3 Paths to Get What We Want — Which One Do You Choose?

A few months ago, I challenged myself to eliminate caffeine from my diet for 2 weeks. The 2 weeks turned into almost 2 months. Initially, I started exploring alternatives like herbal teas and even decaf espresso at times. Then, I started to notice how in my search to expand my possibilities and remove my need for something I actually started to institute a new limitation. All of sudden, I couldn’t drink caffeine. I was afraid to drink it as it might reignite my addiction. This became its own limitation. Just another extreme. When I noticed this, I consciously ordered a cup of coffee. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to, I appreciated the fact that I permitted myself to know what I do and do not want at any given time.

When we are about to do something or not do something it is because we are going for something we want in life — to relax, fit into our jeans or just feel better.

This may come in the form of making resolutions and choosing to restrict certain things from our lives. Or perhaps by indulging in anything and everything that we want.

Either way, these both limit us from making mindful, purposeful choices in each moment.

There is a third — and much more empowering — way to get what we want in life.

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The Buddha once said that “a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification … was the path of wisdom."

When we are about to do something to get closer to what we want, there are three ways we typically come to this conclusion.

"I can’t so I guess I won’t"

When I eliminated caffeine from my diet, I initially did so from a conscious place — choosing not to drink it mainly for health reasons. Then, it became an “I can’t so I guess I won’t” decision which was very limiting and no longer based on the few specific reasons I had originally identified.

When we make decisions based out of self-denial, we lose an opportunity to get to know ourselves and get really clear on why we choose not to do something. We also end up making decisions out of fear, judgement, resistance or attachment.

"I can so of course I will"

Before I gave up caffeine for those few weeks, I had gotten into a habit of having one or two cups of coffee each morning not because I actually wanted it but because I could … and I always had. It had become just as limiting because I was no longer checking in and making a conscious decision to have it.

When we permit ourselves to indulge in whatever we want just because we can, we miss an opportunity to really check in and see if that is what we want in this moment. We become a slave to ourselves and lose a chance to actively guide our life in the direction we want it to go.

"I can and I choose …"

… to do it or not. In either case, I empower myself to choose what serves me best in that moment. We can still choose not to do something in which case it is done from a place of knowledge and acceptance of oneself and not out of fear, laziness or greed.

When we realize we can do something and choose not to, we demonstrate our strength and power in the world. When we realize we can do something and choose to do it, we honor ourselves and have a chance to practice acceptance and letting go.

Living at the extremes of life can ultimately be quite limiting. The joy comes when we live somewhere in the balance of it all.

Striving to live a life in moderation is more than saying “yes” to some things and “no” to others — it is about getting quiet and making mindful decisions in each moment that reflect and uphold our values and principles in the world.

That is how we can ultimately get what we want out of life.

Think of one thing you consistently deny yourself of or indulge in. Is that based in a value or principle and, if so, what is it? If not, think about what it would feel like to empower yourself to no longer live by this limitation and instead consciously choose in each moment what you want to do.