Next we can figure out how to get you there. Just like with Maddox, we talked through the details of Tara's future forces. Aristotle said: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. When we repeatedly compromise ourselves, we'll end up with the essence of who we are being compromised. This reasoning applies to everything we consistently do over and over and over again: people-pleasing, squishing ourselves to fit into societal norms, falling into patterns of expected behavior, hesitating before we challenge something, and saying yes when we mean no. When something isn't given freely, it's stolen, or we feel held to ransom, and that's no way to live. In the toss-up between compromising ourselves and compromising with others, we might take what feels like the more straightforward, less fraught route: We do what we can to make life easier for others, despite the ramifications or cost it might yield for us and the personal boundaries we might be flexing. When we flex (or demolish) our boundaries, it doesn't necessarily come with a lightning bolt of warning and a raising of our hackles; In isolation, this doesn't always feel like such a big deal, and it isn't always. It's the persistent flexing when our instincts whisper that we should assert ourselves that upsets the apple cart. When we hold steady in quieting our inner compass and end up doing things that feel uncomfortable, laden with resentment, and inauthentic, it's damaging to our self-esteem and self-confidence. Each one is tied to a single bandwagon, which they pull together. Do not jump on the bandwagon, but do validate the presence of the horses; Rather say hello to them, gently take hold of their reins and help them slow down a bit; Accept that it's okay to feel things, but that what you feel doesn't have to define your reality, or how you respond to it. Once you've chosen a method above that works for you, in minutes you can go from feeling overwhelmed to being composed enough to sort out the facts from your feelings. From that point, you can go back to the basics, asking yourself is this belief true? And, from there, you can further build upon the foundation of constructive thought that you've already laid. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay. Although we are a far cry from making these rights a universal reality, they have been universally declared. When we got to assembling her team, the conversation really hit a nerve. Who are the people who will help you move toward schools, toward the future you want? I don't have anybody, she said quietly. People who will help you get to that future, I prodded. I don't have anyone, she repeated. I've alienated my family, and for sure my ex-husband will never help me ever again. Her voice cracked. I didn't know that Tara had been married. She had never mentioned this. There are many, many people who can help, I said, trying to bring her back. It teeters, too, the distribution of power--we hand over our power on a platter. In being what we deem to be selfless, we often become self-less; And nobody wants that for somebody they care about. While it feels kinder to acquiesce to those we love and care about, it's unkind to them, and to us, to not hold space for who we are. When something isn't given freely, it's stolen, or we feel held to ransom, and that's no way to live. There will be repercussions, there's no doubt about that. We can't keep giving what we don't have to provide or want to offer; That's what happens to us when we keep flexing, pivoting, tweaking, and bowing to someone else's tune.

We stumble, we run out of steam, and we end up angry, resentful, and buckled. It's not selfish to de-wonkify or make space for ourselves. When you're feeling down in life, never forget that you have a basic human right to make your circumstances better. Provided you aren't out to hurt anyone else, you already have permission from the world's largest organization to think as big as you can. To build the best life you can with the least harm to those around you. So why wait? The Power of Choice Without the exercise of choice, the power of thought becomes meaningless. You can have the greatest perspective on Earth, but it will not mean much unless you choose to act on it, and put the knowledge you've acquired into practice. If making a choice sounds daunting, it can help to be aware that you're always choosing; Recognizing that you are constantly making choices is a key factor in realizing that you can also choose differently. It is this constant awareness of choice in your actions (or inactions) that reminds you that yes, even when things are going poorly you are still the author of your life, and thus still have say on what you do next in response to your circumstances. The people at the school you want to attend, for starters, I explained. You can go and talk with them. They could be people in admissions or financial aid or even community outreach. It doesn't cost anything to go and visit the college and meet the people who can help you get there. It might sound simple, but it's a great initial step. Tara was quiet for a time. You mean like just go and talk to them? Why would they talk to me?

They want to talk to you, I answered. It's their job. It's imperative. Once those boundaries are in place, it's kinder to communicate them clearly and honestly than to swat them away. Boundaries help us make room for all that's important to us in our lives--not what's important to other people, but what we have consciously appraised to be important to us. Our role in life isn't to conspire with others to pave the way for their needs and to make their lives rip-roaringly easy, all while we're needing more and wanting more and deserving more. For as much as we may love and care for others, and support them in honoring themselves, this relationship malarkey is a two-way street. It's not selfish to de-wonkify or make space for ourselves. It's imperative. On an intellectual level, we can understand something to be valid and rational and sensical. We can understand the importance of boundaries, want to do something about them, understand our why, and yet we don't feel quite sure as to how to go about it all. As complex beings, there's a three-way tug-of-war that occurs among (1) our biological makeup, (2) what we want to do, and (3) what we do. In any good story, the hero or heroine seldom gets through without some loss. But through their choices, they triumph. Even your habits remain choices in your life, despite the firm connection they form to your subconscious over time, because in the end you can always choose to reform or change them, as article 5 hopefully illustrated. One cannot overemphasize this as, at the end of the day, it is our choices that define who we are and how far we go, not our abilities. If an ability is insufficient, we can make the choice to improve it. But, just like with knowledge or perspective, an ability does nothing without choice. If you depend too much on your abilities, there will be roadblocks when you hit the unfamiliar. But when it comes to choice, you always have the option to argue against the justifications you give what you chose (Is that belief true?

You always have the option to test the validity of any emotion you feel (Yes, I have a reason for feeling this way, but should this reason continue to define my life? You do not have to be the best. Huh, she said. Something had changed. The edge had lifted from her voice. I see what you mean. We continued talking about her halfway and partway plans. Listen, BDJ, she said finally. I've already taken too much of your time, but I get it. I see what you mean. I mean, I still need to get myself together and pay rent, but you know, just seeing that different future and being able to talk to people who want to talk with me about that future makes it feel real, like I can do it. You can do it. There are layers upon layers of psychological, biological, and emotional wiring that we're up against. We can think of these as our baseline behaviors, the norm, the habitual natures we revert to when we're tired, decisioned-out, and under pressure. There will be things about our baseline behaviors that irk us or that we wrangle with when trying to set limits or create boundaries for ourselves. Whether it's that we tend to people-please, be fearful, overeat, overspend, binge-drink, under-sleep, be self-conscious, be easily distracted, or resist routine, for example. These are all boundary issues. Sometimes, where there's a tendency to take responsibility for too much, the opposite can be true. Dishing out daily blame willy-nilly without ever considering how our actions may have contributed to a situation or consequence is another way of relinquishing all responsibility and personal power to others. Some of the hardest boundaries to identify and establish are those boundaries that we have with ourselves.