How to find freedom using the power of personal choice


“ someone responds to your actions is their choice. Our true freedom lives in being able to choose the thoughts and attitudes that generate our experience.” - Alan Cohen

When I was first starting out as a freelance writer I was met with something I was not used to: non-response. I’d craft pitches, organize my clips (published articles) and send thoughtful inquiries to editors, and most of the time get absolutely nothing back in return.

Even now, working with editors on a regular basis, some of my questions and requests still go unanswered.

At first I felt frustrated and discouraged. But eventually I realized that those feelings are only hurting me, not changing anything. This was a learning opportunity.

I talked to other writers about their experiences. “Yep, that’s just how they are,” I would hear. “The media industry is busy, they are constantly working off tight deadlines and terrible at responding to emails.” they told me.

I had two choices: be upset or accept reality.

Ultimately the desire to get published and my love of writing made this challenge a no brainer.

I still send pitches, I still get no response about 90% of the time, and I still love what I do.

How? By choosing to not let it upset me.

I don’t even give it a second thought.

I simply start working on a new pitch, get choosier about who I spend time sending emails to and am grateful for work I get. And you know what? As soon as I shifted my perspective, work started flowing in faster than I could keep up with.

I also keep a mindset that every one of us inherently wants to be a good person. What might they be going through right now? Can I have compassion for their situation? Can I make it not all about me?

Try to place yourself in the other person’s shoes. I know that when I am overwhelmed with tasks and deadlines non-urgent emails get pushed to the back burner.

It’s not because I don’t care, it’s self survival.

And ultimately, everyone needs to look out for themselves before they can be helpful to anyone else.

The choice is yours

Our minds are complex. They are full of perceptions based off past experiences. What one person says or does can be interpreted in a myriad of different ways depending on who you are and what you’ve been through in your life.

Feeling trapped or stuck, or like someone else is in control of your happiness is not a pleasant place to be.

One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel like you are not being acknowledged or heard.

So, how do you free yourself from feeling let down or frustrated by external circumstances?

The answer lies in personal choice.

Everyone has a choice when it comes to how they choose to listen and respond to you. And you have a choice about how you are going to feel about their response (or non-response).

It is your responsibility to say what you need to say in a clear, direct way so that you can get your needs fulfilled. But, once you finish speaking it is the other person’s prerogative to respond how they wish.

The more you accept this, the easier your life becomes.

It’s like writing a book. Once it’s published it’s no longer yours. It now belongs to the world and people will respond to it whichever way they desire, and you have to accept what that looks like.

On the other hand, you too have a choice in how you respond to others. You can let their words (or lack of words) bother you or not. No matter what someone says to you, only you have the power to let it upset you, make you happy or make you feel neutral about it.

It is actually entirely up to you what kind of experience you will choose.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” - Epictetus

Put it into practice

The next time someone says or does something that makes you angry or hurts your feelings, pay attention.

What is it about their words or actions that is making you reactive?

Could it actually be you that has the problem and not them?

Try to seperate the feeling you are having with the actual words they are saying. Notice what you feel in your body. Is your heart rate increasing? Are your eyes tearing up? Is your stomach in knots? Notice it, feel it and then let it go. This is your body stirring up a storm of emotions based off your perception, not reality.

Process the statement or the question that the other person is saying in your head and try to respond as directly as you can without creating a story around it. Ask yourself what the most productive response is.

If you are unclear about what is being said, ask the person to please clarify.

If the response is non-response, think about what you can do differently next time to encourage a response.

Use the silence or the “hurtful” words as a learning experience. What can you learn about it?

And can you let go of the outcome in order to truly free yourself from suffering?

Enjoy your freedom

As we all know, freedom is not free, it takes work. Freeing your mind from suffering is some of the most difficult work us humans have.

Luckily for us, it is entirely up to us.

The power lies within your choices.

Written by Sarah Burchard