There is always a choice – how to see your way through the fog
We can’t always see a way out. The situation we are in feels fixed, limiting, and claustrophobic. We wonder how we managed to get ourselves into this mess and spend way too much energy obsessing about how wrong, stupid and thoughtless our decisions were.
How many times have you found yourself in this kind of situation?
“I’ve been working in this industry for years now, so I don’t really have a choice”. “I’ve got responsibilities now, so I don’t have a choice”. “I’m cash-strapped now, so I don’t have a choice”.
When we operate from this space, what we are really saying is that life happens to us.
It just happens. Our jobs choose us. Our less-than-satisfying relationships choose us. Our environments choose us.
But the truth is that we had a far, far more active role in where we end up.
Where we end up is never because things “just happen”. Nor is where we end up based on a single misguided decision. How our lives look today is the result of many, many choices that we have made along the way. Maybe it’s the one too many times we chose to keep quiet about an anger that has us now sitting in a bed of resentment with no ability to see a peaceful outcome. Perhaps it’s saying yes all those times we really, really wanted to say no, which has turned our lives into a wave of endless obligation.
And then we decide to suffer some more.
We carry those past choices with us like a big bag of heaviness and resignation. Day after day we blame the poor choices of the past and use them as an excuse for a lack of choice in our future. We stay in jobs, homes, and relationships because we feel we feel that the decision is made and now we don’t have a choice.
Well it’s time to own up.
It’s time to stop blaming our circumstances. And it’s definitely time to start making different choices.
A short while ago, I chose to change my life. I made the brave leap from flying solo to the comfort and care of an amazing new relationship. We moved in together and at the same time as struggling through the dynamics of a child in my space, I chose to leave behind a lucrative consulting career.
I freaked out. I questioned my decision. I longed for my previous life. And oh boy, did I feel stuck. I believed that we had acted too hastily, that the decision I had made was wrong, and even worse, that it was permanent. It was easy to look at the past and be accountable for the choice I had made. It was easy to do this because it allowed me to lambast myself with blame and regret. We tend to be pretty good at the stuff that makes us feel worse.
What I hadn’t recognized, however, was that the decisions for which I was responsible, also applied to future decisions.
There were future choices still to be made. Nothing is stuck, unchangeable, forever. Nothing can’t be adapted, relooked or undone. And realising this changed everything.
I looked at the situation and worked my way through the options. I could move out. I could get a full-time job. I could move in with my sister. I could close my practice for a few months whilst I got on my feet. And no, none of these options were desirable options at all. I wasn’t exactly looking at them and burning with anticipation at the start of a new life.
But they were options. And realizing that they existed is what changed absolutely everything.
I wasn’t stuck. I didn’t have ‘nowhere’ to go. I had a personal choice in how my future unfolded.
When I realized this, the energy changed.
I stopped fighting myself and arguing with the choices I had made. I settled in to the new life I had built for myself and embraced the possibility of change. The fear lifted and sense of stuckness melted away.
There is always a choice. Always.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you feel stuck:
- How could I make this situation workable, if I really, really wanted to?
- For every aspect of my situation that feels unchangeable, can I find at least 1 alternative? E.g. I could find a 2nd
- What would I be prepared to let go of in order to bring about that change?
- What is the worst-case scenario of making this choice? And if that becomes my new situation, then what? E.g. I wouldn’t have anywhere to stay. But I could put my things in storage and rent an apartment in the meantime.
By asking yourselves these questions, you open yourself up to different possibilities and you can start to start recognise that there are always other options.
They might not be alternatives that you end up choosing, but they exist. And everything thereafter is about the choice you make. The choice you make.
By thinking through the story as it could potentially unfold, we are then able to translate the imagined fear and all the emotion associated with it into nothing more than a series of events. No drama or emotion. Just an unfolding of events. Perfect? Perhaps not. But possible? Definitely.