How to Not Live by Default
A pretty big awakening occurred last weekend. We witnessed a movement unlike any ever seen in the modern world, and the energy was palpable. It was unavoidable at least, and life-changing/awe inspiring/downright earth shaking at most. I could say, honestly, that I am not the same coming out of the other side of this weekend.
To decompress from the day's events, I spent a quiet evening with a dear friend, where we unpacked the meaning behind it all. We tried to put into words the magnitude of it, and all I could really say to her that made sense was, "I feel like I don't have to live by default anymore." I tried to explain this realization in a way that didn't make me sound like I was living in a bunker in Durnsville, Indiana a lá Kimmy Schmitt.
We discussed the idea of "choice". "Of course I always had a choice...". But did I really exercise it? Of course, I've always had the choice to wake up to go to work or sleep in. Of course, I've always had the choice to eat white bread or whole wheat bread or no bread. Of course, I've always had a choice to date this person or that person. BUT, how many choices have I (we) made by default? "I'll eat this burger because it's right here." "I'll date this person because he's available." "I'll pay for this brand of whatever because it's easy to get." How many times have we made "choices" by default because it was easier or more convenient? I can honestly say that I've lived by default for a majority of my life. But after this weekend, with these movements, and this change, I know I don't (we don't) have to anymore.
But how? Oh that's the tricky part, friends, because it's this takes practice. And time. Living by default takes no practice and no time, which is often times why we do it. And there are so many ways to apply this "choice" living to your daily life, from what toothpaste to use to exercise routines.
These are a few steps I've taken to unpack this idea of "choice" and how we can practice it more often. (Feel free to share your own examples or tips in the comments below!)
Make a choice
Okay, yes, hello, I just said this. You make thousands of choices a day. You're a pro at making choices! (See: get up for work or stay in bed example above). But are we really conscious of the choices we make? How many of these choices do we know we're making? I encourage you to be fully aware of every choice you make. See these choices unfold in your life, and acknowledge when they're made. Start small, as small as you want. Decide to put your left foot on the floor before your right foot when you get out of bed in the morning. Decide to snooze your alarm clock twice and only twice. Decide to take a different route to work. Revel in the decision. Feel the power of being conscious in your choice. You'll begin to realize the power you give to others to make decisions for you by default. You'll also begin to understand the power you have to take back.
I feel like this step of planning ahead can be applied to nearly anything in your life. Meal prep for the week. Look at the weather before you dress in the morning. Save enough money for a trip. Planning ahead is essential to getting most things done. And while planning ahead often feels like a buzz kill for the spontaneous soul, it can also set you up for a more powerful existence. Planning ahead can and does give you the authority to live life on your terms. If you have a goal to set, as short term or long term as you can imagine, making a plan to accomplish that goal will prohibit many of the superfluous junk that could get in the way. Planning ahead can be the difference between eating a freaking delicious spaghetti squash and meatball dinner, or some fast food you don't plan on eating but mindlessly pick up because it's convenient.
Invest in Yourself
When your gym membership costs $250, and your grocery bill is $60 a week for one, you know you're making an investment in something big. When you're taking an evening class after work, and you would rather go home and watch tv, you're making the move to not live by default. When you're actively fighting against your base instincts to mindlessly shut off, you're choosing a life curated. Take the time to figure out exactly what it takes to make you excited. Discover what lights you up. And keep doing that. Invest in that.
As the old saying goes, we don't know what we don't know. But the more we learn about nutrition and health and politics and literature and accounting and science and religion, the more we can make a conscious and informed decision to live actively in the life we choose. To take it even further, if we're lucky enough to have access to information, it's our duty to send this knowledge out to the world. Invest in yourself so you can invest in others. And if that's not living my default, I don't know what is.
"That's just the way it is." I've said it. You've probably said it. We think it and say it and hear it enough times until it starts becoming believable. "I won't ever get a pull-up because I don't have a lean enough body." "I won't ever run a business because I don't have an MBA." "I am just too overweight to run." "That's just the way it is." Stop. What if you replaced this phrase with, "that's not good enough"? What if you actively questioned every established norm? "That's just the way it is" would not be a default response, but instead be a tool to open communication about what we take for granted.
How many times a day do we live by default? And how many opportunities do we have to change that?