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Knowing Myself Series: Part 5 – Conscious Choices and Staying the Course

By Ilene Marcus March 28, 2023 Mindset

As it turns out, managing annoying me is a full-time job. It is also the most rewarding job I have ever done. Who knew taking care of me, is even more rewarding than caring for others. No longer do I put others in front of myself. I make sure I am okay so I can help them too.

I started writing this series five months ago, with the belief that I would end with my soul mate once I learned who I was, how to care for myself, then be able to share that with another. Sadly, that did not happen. What did happen is that I found something else. Something way more important.

I found “me” again. And I am here to stay.

My 5-Month Exploration

I followed these steps to get to this view in my journey of life.

  • First, in Part 1 – Love What I Have I learned to surround myself with things I love and value, including people and experiences.
  • Second, Part 2 – Falling in Love with Myself focused on how to forgive my past, let go and know I am worth living a life I love. We are all worth living a life we love.
  • Then I dug in deeper. In Part 3 – Time takes Time I began to understand that rushing doesn’t always work. Slowing down is good for me and helps me to enjoy everything that comes across my path and find the lesson and the blessings from the life I have lived and am seeking.
  • Next, in Part 4 – Letting Others In I worked on how to Manage Annoying Me. I took notice of where I sabotaged myself and started to clean up my act instead of blaming others.

Finally, in this post, I will share with you how I learned to make conscious choices that serve me, loving me, and how to stay the course.

What I Learned

Over these past five months, I have found who I am again. I know what I value and learned how to care for my physical and emotional needs. I do this to honor myself. Honoring myself allows me to honor the others I choose to have in my life.

I do the best I can and if it’s not good enough for them, I can live with that. Because I like myself, it is their choice to stay in my orbit or search for a new star system. And now knowing myself, my orbit is a spectacular place to be.

The overarching discovery for me was all the different ways I didn’t value myself. I spent a lifetime trying to prove myself to others or to please others. This was how I gained my sense of self. I put myself down to build others up. I put their needs ahead of mine because I wanted to be helpful. I believed that someone who cares is constantly thinking of others.

Now I understand who I am, what I can do, and what I want. With this clarity I can show others who I am without apology and ask them what they need from me. Then, I can choose how to deliver that assistance.

Occasionally, I need more time, sometimes I offer a different way of helping. Now and then, it’s a loving “no.” A loving no, means “not this time”; it means “no for now, not forever.” It’s up to the other person to choose. As the creator of one of the most magical worlds wrote through a character:

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

—Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

New Patterns: What Matters Today

I am usually maddest at myself when I say I am going to do something and then I don’t. Or I try to get it done with best intentions and it all goes awry. As the old saying goes, I no longer cry over spilled milk. Yes, the milk was wasted, a rare resource in the days that cliché was popularized, I clean it up and ask, “what’s next?”

Conventional wisdom, psychology, and behavior modification all tell us that after three months of doing a thing – any thing – a pattern can stick. It took me a little longer, but it’s sticking.

What matters today is that I shut off the doubting voices in my head. The resounding thumb of shame, pridefulness, and jealousy. I show up as a new blade of grass that has just felt a sliver of sunlight for the first time. Nourished by the light, surrounded by warmth. Emerging from that deep dark place under the dirt where regret and fear fester in my soul.

What matters today is that I act differently. Sing a new song, follow a different path, or am comfortable with no path at all. I choose a new flavor of tea and drink it strong and not so sweet. I open myself to all the colors and light around me. I bow to those gifts inside me that are aching to burst out and not implode within. I believe today will matter because I will make it so.

What matters today is that I stop searching for the answers and begin living the question of knowing what I need and want, and who I am.

Conscious Choices

It all boils down to three core choices. The good news is that if you have been following my series, we learned these methods over the last five months. The better news is that they live on Sixty and Me and you can visit them repeatedly (at the links above), to get what you need.

Situation by situation, I must assess the circumstances with honesty and integrity and proceed from that place of understanding of my role, my place, and my purpose at this time, in this situation.

Let It Go

Easier said than done. This is where we release what doesn’t serve us. We invoke Goldilocks and remember the bigger lesson is not about finding what fits us, but that she was trespassing. We must release what doesn’t belong to us. Have a clear boundary about what is ours to worry about, to use, or to be involved in and make decisions about.

Think about why you are reacting to this situation so deeply. How often have we worried about the wrong thing? Maybe it’s an ingrained belief we need to release. Often when we cannot move on or get something out of our minds, it’s because we don’t want to accept it or are reacting to situations, policies, and relationships that aren’t ours to change.

Or do we only have ourselves to blame? And when we stop pointing fingers and making excuses it hurts. This is when you must lean into loving yourself and forgiving your past.

This is a conscious choice to not continue to blame yourself and think you are stuck.

Address It

This is the tricky one. We have learned that time takes time. I am a world-class gun slinger, always shooting from the hip without a plan, strategy, or consideration of long-term consequences. What I have learned to think about is time takes time. When I am in the middle of a feeling, or a situation, that may not be the best time to speak up or address it. I must think about what is important to me and how much it matters in the big picture of my life.

  • If it’s a pattern, is it mine or another’s?
  • Do I see all the angles, not just my own?
  • Was a true injustice done?

As I say to my huge Goldendoodle Beauregard, when he is ready to do something that he knows better, like picking up food scraps on the sidewalk: “Think about it,” me in a stern voice.

So say to yourself, “Think about it.”

  • Think about if your reaction is in proportion to the situation.
  • Is the relationship healthy enough to discuss this?
  • If I change my behaviors, and flutter my wings in a new way, will the butterfly effect take over and change everything?

When I find I cannot let it go, that this situation impacts how I value myself, then I must use that voice I found to speak up and ask for what I need. The important thing is to keep the focus on my feelings and actions.

  • What is my responsibility?
  • What can I change?
  • Why do I value this person, place, or thing?

Sometimes, it has nothing to do with whatever is going on. I must resolve to act differently and not put myself in this situation. I must learn to recognize it at the moment when it’s happening and get out of it so I can move it to option 1 and let it go. I must start stopping those behaviors today.

Do Better Moving Forward

This is the easy one. Well, as if any of this growing and learning as we grow and learn is easy.

On, Oprah shares the powerful lesson she learned from her friend and mentor Maya Angelou:

“When you know better, you do better.”

Who am I to rewrite Maya Angelou? In the spirit of making, it my own and finding what inspires new action for me, here is my version:

“When I know better, I choose to do better.”

The concept of choice is critical for me, hence the aptly named title of this piece, conscious choices. So much of my life I just let things happen and was stuck in those default patterns. Today, I choose to do better because I know better.

Either way, mine, or Maya’s, this is a way to think about freeing your mind and your thoughts for anyone who has ever made a mistake and wants to release it and move on.

Staying the Course

Practically speaking, it is about what I can do at the moment, and after that moment when feelings linger and am upset about a situation, a person, a conversation, or anything involving my relationship with anyone and anything else.

When I know better, I choose to do better again and again and again. There are no shortcuts, just the willingness to show up as the best me I can be at 60, 70, and 80 years old. That’s truly knowing myself.

What’s Next

The next time my soul mate comes along, I’ll be ready. I will not be waiting; I will be living the question of what it is I need and want in my life and enjoying the journey. I will celebrate the most important relationship I have, the one with myself.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you know yourself? Have you found ways to build your relationship with yourself? What steps did you take on your journey? Has this knowledge empowered you? Has it helped you make better choices?

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Jeanne Donohue

Hi I just got done reading this article. I don’t know what to say, it is amazing. This is just what i need. Thank you for sharing. Have a bless day JD

ilene marcus

Thanks so much for your blessing!


Loved this article, so many takeaways! I’m just beginning to take the time to discover the ‘if its everyone else, it must be me’ philosophy and gentle myself with self knowlwdge. Thank you for provoking some new ways of looking at things, Ilene.

ilene marcus

So glad it resonated!


I have truly enjoyed your series. Each part held thought provoking information. It has applied to where I am now at age 65. Read and will re-read to get/keep these new (to me) ways of living my life.

ilene marcus

Your comment is an amazing gift to me to keep going. Thanks, ilene


From this gunslinger, excellent series.

Ilene marcus

From another gunslinger, that’s a very high compliment! Thanks


From another gunslinger, that’s a very high compliment! Thanks

Gwen Jones

Excellent article!!


Thanks for letting me know!

The Author

Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is the author of Managing Annoying People and runs Aligned Workplace, speaking and training Leaders and Founders to attract and retain great employees. An emerging literary writer, her goal is to make you smile just a bit more. Please visit her website at

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