Shohaku Okumura, a great zen teacher, has said you will either be “dragged by karma or led by vow.” In psychological terms this means you will live out the imprinted patterns of behavior, thought, feeling and belief that you are used to or you will live out a commitment to the ideals of a self that you aspire to be. In other words, you life will be mindless reaction or conscious proaction. To put it yet another way: You are, at every moment, living through habit or through choice.
Each action you take, each thought you endorse, each feeling you believe strengthens a perspective–a world-view–that is one of many possible world-views you hold. Those perspectives are built and solidified by repetitive attention and action. If you are not reflectively recognizing what you are choosing, you are left with an increasingly rigid default point of view. Ultimately, with a commitment to a conscious, thoughtful effort, you can become truly liberated from unseen self-sabotaging motives. At least most of the time.
We want to be in charge of our lives, the agents of our actions, and the decision-makers for our choices. Sometimes without realizing it, we see ourselves replaying old habits, or even more frustrating, habits of people in our families. Genuine change, and therefore genuine freedom, is possible with a serious decision to get to know what we care about, what we want, and what we are able to do. And then reconnecting with that decision every time we get off track. We really can become the people we want to be by incrementally building our self of the future and not getting stuck in our self of the past.