One of my clients/patients recently came up with the question WHO DO I WANT TO BE? to help her make the right decision when tempted by an addiction. It also helped her to shape herself into who she wanted to be in many aspects of her life. When tempted, she would reflect on THE QUESTION, which would help her make the right decision.
Concurrent with that question are these ones: DOES/WOULD THIS MAKE ME FEEL BETTER OR WORSE ABOUT MYSELF? And IS THIS CONSISTENT WITH THE CHARACTER TRAITS THAT I VALUE? I have found that people can often have all kinds of rationalizations and arguments about things, but if they ask themselves these two simple questions, simple yet profoundly important, they often are helped to get quickly to their truth.
And how we feel about ourselves is much more important than so many other things, and has a huge impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
When we stop ourselves from acting on an urge or impulse that is coming from a less ideal part of ourselves that we are not completely comfortable with, for example to lie, say something hurtful out of anger, or eat when we’re upset and not hungry, and act instead based on WHO DO I WANT TO BE?, we feel better about ourselves, and can feel proud instead of guilty, or upset at the conflict that we have been a part of. This is often possible because of the grounding effect of pausing to ask the question and wonder about the answer, having a grounding effect, and thus giving perspective.
Consider for example a husband who was embroiled in a vicious cycle of blame, anger, criticism, and defensiveness with his wife for many years. The big turning point for him was realizing that he did not like who he had become in the relationship. This insight was a huge motivation for him to become who he wanted to be. This allowed the marriage to turn around, despite he being the only one who continued in therapy, and despite the situation initially appearing somewhat hopeless to both in the couple, and frankly not too optimistic to me, either.
When you think about it, life is pretty short in the big scheme of things. The choices you make and how those choices affect you and those around you are up to you and nobody else. As Ghandi said, “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” Considering how important your well-being is, as well as that of your fellow humans, why not aim to make the best choices for your well-being?
Think of the world as your oyster, discover your passions, which are sometimes shaped by what pains you the most, and continue growing into who you want to be as you journey through life.
When you are fullly grounded, you are in a state which is much more trustworthy. Knowing who you want to be from this state, how wonderful to not let things like limiting beliefs, others’ judgements, fear, or hopelessness get in your way!
The Buddhists have an idea of imagining a bird on your shoulder reminding you that this could be the last day of your life. Likewise, a friendly bird asking you who you want to be on an ongoing basis could be a very useful thing for us all. Imagine all that could be possible with the help of your little friend posing the question with every little or big decision. It’s up to you who you become.