The best and most powerful use of human free will is the choice about how to respond to adversity and conflict.
Every moment, every interaction, every conflict and injury, presents you with a choice.
You might think that you are the product of your experience, and this is also true, but it’s true to the degree and in the way that you want it in this present moment.
You can change your past. We all do it all of the time but we don’t realize it.
This isn’t time travel and it isn’t fantasy: it’s real, because your past isn’t real. Your past is how you perceive it.
Imagine sitting somewhere, waiting for a guest, and coming to characterize the wait as indifference on the other person’s part, and feeling angry in response to the perceived slight.
Then you get a call and hear that your guest is late because of a personal crisis.
You decide that your guest was not indifferent toward you. Your anger disappears.
How does that happen?
A minute ago, you were alone and your guest was 15 minutes late. Now you’re still alone and your guest is 16 minutes late but you’re not a minute angrier.
In fact, the conflict is over and your anger is gone, even though the facts have not changed. Your perception of the facts has changed and that, in turn, has changed your past. You decide that you weren’t slighted 15 minutes ago.
It doesn’t have to work like this. Some of us would decide to remain angry because the call came at 15 minutes instead of 10 or 5 or 1. Some of us would insist on holding a grudge.
We all do this, all of the time. We decide what matters and what lessons to learn. We chose and choose our reactions to adversity and conflicts.
Maybe this sounds crazy? Maybe you’re sure that you will make your decisions on the facts?
Really, what is a decision if it’s not a willful reaction to a set of facts?
In any human situation, there are hundreds of facts, from the possible to the probable to the likable to the despicable, and many of those facts contradict each other.
When you order at a restaurant, do you go back and interview the chef, inspect the kitchen, test the silverware, tour the farms? That’s gathering facts but it probably sounds crazy.
Is that what you do, or do you order something that seems as though you’d like it?
In the present moment, in the moment of your next conflict or challenge, what do you consciously want to do? How do you want to react to this?
That is your choice and it is powerful.