There are many things in life that can make our existence easier or more difficult. A huge factor is our attitude. One attitude that has served me well is recognizing that everything I do is by choice... Even if appearances may seem like I don't always have a choice, I really do.
Now before you react and tell me... but I didn't choose my awful boss, or I didn't choose to feel so tired all the time, or I didn't choose to get a sore back, or any other comment to negate the statement that everything we do is our choice, let me explain.
Let's start with the examples I gave. OK, so let's assume you have an awful boss... or co-worker. Did you choose them specifically? No perhaps not, but you did choose that job, and you choose to stay there. Ah, bills to pay? Yes of course, but those bills could be just as well paid by another job with a different boss and co-worker. Too hard to find another job? Perhaps, but it's still your choice not to look or to simply stay where you are. Maybe not a happy choice, perhaps not even a choice you're making consciously, but a choice nevertheless.
Tired all the time? What choices could you make to change that? Perhaps watch less TV and go to bed earlier? Perhaps eat foods that would make you healthier and thus less tired. Perhaps go for a walk every day which would actually give you more energy. Perhaps make sure you take time for yourself to recharge your "batteries". Many options, many choices.
Sore back? OK, well how did you get that sore back? Perhaps you chose to lift something too heavy? Or perhaps you sit in such a way, or sleep in such a way that incurs a sore back? Or perhaps you just were not flexible in something you were doing? Choices all.
And please be aware, that I'm not speaking of placing blame or guilt... but in recognizing that the power lies in the choices we make, and whether those choices are made consciously or on auto-pilot. Believing that we have no choice makes us weak and makes us believe we are victims. Recognizing that you always have a choice makes you a master of your own life.
The Blame Game Strips Your Power Away
You may have grown up learning from the adults around you to blame others for your situation in life. When our parents got angry it always seemed to be somebody else's fault... Their boss, their relatives, the neighbor, the store clerk, their children... The scenario went something like this: Angry? Someone else "made me" angry... rather than recognizing that getting angry is a choice. Some people, such as the Dalai Lama for example, would choose a different reaction, or at least not stick to anger for more than a few short moments, and certainly not for days, or weeks, or years.
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Stuck in a job you hate? Well, unless someone has you physically chained to that job, you are not being forced to stay there. Yes, circumstances may make it difficult or frightening to quit, but you still choose to stay... for whatever reason. Once you admit that you are choosing to stay at that job, then you can also admit that you would like to make a change -- or not. Recognizing that choice gives you the vision to look around for other options and for opportunities that the universe may send your way. And it also opens the window to appreciating what you do have... a steady job that helps you support yourself, your family, and your dreams.
Battered wife? Again, for whatever reason... choosing to stay. I'm not saying that making a different choice is easy. Sometimes it is very difficult and very frightening. But the point here is the importance of recognizing that you are making the choice to stay. It is amazing the difference that can make in your very being when you stop feeling powerless by realizing that you've make that choice, which means that at some point in the future, you could make a different choice should you desire to do so.
None of this is about judgment or blame. The idea is to recognize that everything we do, even the things we dislike, we are choosing to do them - whether the choice is made consciously or not. This makes our actions empowering ones, rather than victimized ones.
We Always Have A Choice
Whatever the situation, we always have a choice. Now, certainly, sometimes the choices are not very palatable. If someone is holding you at gunpoint and saying hand me your wallet... you usually would choose to do so, however, you do have the choice to say no... and suffer the consequences, of course. But the trick is to realize that we always choose our response. No one forces us to do anything. They may think they are forcing or coercing you, and it may seem like they are doing so, but in the end, you still choose to say yes or no.
Someone offers you coffee... you have a choice. You can say yes or no. Someone offers you heroin... you have a choice. You can say yes or no. Someone shouts at you... You have a choice. React in anger, or take a deep breath and react differently. It's pouring rain. You have a choice. Choose to be miserable about it, or find something positive about it, such as focus on the plants that are getting the rain they need to survive.
If you stay at a job you dislike, for whatever reason, you are stronger when you acknowledge that you are choosing to stay there. This also gives you the openness to be aware of the possibility of other choices along the way.
We are never stuck, unless we choose to be. Whether it is an attitude, a belief, or an action. We choose to remain with them, or we choose to move on. And recognizing that we are choosing these actions is a very empowering way to face life.
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
As we approach the new year, many people may be focusing on "new year's resolutions", on habits they would like to change. At this time of year, we are usually more aware of alternate choices we can make. To empower us in sticking to those resolutions, we can become aware of the choices we make every day, in every moment. All the decisions we make either support the new habits we are forming, or not.
And while we might find it difficult to break a long-standing habit, it is possible, and it is done one choice at a time. Quitting smoking or drinking or overeating? The choice: I won't have this next cigarette or drink or cookie.
Perhaps we make our life more difficult when we attempt to make a "blanket" choice that extends to forever, such as "I will never smoke another cigarette" or "I will never overeat again". This may seem overwhelming. Perhaps the choice is more like the one encouraged in Alcoholic Anonymous, as stated in the following two examples from their "Just For Today" card:
- Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
- Just for today I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
And if you notice, the above "just for today" suggestions are choices -- choices we get to make every day. And sometimes we will forget, or possibly even consciously choose differently, and that is all fine as long as we remember that the next moment, the next day, we get to choose all over again. Ate that extra dessert when you had resolved not to? Well, next time you get to choose again, and can choose differently. There is no need to judge or blame yourself or think you can guilt yourself into submission. We all make missteps at times, and we all get to choose again next time.
Recognizing that everything we do is a choice makes us stronger. It helps illuminate the path ahead as we realize that we are choosing to be where we are, and thus can choose differently anytime we decide we are ready to.
And if you find yourself grumbling as you prepare to do a task, reminding yourself that "I'm choosing to do this task" puts a whole different angle on the situation and will lift your spirits. Moving our attitudes from being a victim to consciously acknowledging our choices will make a world of difference in our lives.
Wishing you an empowering year... one day at a time, one choice at a time.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
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