“Everything we do in life forms a road” says Deng Ming-Dao in Everyday Tao. We determine our personal path by the choices we make. Our paths may cross, we may even walk a ways together, but we are not walking in each other’s footsteps and at some point, we go our separate ways. “You can only progress by building on the distance you have come.”
You can’t go back
You can’t start over. It is useless to have regrets about what did or didn’t happen. What’s done, is done. You cannot take a different fork in the road, your past cannot be changed. What you have is the present and the lessons you learned by the choices you made. That is where you begin. “Now” is the foundation upon which you build this next part of your journey.
You did your best in that moment
Whatever choices you made were determined in the moment by what you knew, what you believed, who you were and what you needed. For better or worse, you made a choice. If you gave thought to your choice and it seemed right at the time, you did what you should have done. Don’t look back. If you followed your intuition, or acted on impulse, that was the right choice at the time. Don’t wish you could change it. The choices you made are what makes you who you are in this moment. Mistakes were your lessons. Accomplishments built your self-esteem. All the choices you have made in your lifetime have gone into making the present You.
You constantly choose your destiny
“Just by choosing where you stand, you alter your destiny,” explains Deng Ming-Dao in 365 Tao Daily Meditations. “Those who follow Tao define destiny as the course or pattern of your life as it spontaneously takes shape.” Spontaneously takes shape – in the moment – not something predestined, not some goal we set out to achieve. Our destiny is shaped by the choices we make in each moment, whether it is a spontaneous response or a choice built on past experience and foundational values. Your past choices were influenced by your personality, how you related to your parents and siblings, where you went to school, what job you took, what relationships you had, who your friends are, how you spend your days. Every choice affects your destiny. Destiny is not a place further ahead, destiny is in this very moment of choice.
Your choices built your foundation
If you let go of everything in this moment, what would you have left? You would have your values, your experience, and your beliefs. You would have the skills and knowledge you have accumulated. You would have the strength and awareness you have gradually achieved over your lifetime. You stand on an individulized foundation upon which to build this next portion of your personal journey. Go forward from here and now.
The only reason to look back is to clarify your lessons
I recently ran across a Gratitude Book I once kept. In it, I had written the positive things people said about me. I was amazed and bolstered when it’s content reminded me how positively some people saw me. I had forgotten how I was perceived. I had even forgotten some of the valuable ways I had contributed. It increased my self-confidence and even reminded me of ways I used to serve. But that was then. This is now. Don’t dwell on the past, simply take its lessons and its praise and move on from here.
Make conscious choices
When I desire to gain personal clarity, I sit down and actively take stock of what I have going for me and what I’d like to change. I take a “Tao Tally” in which I answer three questions: What has shifted for me this week? What insights have I gained? What will I focus on the coming week? That focus is usually a quality like unfolding, mindfulness, compassion, serenity, something intangible but with the capacity to guide the choices I make.
Allow your life to spontaneously unfold
Your life is not predestined; it is determined by each choice you make. That means you can change direction in any moment simply by the choice you make in your words and actions.