Sometimes life can feel like you’ve been backed into a corner with no exit route. It’s as if all options have been stripped away and you’ve no choice but to accept what’s been dished out. As the old saying goes ‘You made your bed, you lie in it’, right?
Maybe it’s just me, but I have some issues with that. I don’t know how many times I got told to ‘just suck it up’ whenever I expressed my dislike of having my back to the wall without a choice. Dutifully, I’d shut my mouth and keep pushing on, figuring there must be something ‘wrong’ with my mental approach to the situation. It seemed like other people were coping with it and were okay with ‘sucking it up’. But again and again I’d come to the same point of feeling I was a slave to my lifestyle. I felt hemmed in, and I wasn’t happy. I was sure there had to be another way. But I didn’t know where to find it.
Then, at a conference in Melbourne, I listened to a speaker talk about choices. He said that everything is a choice. We all get to where we are because of choices we’ve made along the way. If something isn’t as you’d like it to be, what choices did you make to get there? What choices can you make to change it?
When I first heard this, I resisted it. How can my situation be the result of my choices? It’s happening to me. I’ve been pushed into a corner by others. There’s nothing I can do to change this; I have no choice but to go along with the culture of the environment I work in and ‘suck it up’.
But, what if this guy was on to something? What if I did have a choice?
What if your current situation of feeling stuck, in a rut, on life’s treadmill…is actually a result of your choices?
Knowing you have a choice can be an empowering and strong motivator, yet so often you’re not aware of the choices you’ve made or the opportunities available to you. When you feel stuck it can be difficult to see and own the choices you made to get to that point. When you’re so used to life being a certain way, you often don’t think to look for alternatives.
Believing there are no options available to me, it’s useless, there’s no way out of this, I can’t, I won’t, it’s too hard, or nothing will change – are all choices of how to view the world. They are all beliefs that choose to focus on ‘I can’t’, instead of ‘I could’. Where you focus is your choice. What you do next in your life is your choice.
When going through change, awareness that you have a choice can be a game-changer. Believe it or not, you don’t have to do what others say just to keep the status quo. It’s a choice.
But what about accidents and the unexpected (I hear you say) – they don’t happen by choice!
Accidents happen. There are always life events you can never plan for. No one chooses to be involved in a car crash or lose their property in a bush fire. Choice in these moments comes in how you respond to it. Do you give yourself time to heal emotionally and physically? Do you push on and sort out the practical aspects and shelve the emotion to deal with later? Do you look after everyone else and make sure they’re okay? I’m not saying any of these choices are right or wrong; we all do the best we can with what’s available to us at the time. The important thing is to own that each of these actions is a choice.
If your response to a situation isn’t turning out how you’d like it to, do you push on regardless, or do you consider what other choices might be available? Have you ever considered there may be a different way to respond?
As Einstein is often quoted as saying, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’. In your current situation, what result are you looking for? What other choices do you have?
As you learn, be kind to yourself.
As you become aware of choices you’ve made to get to where you don’t want to be, don’t beat yourself up with regrets. Be kind to yourself. You did the best you could at the time, and you’ll do the best you can now. Look at the options around you and choose what you’d like to do next. What choices will help you experience the results you want?
And if that choice doesn’t bring you a step closer to your goal, then you have the choice to do something else. Over and over again you can make a different choice.
Create your own fork in the road – you don’t have to wait for someone else to make it for you.
After the conference in Melbourne where I first heard about choices (and resisted the concept!), I returned to my public service job in Canberra where the full impact of choices finally hit home. I was in a management role that was pretty full on and night after night I found myself staying back at work for an extra hour or two to get stuff done. It was disheartening to see others pack up at 4, 4.30, or 5pm, and go home. I could feel myself becoming resentful when I would wish them good night and ‘see you tomorrow’. How come they get to go home when I have to stay here?
Then I realised it was a choice. Da-na – light-bulb moment! It was a choice! I chose to stay and work. I didn’t have to do it. No one was making me work longer. I wasn’t getting extra pay to stay. My management level meant I didn’t accrue flex-time, I was never going to get this extra work time ‘paid back’ to me in time off. What was I doing here? It was a choice. I chose to be here. Wow. The flood lights went on, and suddenly I saw the situation from a whole different perspective.
By owning it as a choice, I became aware that sometimes I worked back because it was quiet time for me to get stuff done without interruption – and I actually enjoyed it. Other times I was staying back out of habit, or out of some sense of obligation that because of my role I needed to be doing extra work. I wrote myself a note and stuck it near my desk: “If I stay late and work my butt off, it’s my choice”. It was a personal reminder not to grumble about it – it was my choice. After this I felt better about the hours I was working, and I didn’t always stay late. When I did stay, it was a conscious choice, and I was more productive because of it!
How have the choices you’ve made influenced your life?
What options are available to you – to make a different choice and go down a different path?
How would your life change if you did?
It's something to think about...
Take care, and choose to have a great week!
Life experience has taught me a lot about change - its messiness and my desire to circumnavigate it in a more efficient way. In this blog I share my experience so you too can survive change with a smile on your face!