Imagine you are sitting in a park, on your favorite bench, loudly whistling your dearest tunes, while soaking up the sun rays and enjoying the warm summer breeze. The only thought that goes on in your head is how lucky you are to be alive, and how grateful you are for the freedom to experience this beautiful moment.
But something that you didn’t expect happens next…
A few feet to your right, a stranger shows up. He takes a seat a couple benches away, takes out a newspaper along with an old, wooden pipe. He carefully fills the pipe up with tobacco and begins to smoke and read.
His name is Steve.
This is Steve’s favorite bench in the park. He comes here every afternoon to observe the birds and take a puff. The only thought that goes on in Steve’s mind right now is how lucky he is to be alive, and how grateful he is for the freedom to enjoy this beautiful moment.
Right after he takes his first draw, a thick white cloud moves your way. The smoke clouds up your face and surrounds you from every direction. Being someone who doesn’t tolerate smokers, your heart starts to race and the veins on your forehead begin to throb.
This man just destroyed your sacred moment.
Angrily, you begin to shout at him, “Would you be more considerate and stop smoking?”
Steve responds, “Listen, I’m gonna smoke my pipe if I want to. I’m allowed to do it in this area. If you don’t like it, go sit somewhere else. And I won’t have to hear your annoying whistling.”
Because both of of you are in your favorite locations, neither of you is willing to relocate. Momentarily, the exchange breaks into a loud argument.
The moral of the story is:
There are too many people on this planet for all of us to be able to do whatever we want to do without infringing on another person’s freedom.
Unless we live in a completely remote area, it’s almost certain that what we do will have an impact on another human being.
So, should we give up pursuing what we love because of the possibility of violating someone else’s freedom?
No. That isn’t what I’m saying (although we should always be mindful and considerate of our surroundings, since there are many people with whom we share this planet [some people’s hobbies/activities cause real harm to humans, animals, and the Earth]).
But the main message that I want to convey is this:
Never make your joy/happiness dependent on anything outside of you.
There will be times when you are forced to stop doing something you love, because you will find that it violates someone else peace of mind. Don’t let that take away your happiness.
There will be times when you are forced to accept an undesirable situation or circumstance that you find yourself in. Don’t let that steal your joy.
If we believe that we can only be happy or joyful when we get exactly what we want, then we will only be happy or joyful sometimes, and at all other times, we will be at war with other people trying to impose our idea of utopia on them. But if we discover that happiness is really a choice; something that’s derived from within, and something that’s independent of anything external, we can make the choice to be happy at anytime and in any situation.
The ability to choose happiness regardless of any external circumstance is not only true freedom, but it’s the only choice that will never infringe on the freedom of someone else.
That’s why I call it the most powerful choice.