There are some things we don’t have a choice about.
We didn’t choose our mom or our dad. We didn’t choose any of our blood relatives.
We didn’t choose the town we grew up in.
We didn’t choose the color of our skin or the color of our hair or the genetics that determined our general physical structure.
But we always have a choice in the way we respond to each one of those things above, especially if you’re old enough to be reading a blog post like this one on the internet.
You’re not an 11 or 12 year old still stuck in a horrible home situation. You’re not a 3 year old born into poverty in a third world country.*
If you’re reading this particular post, you must be wealthy enough to have a smart phone, computer, or tablet. You’re smart enough to read words on a page. You have plenty of freedom to access the internet.
My assumption, then, is that you’re doing okay for yourself.
Generally, speaking you have a lot of choices.
You Choose Every Response
I have six year old twin boys and an eight year old daughter. One of the biggest lessons I try to teach them is that they have choices regarding the way they respond to things that happen to them.
At least once a week, one of them will encounter some situation that overwhelms their little emotions and brings a variation on this theme: “I can’t stop crying! I can’t! I can’t!”
Then they might hit the couch a few times or otherwise act out with the excuse that they simply can’t help it.
I do my best to cry “bullcrap” on these little outbursts (in a sweet, gentle fatherly way, of course). When I first became a Dad, I was unaware that one of my chief roles as papa bear is to teach baby bears how to make good choices in how they respond to their emotions.
In so learning, I’ve discovered that this guy (two thumbs pointing back at the blogger writing this piece) also needs to be more intentional about every response I have to emotional input.
Human Americans struggle with emotional bad habits. We assume it is our God-given right to behave poorly when something touches off anger, frustration, sadness, or envy. Consequently, choosing negative responses has become such a bad habit that we mistake these choices as inevitable.
But we do have choices in the way we respond to emotional situations. We just need to realize it and start empowering ourselves.
This is lesson one about choice: We can all choose the way we respond to things that come our way.
If we ever say the words, “I didn’t have a choice in how I acted”, we have to ask ourselves if that was really the case.
[Tweet “If you say “I didn’t have a choice in how I acted” you owe it to yourself to confirm whether that’s true.”]
You Choose Your Decisions
People often feel squeezed when circumstances are stressful. Finances get you down and you choose bankruptcy over doubling down and working your way out of a hole.
You choose an unreasonable car lease because ‘you have no choice and need a car.’
You choose to pay too much for a house because ‘I had no choice because I have to keep up with my buddies on Facebook.’
Those are all false constructions about our lack of choice. While the statement “I had no choice” appears to let us off the hook, it, in truth, further enslaves us. It jails us. It restricts us. We rob ourselves of the power we have in our lives.
This is lesson two about choice: We choose these types of decisions. And these decisions, over time, form our character.
You Can’t Choose What Others Do, But You CAN (and do) Choose Every Response and Every Decision
It might not feel like you have any choice over your responses, but you do. Some responses are so ingrained and habitual that it will take a lot of work to pull yourself out of the vortex of your tendencies.
And we also make most of our decisions from a position of power – from a position of choice. We very, very seldom are so backed into a corner that we have no choice in the decisions we make. Consider very carefully before you make a decision in such a way that says “I had to do it this way…. I had no choice.”
It’s empowering and freeing to choose how you will handle the good, the bad, and the stressful that inevitably will come your way.
[Tweet “It’s empowering to have the freedom to choose how we handle the stressful things that come our way.”]
*I do realize that some come from supremely horrible backgrounds. Many of us have been inspired by individuals who have come from such backgrounds and made use of their ability to make choices to pull themselves out of those background against all odds. Sometimes, those of us who were coddled have a harder time choosing greatness than those who are running from the very opposite of greatness in their personal histories. It’s not easy to make choices, but it’s vital we learn how to do it, regardless of our circumstances.