“And in life, it is all about choices we make. And how the direction of our lives comes down to the choices we choose.” Catherine Pulsifer
What are you doing right now? Why are you doing it? Are you content? Is it what you want to do?
I am always talking to clients about choices. Making choices was the topic of one of my last posts as I talked about my own choices and how I was blatantly reminded of my need to accept responsibility for them.
In order to accept culpability for our choices we first must acknowledge that we have actually made one and this is where it gets sticky. You see, in just about EVERYTHING we do, we make a choice – either consciously or subconsciously we make a choice and yet, sometimes they are hard to see; to accept.
We can’t necessarily choose what happens ‘TO’ us but unless someone is literally forcing you to do something against your will, you are choosing your behavior.
Learning how to make decisions, to choose, is an important skill; one we don’t necessarily give much effort or thought.
My mother was a believer that children shouldn’t necessarily have choices and therefore, my hairstyle at almost any give age was one that she either needed to practice (she was a salon owner) or one that would make caring for my hair easy. Needless to say, I had a perm most of my childhood.
Consequently, I tried to make sure that my children knew they always had a choice. It wasn’t that I allowed them to choose what they wanted, whenever. I wanted my girls to dress like girls (forgive the gender insistence here) and so when they were young I wanted them to put on pretty dresses and cute skirts when they went to school. As such, in the mornings, I would hold up two hangers; one with a blue dress and the other with a pink skirt and allow them to choose. If they wanted to wear their brown pants I drew their attention back to the choices that I felt were acceptable.
Forget for a moment that I cornered my daughters into stereotypical attire and reason with me that I was teaching them about choice. At least, that was my intent.
Sometimes our choices are only between things that don’t feel like options at all.
A few years ago, I spoke with a high school student who wanted desperately to go to prom but didn’t have a date. Certainty, one of the choices was to go alone and another was to ask someone and risk rejection. This teen didn’t want to engage with either choice; they wanted to be asked by a certain person who, reportedly had already accepted another invitation.
Because neither of the options available were acceptable to this student, they insisted they didn’t have a choice but to stay home – a conspicuous falsity. There were choices but they were very different from what this person ‘wanted’.
Not wanting what is available doesn’t mean that we are void of choice.
Sometimes, when none of the choices presented feel tolerable – we turn ourselves into victims.
Dee’s husband had an affair and she is having difficulty moving on in the marriage. She is suffering from anxiety now each time he leaves the house and is quite distraught with the life she is living. They have three small children and she has been a stay-at-home mom for years. Her only true work experience is in retail where she would only earn minimum wage. She strongly believes that her only choice is to stay in an unhappy marriage and feel miserable.
She feels trapped and helpless to change her situation.
Dee is allowing herself to be a VICTIM of choice here by believing she doesn’t have any.
Clearly, Dee can leave the marriage. No one is forcing her to stay. The truth is that when Dee considers all of the options available to her – she doesn’t WANT any of them. She is refusing to choose and so she becomes a victim of undesirable alternatives.
When we allow ourselves to feel like a victim, we become powerless.
Joe wants to get into shape. He is approaching fifty and knows he needs to drop a few pounds. He has developed anxiety because his father had a heart attack at age 55 and while Joe doesn’t yet have heart disease, he fears it is inevitable.
Joe is the breadwinner in his family and often works more than fifty hours per week. Between his job and family commitments, he eats on the run and never makes it to the gym.
Joe is making a choice NOT to prioritize his health although he argues adamantly it is not a conscious choice.
But let’s be honest – when we say we ‘want’ something and then we don’t put any effort into making it a priority – we must not really ‘want’ it bad enough.
Sometimes we believe we ‘should’ want something and so we claim it but find lots of reasons that it won’t work for us or we just put it on the back burner and find excuses for it not happening.
It’s the Priorities.
In each example that I’ve presented, the individuals are allowing themselves to be victims of THEIR OWN priorities. They have options – just not options they wanted.
Well, isn’t that the way the world works much of the time. Things happen. Many things happen that we don’t want to happen but that does NOT mean that they trap us. Our power is in making a conscious decision about our priorities under the circumstances.
The high school student prioritized a particular date over going to prom.
Dee prioritized her current lifestyle over self-respect and happiness
Joe prioritized his work hours over his health.
Why not just say “I must not want it bad enough”? Why not just admit that “I am choosing something different”?
Sometimes we can only choose the ‘lessor of two evils’ – the least ‘sucky’ option. If that is the case, then OWN it. Realize that you are still choosing.
You have the power to make the choice.
And you can ALWAYS choose your behavior.
Learn to be intentional
To be deliberate
To accept that your priorities determine how you choose.
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