Don’t pollute your head with that. Everything passes and life is cyclical.
Anyway I digress. Back to doing the best in this moment in order to put us in the best place for the next moment. It is a lot of pressure thinking that if I am too lazy to get out of bed at this minute my next minute will not be so good. My next minute could involve more sleep, relaxation and warmth. Nice. Or my next minute could involve running out in the cold keeping myself going with the thought that I am doing my body good and might even lose weight. It’s all about how you judge the ‘best’ place in the next moment, or the ‘best’ action in this moment. I absolutely agree that by striving to do our ‘best’ we will like what comes out of it. We have judged this or that action to be better (clear up spill or don’t) and we have judged the next moment to be best (child falls versus child doesn’t fall) but it is just as well to be aware of these judgements themselves. What is best? Examine your beliefs. Was it best for me to put on make up? It could have been carcinogenic and now I have applied it every day just in case.
This thinking makes perfect sense if you are trapped in your mindstream judging every event compared to the next one. But sometimes it is good to let go and step out of that and enjoy what you are doing at this moment, not always setting yourself up for the next moment. It’s not a race. Who is judging the outcomes anyway? We only have this moment, ever! If I enjoy my run at the time for the view, the greetings and smiles from other walkers, and the fresh air instead of just thinking I have put something away for the future (weight loss perhaps) then life becomes a whole lot more enjoyable. Having said that, I am allowing myself to believe that it is doing my best to write each morning to put myself in the best place for becoming a writer someday in the future. I am only human! Take the beliefs that suit you and which make you happy, and stick with them as long as they serve you.