I just got off the phone with a client who, like many of us, is incredibly busy. She is starting a financial company, and her to-do list is endless. She left a successful career with a large company so that she could be her own boss. And she is. But she forgets that.

We all forget.

Each day we are making all kinds of choices about how we use our time and energy. Some things we do are intrinsically enjoyable, and some things we do are not enjoyable, but they are important. Some things we do are both enjoyable and important, while other things we do are neither enjoyable or important. I recommend eliminating as much of the last category from your life as possible.

When we choose something — like a job or a life partner — we choose a lot of things that go with it. Some of these things we like and some we do not. Just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean we didn’t choose it.

The thing we forget is that we are free to choose something else — like quitting, changing jobs, or changing partners. You may have very good reasons not to — paying the bills, an uncertain job market, health insurance, children, etc…  Just because you don’t like the consequences of another choice doesn’t mean you don’t have one.

I am not suggesting that all circumstances are created equal. Oppression, injustice, violence, and poverty are all real things. I understand that it is a luxury to be stressed about whether your  job is fulfilling rather than being stressed about not having a job at all.

What I am suggesting is that each of us is capable of resenting stuff in our lives that we chose and then convincing ourselves that we have no other choice. We can be aware of this human capability and notice it when it shows up.

So, my client is practicing the following. She uses a reminder app to stop every 30 minutes or so, feel her feet on the ground, smile gently, do four rounds of box breathing*, and remind herself that she chose this life. This process takes a minute.

Of course there are other things she can do to be more strategic about time management, sleep, and exercise. But even if you are organized and self-disciplined, you can get caught in cycles of resentment and resistance about the life you have chosen. This is because you are human. It can be very helpful to remind yourself that you are ultimately the one who chooses how you are using your time and energy.

 

*Basic box breathing instructions:

This practice is called box breathing because it takes the shape of four steps that each take a count of four. Begin with an in-breath for a slow count of four. As you breathe in, allow your belly to relax and fall away from your body as it fills. Wait gently for a slow count of four. The point of this is not to add tension, but to pause in a relaxed state. Breathe out for a slow count of four and bring your belly button back toward your spine. Wait gently for a slow count of four. Begin another round by releasing your belly and breathing in for a count of four.

Many of us are used to lifting our chest when we breathe in and it may feel a bit awkward to breathe into a relaxed belly. With practice, this will come more and more naturally.