by Megan McDonough
In every moment, as Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar says, we have a choice. Whether it’s deciding to take a course or deciding what to eat, the act of choosing is powerful. When that choice is made with conscious and deliberate attention, it’s more than just powerful in the moment, it’s empowering for all the moments that follow. When we focus our full awareness on a choice that’s important to us, again and again, we create what neuroplasticity expert Jeffrey Schwartz calls “attention density”—a thought pattern that has a greater impact on the brain due to the concentrated quantity and quality of neural connections.
But what if we don’t see any choice at all? What if we feel shackled by circumstances beyond our control?
One way to see more choices (even if that choice is only a shift in attitude) is to broaden our perspective. Mindfulness and meditation allow us to do just that by creating mental space. Taking a walk in nature or sitting under the star-filled night sky opens perspective, giving us a sense of our physical place in an immense space. Reading literature or looking at art, being with a dear friend, or just having a good belly laugh each expands our perspective, opening up choices that were invisible before.
This bigger picture is the SPIRE model we use at Wholebeing Institute, which not only describes the areas in our life that increase our well-being, but also takes a multi-dimensional approach. Paying attention to each dimension allows us to see more of the whole, which in turns illuminates more choices within the whole. SPIRE is both a description of well-being and a prescription that shifts perspective.
What lens are you looking through today? Is it giving you a broad view in which you can see more choices? Because we can only make a choice when we see more than one option. Practice perspective.
Megan McDonough is CEO of Wholebeing Institute, an educational organization co-founded with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. WBI is committed to spreading ideas and practices that can help individuals and groups live life to its fullest.
Click here for a course listing.