November 16, 2009

Let’s Talk About Choices

You always do what you want to do. This is true with every act. You may say that you had to do something, or that you were forced to, but actually, whatever you do, you do by choice. Only you have the power to choose for yourself. — W. Clement Stone


Some people like to talk about music. Some about sports. Some like to talk about food and drink.

I like to talk about choices. That is my choice, right?

Someone made an interesting comment to me last week about a situation with which he has been struggling. He’s stuck, he insists, in a job he hates from which he can see no escape. His wife has chronic medical problems, and the cost of treatments is eating away their savings.

When I asked him what he really wanted to be doing, he shrugged and said, “What difference does it make? With the situation I’m in, I have no choice.”

Really. What would you say to such a statement? Pause for a moment. Imagine what his life must be like and ask yourself whether what he said is true. Perhaps you’re even feeling that way about your own life situation.

Fair enough. Let’s dive in and look at his no-choice scenario.

Black + White = Nowhere

If you’ve been reading my articles for awhile, you can probably figure out where I stand on the no-choice scenario.

It does not exist. There is no such thing as a no-choice scenario.

When you believe you have no choices in any situation, you are choosing to believe a story. Like the man who says he’s stuck in a job because he has no choice, when you choose to believe in the no-choice scenario you are choosing to close all options.

What you’re really talking about is victimhood.

Can you see that? Can you feel it in your belly? When I choose victimhood I can no longer see the choices from the trees. It’s like closing my eyes in front of an oncoming train. “I have to stand here. I have no choice.”

Choices are not black and white. There is always a spectrum of choices available. Truth be told, there is never single “right” choice in most of the situations we encounter in this life. Every time you make a choice, a host of new possibilities and options arise that did not exist before.

That’s the key to unlocking a more creative way of living.

When Seemingly Stuck, Shift Perspective

Let’s go back to the man who’s convinced he has no choice but to remain in his job. The choice he’s really making is to stay in his job and endure the conditions he’s facing now. Assume for the moment that quickly finding another job of equivalent pay and benefits is an option that is unavailable to him. What else might he do?

If he shifted his way of looking at the situation he might discover there are more options available than he realizes. For instance, he could seek a transfer to another location where the climate might be more suitable to his wife’s condition.

Even better, he might negotiate with his boss to allow him to work remotely. His job doesn’t require his physical presence — what if he could move to a warmer, drier location and do his job from there? He might even be able to lower his cost of living at the same time, freeing up more income to pay doctor bills.

He could even negotiate the ability to simply work from his current home three or four days a week. Even that single change would make a profound difference in his quality of life.

Who knows what he might come up with once he started thinking from a whole new perspective and enlisting the help of others to identify options?

It’s all a matter of how he chooses to look at the situation.

“But My Situation Is Completely Different”

No, it isn’t. No matter where you believe you’re stuck in your life, you have far more options to explore. you merely decided there can be no other options because you’ve declared yourself stuck.

The only thing stuck is your creative mind.

I want you to think long and hard about “stuckness.” If you stare at it long enough you’ll discover that the thing blocking you is the mental equivalent of a Japanese door. It’s make of paper. Slide it out of the way or punch right through it if you’d rather.

Never buy into the stuck-ness of the no-choice scenario.

Questions for Getting Unstuck

Only inertia and a refusal to think creatively are stopping you from taking another tack. Start by learning to ask yourself bigger questions such as:

  • What choices might I have if I looked at the boundaries of my situation as though there were movable?
  • What choices might I have if I believed I could not fail in any destructive way?
  • What options would I have if I had the ability to renegotiate my own reality?
  • What are the constraints that seem to be limiting me now? What would my choices look like if I changed the parameters of those constraints?
  • What makes me believe my choices are limited? How do I know that is true? What useful actions might I take to change what I believe is true?

Don’t let yourself off the hook on this the way my associate is doing in his life.

Ask the big questions.

Then choose.

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