Copyright © 2011-2012 Ilona Goin.  All rights reserved.  Garden of Light Photography is a service of Opus 9 Media LLC.

By Ilona Goin
Light Source, April 2011

Because I can only rarely have sugar or flour, I don’t bake much anymore. Instead, I cook up something else enjoyable to share, often in the form of photographs. So when a friend of mine deserved a little treat, I offered him a choice among cards and bookmarks. He studied it all carefully, then said, tongue in cheek, “Could you please not make them so good that I don’t know what to choose?” I joked, “Sure, I’ll drop the quality on half of them to give you less to choose from.”

All kidding aside, there are two important points hiding in this brief repartee.  First, we must be true to our own standard. We can’t do less than we know how to do. It is simply against our innermost nature: Our hearts would ache with sadness if we were to allow ourselves to accept a lower standard than we have the capacity to envision and carry out. To not abide by our highest ideals is anathema to our creative spirit, which demands that we strive for excellence.

Doing anything other than our best is to deny our own potential and, equally unfortunate, to deny another the opportunity to lift his gaze a notch above where he might tend to fix his attention. When we do our best, there is always someone who will learn from what we do and how we do it.

Second, we must be willing to make choices, even hard ones: Choosing for ourselves is our birthright.
Besides, life is full of choices to be made, so we better embrace the right and opportunity to make our own decisions.

There are countless possibilities for us to either accept or reject, all determined by who we are and what we want out of life. Relinquishing responsibility—and therefore also the freedom to direct our own lives—may be tempting for the lazy and the timid. However, for those with imagination and a sense of self-determination, it feels like not enough air; not enough space; not enough freedom of thought, action, and being.

Responsibility is not a burden, it is a means to greater freedom. Just think about your car: it is a responsibility to drive, but I’m pretty sure you are grateful to accept a responsibility that gives you so much freedom.

Still, some find making personal choices so daunting that they seek help, even with simple, daily matters such as clothes and food. Have you ever (as I have) overheard someone at a restaurant who, after studying the menu, says to his or her spouse, “Oh, I can’t decide. You pick something for me; you know what I like.”

You won’t hear that request from these quarters. Not only do I choose for myself, at restaurants I usually modify a dish for health reasons. In the process, I give the chef an opportunity to think outside the box and serve a customer. Life is a creative work in progress, and on that front, we are all artists who get daily opportunities to learn and grow. I’m fine with giving the chef a creative assignment: An excellent chef rises to the occasion, because he has set himself a high standard to reach for.

Besides, that’s the beauty of being a customer—because you pay for what you get, you get what you pay for. Your purchasing power gives you the right to determine what you would like and then to ask for it. If you don’t want something, you don’t pay up, and the market moves in the direction of what your money is voting for. Long live the free market—it ensures that we can follow our dreams, imagine what we want, and receive it. It keeps us free to set our own course so that we may arrive at a destination of our own choosing. And that is a reflection of our inborn right to make conscious decisions that are in harmony with our individual nature.

Whatever happens today, make your own choices. Choose with your heart.

© 2011 Ilona Goin. All rights reserved.