The Power To Choose
This has been written before. It’s been said before. At some point in the past and at some point in the future, a high energy guru has stood up on stage (or will), sweaty and emotional, and yelled about this concept to all of the people who paid $3,000+ to attend their mega conference.
This is not a new concept.
And I am not a guru.
And it doesn’t require a mega conference.
But I have been digging into this more and more lately, and I’d like to share my perspective and what I’ve been learning on the topic. Maybe you’ll hear and see some things that you might not be able to at the techno bumping laser show going on in conjunction with the mega conference.
The Power to Choose, I’m coming to believe, may just be the most basic and most important of things that all humans have. When everything else is stripped away; wealth, looks, job status, geographic location, age, gender, etc., The Power to Choose remains, and it exists for everyone.
I’m not here to argue about equality and inequality or an imbalance of power, or how one type of person (male, female, white, black, good looking, not so good looking, rich, poor) has an advantage or disadvantage over the other. Other people are spending their time doing that, in other articles, and they shouldn’t be too hard to find if that’s an important place for you to spend your time.
The Power to Choose exists within, among, and regardless of any type of characterization or classification. And I’m coming to believe that it is perhaps the most powerful and meaningful thing we have in our lives.
(Almost?) everything we do comes down to choice. Maybe not in the moment, but foundationally and for the future, there was and there exists a choice. For example, while at this very moment, you may not have any other choice but to go to work, but at some point you chose that job. And there exists a choice surrounding whether you continue that job or whether you work to pursue a different job.
“Well, there are no jobs out there, or people won’t hire me because I’m_______”
Like it or not, this too, is a choice. We’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s stay as close to concrete as we can with the job example.
So we then can choose whether we are willing to work on a new skill or not. We can choose whether we are willing to network new relationships or not. We can choose whether to save up enough money to allow us to step away from this job as we search for another or not.
We can choose to ask for a raise or not. We can choose to get up early or stay up late to do the things necessary to improve our situation or not. We can choose to change our perspectives around the current job or not.
Everyone doesn’t have the same choices. But generally speaking, everyone has choices.
AND…everyone, at some point, will argue that they don’t.
From the wealthiest executive, to the school teacher, to the single mother who is barely scraping by. At some point of frustration, or wit’s end, or financial struggle, or extreme stress, we believe that we don’t have a choice.
We are stuck.
I HAVE to go to the meeting. I HAVE to keep this job. I HAVE to say yes. I HAVE to say no.
Seth Godin says (and I’m paraphrasing) “Problems have solutions, that’s why they’re called problems. If it doesn’t have a solution, it’s not a problem, it’s an unavoidable conflict (meaning, either it can’t be changed or we’ve decided we aren’t willing to change it). And if it’s not a problem, and we can’t solve it, then we can acknowledge that and start spending our energy on problems that can be solved.”
There may be things that can’t be changed at this moment. You may actually HAVE to keep the job. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t choices surrounding that situation that exist. You can choose how you view the job. You can choose how you show up to the job. You can choose whether or not you allow yourself to be abused by your job. You can choose whether or not you start to prepare for a new, better job.
Choices can range from the concrete decisions we make - like where to move, what job to take, who to marry or stay married to, and what we say yes and no to - to the more abstract, if you will, like how we choose to interpret things, how we choose to see things, and how we choose to think about things.
I was riding home the other day and on the other side of the road, traffic was at a near standstill. It didn’t affect me at all, but I felt badly for everyone who was stuck in it on the other side. Where I live, there are a couple of bridges that connect one area to the other, and so as I crossed over one of the bridges and looked to my left, there were cars just sitting and waiting for things to clear up ahead of them.
Then, I noticed some movement. There was a motorcycle riding right near the edge of the bridge, zooming past all of the cars. All of those poor souls had to sit and wait while this jerk was skipping in line.
Thought 1: Why am I so mad about that?
Thought 2: It’s not fair, that he gets to skip in line, and they have to wait!
Thought 3: Why do I care so much about them having to wait, and him not?
Thought 4: It’s not fair!
Thought 5: Well, it’s not like him going ahead of them makes them have to wait more, is it?
Thought 6: It’s ridiculous for me to be upset about something like this.
Thought 7: Also, if I don’t want to get stuck in traffic, and want to have the ability to zoom around people, I could always choose to get a motorcycle. That guy made a choice to get a motorcycle, and now he gets to choose to skip the line. Everyone else made a choice to get a car, and now they have to stay right where they are and wait.
This was a real conversation that I had with myself, and while it may not seem like it, it was actually a very simple, yet meaningful reminder about the power of our thoughts and the power of choice.
We may not have a choice in everything in every moment. But The Power of Choice is real, and it exists for all of us. I’m not trying to be funny about this, but you can choose whether to believe in choice or not. It’s your choice.
I’m coming to believe that the people who choose to believe The Power of Choice, who choose to believe that they have that authority and opportunity in their life, they are the ones who are more happy and less angry. They get more of what they want and less of what they don’t want. And when they are in the midst of s struggle they are able to work through it more quickly and with less pain.
Important note, as a reminder, I am not a guru and we are not here walking on hot coals and screaming, “YES!!” to every question yelled at us from on stage. I am not saying The Power of Choice means no pain, no struggle, no anger, all the happiness, all the money, all the freedom, or all the wants. But The Power of Choice is the most powerful and most meaningful thing we have.
We can choose our faith, we can choose our values, we can choose what to do with the thoughts we have, we can choose the story we tell ourselves, we can choose to complain or compete, and we can choose how, where, and when to take action.
Think about the POWER of being able to decide whether or not you are going to be angry, whether or not you are going to put up with it, whether or not you are going to stay where you are or move forward.
It’s empowering, but it can also be scary. When we commit to The Power of Choice we eliminate most of the people and scenarios we normally like to blame. If we choose this path the responsibility, and power lies with us and us alone.
Can you live with that?
I’m pulling for you.