Victims of Choice

Sometimes we can only choose the ‘lessor of two evils’ – the least ‘sucky’ option.

“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.

Fair enough.

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.

Own IT

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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Our Choices are Lessons

It would be really easy to blame my choices on the bad information that I was given.

“Never blame another person for your personal choices — you are still the one who must live out the consequences of your choices.”   Caroline Myss

I am touched by the number of people who have reached out to check in on me. It appears that my delinquency in writing has been noticed and I am writing today – in part – to let y’all know that I am great – just crazy, crazy busy. I’ve been thinking about choices lately and I have an unscheduled hour today so I am happy to share some thoughts…

The actuality is that I still write a little every day. I have a half dozen blog posts started about various topics. I’ve been diligently working on editing my book and I am scheduled to attend a writing workshop in April to learn more about self-publishing. I have an outline started for a fictional story and I think about those characters quite a bit.

In addition, it is tax time and when you own your own business, collecting the information necessary to complete a return can be challenging. Some people are fantastic at recordkeeping and organization. I am mediocre at best, which is generally fine except for every February when I start thinking about taxes. This year has been more intense because I’ve stepped in and helped Harlan get things together because he is thinking about retiring and we are organizing all the information needed to profile why his business would be a great investment for someone else.

Now that the girls have moved out semi-permanently (I assume that Em will be back for a bit next year after she graduates) I’ve been slowly cleaning out and organizing the upstairs spaces. Several weeks ago I thought it would be a good idea to get some estimates on updating the second floor bathroom which is covered in tile including decorative one inch squares that are forest green. I remember the popularity of that color in the 90’s and I respect that some people may still enjoy the tranquility it can promote but for me – it is too harsh. The bathroom in general reminded me of a 1950’s psychiatric hospital. It needed attention and I started obtaining quotes for a remodel.

One of the people who came by dropped a price that was irresistible and so we gave him the go-ahead to remodel; basic stuff – new fixtures, wainscoting, paint. In the meantime, my accountant called to let me know how much I owed the IRS and it was a number much – much – lower than I had anticipated. YAY!! Great News!! One of the first things I thought of was dang… that Gratitude thing really works!

It turned out that the man refreshing our bath was quite a handyman too so I went through the house and made a list of all the things that we had been placing on the back burner. Most were little things, broken this – malfunctioning that… I was happy!! In our household – Harlan worries about the big things. He focuses on making sure that our roof is in good shape and that the furnace is maintained. I worry about the little things and perhaps ‘worry’ is overstated but you know… if the color of the switch plate and the switch itself don’t match – I notice and every time I turn on the light – well… I notice. Certainly, changing a switch plate is a no-brainer but it was the switch that needed changed and I don’t do electricity.

Dan the Dude – as I call him – became my buddy as Harlan and I made lists of things for him to do. After a week, it was apparent that he knows what he was doing and Harlan was firmly on board with the idea of having Dan tackle the things that he no longer had the energy to do. It was exciting to feel such a strong and vibrant sense of accomplishment.

Things were getting done around the house; we had a number of doctor’s appointments who provided some encouragement about procedures that may offer pain relief for Harlan; I was making great headway compiling detailed information about Harlan’s business and creating a nice presentation for it; and my practice schedule started to explode. And then, I went to pick up my taxes.

As the accountant reviewed the prepared documents it was obvious that something was amiss… this was the first year in more than a dozen that I had opted to use professional help so I know a bit about how my return should look. When he gave me the information over the phone about how much I owed, I thought “Holy cow! Why did I wait so long to pay someone else to do this?” – thinking that he obviously had some knowledge about how to lower my tax obligation that I had been missing all these years. Well… nope, he didn’t. It seems that he simply wasn’t paying attention and failed to notice the income information I had provided – using only the 1099 that Square.Inc (my credit card processing company) had sent – missing over HALF of my income.

*deep breath*

As I warned myself no to have a heart attack and pointed out his error, he humbly apologized and entered the correct numbers. My amount due – more than When yWtripled  – which would have been ok if it had been in the hundreds, but… it was in the thousands. Suddenly, I realized that I was going to have to call Dan the Dude and put a halt to anything that he hadn’t already started. Bummer. I was having so much fun with that list!

And then I laughed. I had to laugh because I know better. I’ve been doing taxes long enough to know that I had estimated my need closely. And… I’ve lived long enough to know better than to count my chickens too soon! I knew better but I chose to ignore what I thought I knew. It was a choice.

That is why I am thinking about choices.

I could spend energy complaining about how I am a victim of the accountant’s mistake. I could lament about how crappy it is that now I can’t have Dan the Dude complete the things we want done. It would be really easy to blame my choices on the bad information that I was given. But that wouldn’t be honest.

I am responsible for the choices I make. In this case, I relied on someone else to provide particulars but I was the one who failed to verify the data; the one who jumped the gun. And that’s how it goes sometimes. I am able take responsibility for this error and chalk it up as a reminder. Leslyn… in the future, validate what you know.

Isn’t it funny how easy it is to believe what we ‘want’ to believe? How quickly we throw our knowledge aside to satisfy our ego? Our wants? For me, this wasn’t a *dangerous* lesson but it quickly could have turned into that if I didn’t have backup resources or other income opportunities.

And so, I am grateful for this lesson and its reminder.

It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It?

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power.

 

“The moment you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the moment you can change ANYTHING in your life.” ~ Hal Elrod

In the last couple of posts I’ve made the comment to “own” you stuff… your thoughts, your actions, your reactions. What does it mean really to ‘own’? I find that just saying it may not be enough, I find that we often need reminded what it is to ‘own’ because we don’t necessarily live in a culture where taking personal responsibility is front and center. We easily fall into patterns of ‘blame’.

At the turn of the century, the Jamaican reggae singer ‘Shaggy’ came out with a song entitled “It wasn’t me”… he was being given advice to deny his responsibility even though he had been caught red handed. Even the music we listen to seeks to reinforce methods of circumventing personal responsibility. We watch crime shows and movies that demonstrate how to ‘Get Away with Murder’ and we see Oliva Pope ‘fix’ problems that high level officials don’t want to be associated with. While I realize that those are fictitious stories on broadcast television, they seep into our subconscious and weep on patterns of blame whenever there is a chance.

“I can’t be happy because he….”, or “if she would change, everything would be ok.”… I hear people saying these things weekly. My response is always – “what about you?” “What is YOUR role in this?” Relationships are BETWEEN people and so every soul in the interaction has some level of responsibility in the dialogue; some level of input in the collaboration. Relationships by definition, are never one sided. Consequently – even if the only contribution is a RE-action… every person is engaged.

What would it look like if we all took responsibility for only OUR own behaviors?

What would it look like if we all stopped and reflected on what ‘I’ could do better or more effectively?

First and foremost… we have to be aware of what we are bringing to the table. What is it that ‘I’ am contributing to this interplay?

  • Am I being antagonistic?
  • Am I being supportive?
  • Am I being defensive?
  • Am I listening well?
  • Am I validating?
  • Am I being clear?
  • Am I saying what I mean?
  • Am I contributing positively?
  • Am I keeping score? Playing tit for tat?
  • Do I maintain my composure? My tone? My voice?
  • Have I kept my promises or vows?

YOU must be so self-aware that you know – and can admit – your role in any interaction or collaboration.

You must be so self-aware that you can recognize when you are deflecting (changing the direction or focus) – “oh yeah? Well when you ….” Or when you are defensive… “well, I did that because….” And when you aren’t listening – by interrupting. People who interrupt are NOT listening well.

I use these examples because they are usually easier to comprehend when it comes to relationships… we can each see ourselves in an interaction with another and notice when we contribute to the exchange.

In addition, we are also responsible for our own LIVES… no – we don’t control many of the things that happen but we DO control and need to take responsibility for the way that we respond to our lives. We need to OWN the decisions we make in response to our lives. Each of our actions generates a consequence which, ultimately means that we must own part of the consequence.

Ben and Sally went out for her birthday. Ben bought Sally a bunch of ‘shots’ and Sally got drunk. Sally tells her friend – “Ben got me drunk last night”. Ummm… not really. Unless Ben poured the shots down Sally’s throat… SALLY got herself drunk.

Our decisions, our actions, our behavior – determine how we are viewed in the world… they determine how we think of ourselves and they each become a part of our history… things that stay with us, literally forever. Every action becomes a memory that is imprinted on our soul. So… no wonder we may not ‘want’ to take responsibility. No wonder that we may not want to ‘own’ something that has already happened – something that we don’t necessarily want to be there forever…

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power. If I am a wife blaming my husband for his addictions or blaming the problems in our marriage on his demeanor… I am denying that I have the power for my own decisions… for my own change. I am denying that I have any control over my own life.

What do we need to take responsibility for? We need to take responsibility for our own life… for what happens in it. Did you just get fired? Why? Look at the questions I asked earlier … go through them one by one… could you have done a better job? Could you have been more communicative? Could you have put in more effort? If so… just acknowledge it. Yes –  your boss may have been a dick. The working conditions may have sucked but at the end of the day – it was more than likely the way YOU reacted to it… the way you responded that made the decision.

If my husband is unfaithful, I can blame him for not keeping a promise but I am the one who needs to take responsibility for how I RE-act. Will I be vindictive? Seek to hurt him the way that I am hurt? Will I go deep into the uglies? Some of that will – of course – simply be a human reaction but if I go there – no matter my reaction – no one is putting a gun to my head and telling me how to behave. ANY reaction is one that I will have to OWN. I will have to remember that when I look in the mirror – it will be there with me.

Be aware – constantly aware – of what you are willing to carry with you – for the rest of your life.

If you liked what you read just now, please SHARE it with friends and family by using one of the buttons below (Facebook, Twitter, Email & LinkedIn) and know that I am grateful for your effort.

Also, I love to connect with my readers. Feel free to comment, follow my blog, or connect with me on social media.