☐ I believe FATE determines what happens in my life.
☐ I believe my life is a result of the CHOICES I make.
☐ I believe my life is a result of FATE and my CHOICES.
☐ I believe it is too early in the day/my life to answer
Each of us has beliefs about the role personal choice plays in shaping our lives. We may believe that we are born with our fate firmly sealed, or we may believe that we choose everything including our parents and our fate(!). We may have beliefs around making the right choices in order to belong/ to be good/ to be successful/ to be fulfilled. We may think that we have made uniquely personal life choices only to discover we are following in the footsteps of our parents or our generation. We may be somewhat aware when we make unconscious choices, but only after finding ourselves in the same situation again and again.
It does seem that the human story is one of ever expanding choices. For most of us reading this essay our options are greater in number and degree than those of our grandparents. This is in part due to our growing personal awareness of who we are as individuals. It also stems from the liberalization of societies over time, such as the myriad of opportunities for women now versus then. Technological developments—from the washing machine, to cars, to computers—have also contributed to our sense of expanding possibilities.
Amidst our current cacophony of options, we may lose sight of the some of the less obvious or conscious choices in our lives. Especially when we feel stuck or dissatisfied, it can be helpful to reframe what is happening in terms of the choices we are actually making. For example:
I am choosing to stay in a job that is unfulfilling. I am choosing to be fearful
that I will not be able to find a better job.
I am choosing not to exercise. I am choosing to make work and caring for
my children a priority over maintaining my health.
I am choosing to spend more money than I have. I am choosing to use
my discretionary cash on things that make me happy in the moment.
Stating your situation this way may help reveal some of the assumptions and deeper truths involved. It also shifts the energy from one that is fatalistic or unconscious, to one that is conscious, and potentially more empowering and creative. For example:
I choose to see my current job as a good solution to my
situation for now.
I choose to find ways to care for my children that include
I choose to find enjoyment day to day in ways that don't
involve spending as much money.
While it often feels like we cannot control what happens around us, we can choose where we stand with it, including how we feel and think about it.
One time a friend of ours was beaten up by a random person on the street. Afterwards he expressed concern for the person who had, for no apparent reason, lashed out at him. While he certainly didn't think he chose what happened to him (and some might even argue with that), our friend did choose to feel compassion for his attacker in that moment.
There is such a thing as choice fatigue; making choices does drain us. This is why President Obama lets others decide what he will eat and wear on a given day so that he can focus on the really big choices he has to make, like which road leads to peace in the Middle East.
We suggest you assume a presidential stance to choices as well, and as often as possible focus on the most significant issues in your life while setting up good defaults for the less significant stuff. If that means meatloaf on Monday, the blue suit on Tuesday, and your partner decides what movie to watch tonight, so be it. You've got important choices to make, like how to create the good life for yourself in the coming year.
What choices are you ready to review? What new choices you would like to make in 2015? Brainstorm answers to the following statement:
In 2015 I choose to ...
Now look over your list and select those answers which reflect what is most important to you.
The next time you are feeling stuck or dissatisfied, write out statements that express the situation in terms of the choices you are making. What are possible alternatives? Check out our essay "Dancing on Down the Road" to read more about your options.
Sending you best wishes for a choiceful New Year filled with lots of ...
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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