Why You’re the Only One Who Can Honor Your Life Choices

by Alli Polin on December 6, 2016

life-choices

This afternoon my son had his Science Fair, and before school, I asked him how many parents were going to make it – it was scheduled for mid-day. He said less than half the kids reported that their parent would attend – they had to work.

We talked about the life I’ve created to be able to be at the fair. Saying YES with my eyes fully open and saying NO to things that take me off course. (With a fair share of yes and no in the wrong direction and later course correction.)

There was a time I traveled weekly, was taking calls and texting about work 24/7, and prioritized work over many other things a lot of the time. I had to do it. I had no choice. Or, then again, maybe I did have a choice but didn’t take responsibility for my life choices. Instead, I made up stories that defended and protected me from my constant go-go-go largely professional focus instead.

Are You Honoring Your Life Choices?

Four years ago, when we moved to Australia and moved to a small town in the Outback, life changed as did my business. Interestingly, my way of thinking about work vs. life did not make the leap with my body. I was still pushing for “success,” yet not really making choices that honored the life I said I wanted.

For the past few days, messages have been pouring in on LinkedIn congratulating me on my work anniversary; seven years of Break the Frame. What they can’t see in a status update is what’s going on behind the scenes or, more accurately, behind the screen.

One year ago, I had a medical diagnosis that forced me to make a decision about major, life changing surgery. It turned out that the decision became easier once it was a choice. I did more than make up my mind (made the decision)… The moment of choice I stepped into my power.

Still, it’s not easy.

It’s not easy to make life choices that you tell yourself other people would judge if they only knew about them. Choices that slowed down my success trajectory in exchange for simply living my life. For the first time in my adult life, I chose to work less, prioritized self-care and time with family outpaced my desire for a robust bank account and professional success… but I rarely talked about it publicly or wrote about it here. I was slowly but surely reframing my definition of success into one that consciously prioritized satisfaction.

Now, a year later, my brain is still catching up with my body, but things have changed.

I chose to be at the Science Fair.
For the past week, I chose to have live flowers in the house.
For the past few months, I chose to up my commitment to the gym.
For the past year, I chose not to travel for speaking, consulting or conferences.
For the past four years, I chose to take my kids to school most mornings and pick them up in the afternoons.

Over the years I’ve worked with many clients who echoed words I have said far too often. They complained about their crappy projects or long hours and lamented that they had no choice. I’d ask,”Who’s forcing you? Who’s making your choice for you?” For the past year, I’ve been asking myself those same questions.

Choices, Ripples and Mindfulness

Some of the choices we make are small and others more significant. The things they share in common are ripples and mindfulness.

The ripples are the impact of our life choices that move beyond each one of us and mindfulness is taking responsibility for being present in your experience.

We need to be responsible not only for ourselves but our ripples. There is a movement that says we need to put ourselves first. However, you may wake up one morning only to discover that everyone else is gone. Mindfulness enables us to see our ripples and make choices that reflect beyond our bubble of one.

Are You Choosing or Floating?

You and I, we can go through life like we’re on a raft on a roaring river being bounced about, holding on for dear life and moving forward (so it feels like progress) OR we can pick up the oars, get off the rapids and move with mindfulness, conscious choice, and whole-hearted intention.

Downshifting is a choice. Closing your business is a choice. Doing what you love is a choice. Being with people you love is a choice. Travel is a choice, and adventure is too. Creating a startup is a choice. Working late on a daily basis is a choice along with trillions of others.

One year after my first of several surgeries, the biggest and most important choice I’m making is to choose happiness. It’s time for my mind, body, and spirit to get into alignment. It’s time for a new chapter, and my son’s Science Fair is one of the pages I’m highlighting as I write my story.

I’ll be honest, what’s next is cloudy for me. I suppose that’s not something we’re supposed to admit or publish on a blog about personal leadership. However, I believe, it’s accepting those cloudy moments that creates the space for what’s next; resisting keeps us stuck.

You?

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Bazin December 6, 2016 at 7:30 am

Absolutely love everything you are about Alli. What a beautiful way to start my day today reading your blog. I am really proud of you and this blog is making me really reflect a lot. Thank you….. THANK YOU…

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Alli Polin December 6, 2016 at 7:40 am

Your support and connection mean a TON to me! Thank you, Cindy!

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Tom Rhodes December 6, 2016 at 8:53 am

Alli,
Wow a powerful post. Our story is about the choices we make. Yet so many of us want to tell a version that doesn’t include ownership. Today I am going to talk with someone that I conneced with on Facebook recently that grew I up with. We have not spoken for over 40 years. So obviously I have thought about the upcoming conversation. I realized that the most important thing I could do was own my story. The good, the bad and the ugly because that’s who I am. It may not be what they remember or expect yet if we are going to rebuild a friendship it has to start with owning our story.
I am a big fan of Personal Accountability. I am where I am because of the decisions I made. No one made them for me and the only finger I point is at the man in the mirror. Sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes it’s painful. Yet it is the right thing to do.
Lastly when you tell your story include the part that says you had a great positive impact on the lives of many people. You certainly have had one on mine. Thank you for all you do.

Tom

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Alli Polin December 7, 2016 at 4:30 am

Tom,

It’s so tempting to play the “my life is fabulous” game when reconnecting, isn’t it? Business? Awesome. Kids? Amazing. Life? 100% Perfect. Heck, they probably live far away and will never know any different.

But that’s not real life. Real life is amazing and hard and incredible and challenging and totally completely and fabulously messy.

One of the many things I appreciate about you is that you are always 100% committed to standing with your truth. I am too. Feels good.

Here’s to personal accountability!

With gratitude,

Alli

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Terri Klass December 6, 2016 at 9:22 am

When I read your post today I felt so happy for you and all the choices you have made. When each of us steps into our own story and creates what is most important, we will always be successful.
My choice to become a leadership training consultant meant I would add flexibility into my life but would lose the social work environment that I so loved. I own that decision.
Thank you for all your inspiration to so many of us. You bring joy and thought-provoking ideas to each of us weekly. And never discount your powerful impact on others who are honored to be part of your community.
Here’s to another year of growth and learning! Miss you my friend!!

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Alli Polin December 7, 2016 at 4:33 am

Very much miss you too! You have definitely been a part of my journey to this moment (and will be into the future!)

It’s a hard concept to master – that we each get to write our own story and we are not a character in someone else’s book. It’s also tough to swallow that every “yes” has a flip side “no” but there’s still a choice to be made, like when you became a leadership training consultant.

Here’s to moving forward with a commitment to a life of meaning 🙂

Appreciate you!!

Alli

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Terri December 6, 2016 at 10:01 am

Hi Alli,

Once again, your post is perfectly timed. It’s as if you wrote it just for me. Yet I know that the words you wrote and the words I read created a message relevant to so many.

When I got to the end of this post, these words struck me: “the most important choice I’m making is to choose happiness.” I have learned over the past three years of my journey that happiness is not a destination. Rather is something to prioritize each day.

Before doing that, however, happiness has to be defined. That definition is not consistent. Rather it is unique and specific for each person. And as you illustrate so well here, it requires choices – choices that should involve more participation from the body and heart.

For the mind, as good as it tries to be, tells stories that are not always serving. Tapping into the body and heart help with the right choices to prioritize happiness each day.

P.S. What’s next is cloudy for you, and it is for me too. So … you and I are exactly where we need to be with those clouds around us. And neither of us should feel otherwise!

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Alli Polin December 7, 2016 at 5:10 am

Thanks for this, Terri. Good to know I’m not alone with the clouds… may the sun shine again soon and light the path forward.

Also, well said on knowing what happiness looks like for you (and for me). Without a clear understanding, all of our choices are just a stab in the dark.

Best,

Alli

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LaRae Quy December 6, 2016 at 6:36 pm

I LOVE some of the choices you are making, Alli!

I’ve been around people who complain about their circumstances when, in fact, they are the only ones who have the ability to make changes! Great advice and I will share with others…

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Alli Polin December 7, 2016 at 5:12 am

Truly appreciate your support, LaRae!

Renewing my coaching certification this month for the next three years and looking forward to what’s ahead. So far, I know it includes a beach in my very near future 🙂

Alli

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Brian Smith December 7, 2016 at 10:42 am

Love it – It is all about the choices we make. It took a divorce and a somewhat cold relationship with my son for me to realize I made some wrong choices when starting my training and consulting business. I was so caught up building the business, that I ignored everyone around me. Like you Alli, I was all business 24/7. My relationship with my son and ex-wife have improved because I now manage my time more effectively by choosing to schedule family time. I can now say no – to business opportunities missed – without feeling guilty. Thank you Alli for sharing your story.

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Alli Polin December 8, 2016 at 7:02 am

Hello my favorite reformed control freak! Not easy, is it? I appreciate the reminder that we can say no even to good opportunities without the guilt. Taken me a long time. Glad to be here now 🙂

Thanks, Brian!!

Alli

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Thomas Rhodes December 7, 2016 at 11:24 am

Alli,

I wanted to update you. Yesterday we could of had a great conversation about how wonderful life had been these many years. What did was talk about the many challenges we had both had faced. The struggles of being long distance parents and Grandparents. The appreciation and gratitude we both had for where we are despite it all and how we were working on our future. Real conversation is so unusual today. Yet if we truly value ourselves and own our true life those conversations are very fulfilling.

You are truly appreciated.

Tom

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Alli Polin December 8, 2016 at 7:03 am

Sounds like the years melted away and you both made the choice to honor your life choices and honor each other with your truth. What a beautiful call! Sad that moments of real conversation are far and few between. Here’s to more of that!

xo

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Sam December 7, 2016 at 3:53 pm

I couldn’t agree more Alli. So many times we feel like we don’t have a choice – but the truth is we do. Many people who strive for that “professional success” might argue that they’re making the choices – we know that’s not always the case. Thank you for the words of encouragement.

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Alli Polin December 8, 2016 at 7:07 am

Sam,

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Yes, when you’re working non-stop, that is a choice and one that many people make consciously. When I was in the USA we had a live-in nanny and I traveled all the time for work. When we moved here, I wanted things to be different but fell into old habits. Thanks for encouraging me to keep it up and glad you felt encouragement in your direction too.

All the best ~

Alli

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Jon Mertz December 7, 2016 at 10:30 pm

Alli,

Your strength of character shines through! In our choices, we gain more strength and, ultimately, greater satisfaction in who we are and what we stand for. Your strength shows in choosing to share your story and spark strength in others through it.

Thank you for your strength. Continue to find this strength and call upon others when you need more.

Thanks!

Jon

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Alli Polin December 8, 2016 at 7:09 am

Thanks, Jon. Your kind words mean a lot. Strength truly grows when we make choices. The more we do it, the more we can stand strong in who we are and who we’re making the choice to become.

Grateful for your support and connection too.

Alli

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Chery Gegelman December 10, 2016 at 12:34 am

Alli – The best part of choices you are making is that when life on this earth is coming to a close – you and your family will never regret these choices. Family, health, experiences, simplicity, growth, memories… Wise choices my friend, hard but so wise.

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Alli Polin December 10, 2016 at 1:13 am

Absolutely. Fulfillment is found down many paths. Like most people, I’m still uncovering mine. Well said, Chery. Thank you.

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gary gruber December 11, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Life, and living it fully, are all about choices and we too often defer to external conditions as raison d’ etre for our choices. And, most choices are about change. No one I know has come to the end and said, “Gosh, I wish I had worked more.” If you want a change you have a choice, in fact, probably more choices are available than you may even know consciously. You are a great testimony to making a commitment to change. Congratulations! Well done!

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Ingrid December 19, 2016 at 9:01 pm

“Resisting keeps us stuck” When I read this I realised just how true it is. Sometimes it’s easier to keep doing what you’ve always done than take a risk and make a leap of faith. And then something happens that forces a change, a choice that we might not otherwise make. The key is to accept it and learn from it.

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