There are three major perspectives on how we look at our experience of life: Reported, created and chosen. We see our lives through all three of these at different times, and sometimes, we see our lives through all three of them at the same time.
For a lot of the world, reported life is typical – this is the experience of life happening to us. We tell a story and report the events as though we have no will or choice in the matter: This happened, and that happened, so I had to do this. Created life is the idea that we are at choice in the matter of how our lives go. This perspective requires we step outside of reporting on life, and look instead at how we want it to be. Most people believe and act as though these are our only two options, but I’ve added a third I call chosen life, which acknowledges that sometimes life does happen to us; that we can’t always create everything exactly the way we want it, and we can still choose it anyway.
In many of the circles I run in, reported life gets a bad rap. There tends to be slight shaming of anyone having the perspective that any part of their life is actually out of their control. I think there’s truth to reported life that often goes unacknowledged: some things do happen to us; some things are not our creation; some things we cannot change and some things are out of our control (watch the full video for stories about how I have experienced this in my own life. Created life is very in right now, and there’s a lot that’s great about people realizing they’ve got more power to create their lives than they previously believed.
However, sometimes people use created life as spiritual bypassing, without acknowledging the aspects of reported life I spoke to above – that things do come into our lives that we didn’t create. This view also bypasses things like systemic racism, sexism, poverty, natural disasters, etc, and to deny these systems are at play in our lives, is not only untrue but deeply harmful. People coming from a created life perspective tend to be focused on leaving what is now, to get somewhere better, rather than fully being with what is truly so in this moment. This is where chosen life comes in.
Chosen life is the missing piece that allows us to actually step into creating our lives.
Most people are afraid that choosing and accepting their life as it is right now, means passive acceptance, in a way that doesn’t allow for change or growth. That’s not how I see chosen life. The capacity to create our lives powerfully comes from our willingness to choose each moment, and all the circumstances of our lives, exactly as they are right now. We cannot create something new if we refuse to fully inhabit where we are now. We can look at our lives and fully acknowledge the things that exist in external reality – our bank account, our children’s needs, our current emotional capacity, etc… – which then moves us into the place of chosen life. And that’s what allows us to create something else.
When my ex-husband and I were separating, I looked at our relationship and I could see the ways I created it, the part I played, the choices I could have made differently. But for me, there was a really important step that had to do with choosing it exactly how it was and fully inhabiting every piece of it – including my choices and including pieces that were out of my control. This is very different to passive acceptance. I was able to accept everything that had brought me to the point we were at, and then choose what direction I wanted to take – taking both myself and our son, as well as my then-husband – into account. This allowed me to make choices, rather be in reactivity.
(Watch the attached video to hear the whole story, including how we came to be happy neighbors & great co-parents)
We need to include ourselves in the circle of choosing.
In chosen life, one problem I’ve noticed is people often don’t include themselves in the circle of choosing. This goes beyond the simple rhetoric that is so popular today around ‘putting yourself first’. This is a radical act that both acknowledge that we matter as much as anyone else and is also honest about the fact that we have limitations.
For instance, I have a family member that I’ve had challenges with over the years. For a long time, I judged myself for not being able to be perfect with her, no matter how she behaved. I thought there had to be some practice I could do so I would be less triggered by her; that I had to take 100% responsibility, which meant I needed to be the one to change, because if I was a good or more evolved person, I should be able to be with her no matter how she was. Once I decided to include myself in the circle of choosing, I was able to acknowledge my own limitations, and, from there, set appropriate boundaries. In order to take full responsibility, I needed to take responsibility (without shame) for the truth in the current moment that I was actually not capable of ‘responding with love’ or even staying calm no matter how she spoke to me. In order for us to have a loving relationship, I had to set boundaries around how and when and for how long we could be around each other – as an act of love, stemming from being willing to honestly assess both the internal reality of my current emotional capacity at the time and the external reality of her consistent behaviors.
The true power of living a chosen life is that we’re no longer at the mercy of, or rebelling against, whether life is the way we want it to be or not. This is true freedom.