The power of choice is the greatest freedom we have. Some research suggests that we make 35,000 choices a day. That’s a lot of choices. Heck, even if the research grossly overestimates the frequency of choice-making? 1,000 choices a day sounds like a whole lotta opportunity.
Our thoughts, mindset and inner dialogue can either torture us or liberate us. Your mind is your tool to use as you see fit. Although your life situation may have limitations, your freedom to choose your thoughts and habits is where the real freedom lies.
A word about life situation
In my experience, folks often overlook this incredible tool, the power of choice. They may say things like:
- I can’t be happy because my boss is mean.
- I have no personal freedoms because I’m in prison.
- My life is hard because I have a disability.
- I can’t control my stress levels because I have an insanely busy life.
- People hurt my feelings and make me upset.
- I’d finally be happy if only I had more money.
- I can’t lose weight because I don’t have time to cook.
You get the idea. All the reasons we cite for why our life, our happiness, our relationships are subpar. We link our feelings of satisfaction to our life situation. Yet.
Some people with mean bosses are happy people. Some people with great bosses are miserable people. There are prison inmates who’ve learned that their environment doesn’t have to dictate their mental state. There are non-inmates that ignore their personal freedoms. I have friends with disabilities that are happy, and some that are unhappy. And people hurting our feelings? That’s untrue. People say or do things, and we make a choice as to whether we’ll feel hurt or not.
Big and little choices
It’s clear to most of us that big choices matter. If you choose to buy a house in city X instead of city Y, you’re aware that your life may unfold differently. But what about little choices? Which we apparently make 35,000 of a day?
Today my alarm went off and I chose to hit snooze. Twice. Instead of reading the doom-and-gloom news, I meditated. When I ate breakfast, I chose eggs and veggies. When I got dressed, I put on a sequined top and a tiara. (Kidding) When someone questioned a decision I made, I chose to get defensive. When I was speaking with my daughter about an issue she’s having, I chose to ignore my phone notifications. I drove to a meeting and took the highway instead of back roads. This led me to decide to listen to a podcast. I chose something upbeat instead of snarky.
At each moment, I exercise my power of choice. These seem like little choices. But are they?
When I listen to my daughter with rapt attention, putting her first, does this affect the fabric of her trust in me? Maybe. When I hit the snooze button twice and put myself behind schedule, might I be setting the theme for my day as behind-and-stressful? Likely. When I choose eggs instead of a bagel, does this affect the health of my biochemistry? Yes.
Each choice instructs how our little life unfolds. But there’s more.
Power of choice: The big kahuna
Many of the choices in our day are physical, tactical choices. Our power of choice affecting our physical world. It’s estimated that we make 200 choices a day about food, alone! Yet, in my humble estimation, this isn’t actually where the most influential power of choice shines. It’s not the big kahuna.
The big kahuna is how we use our mind. Our habits, our responses, our perspective. And this is also where we have the most freedom.
Maybe my friend bags out last minute on something I was looking forward to. I may be disappointed and a bit miffed. And I can choose how I think about it. I can be pissed off and resentful. Or I can move on and do something else enjoyable.
When I have a pile of dishes to do, do I approach it as drudgery? Or do I hum to myself and enjoy the fact that I have running water, dishes and a safe home?
If I’m sitting in jail with very few physical personal freedoms, what’s my inner dialogue? Am I thinking of all the ways I’ve been wronged and unlucky, scheming about how to retaliate the second my sentence is over? Or do I attend the meditation trainings offered and learn to quiet my mind? Do I choose hateful thoughts? Or do I decide that I’m going to start training for heartfelt thoughts and action right here in prison?
Applying the power of choice
The power of choice, like many worthwhile learnings, has a twist. It can be deceptively easy to talk about and much harder to put into action, with intention. Why? Because we’ve developed habits of thinking.
“Holy crap! My girlfriend dumping me DEFinitely hurt my feelings. She’s a bleepity-bleep.”
When someone says, “People are always hurting my feelings,” this becomes a belief. It requires effort to free themselves from their habits of thought and choose something different. A great way to start is a simple question.
When telling ourselves a story about why our life is so hard, or that happiness is impossible or that we got a raw deal, we can catch ourselves. We can get curious about what we tell ourselves. Maybe we ask, “Is that true?”
- People hurt my feelings. => Is that true?
- I can’t be happy because my boss is mean. => Is that true?
- I don’t have time to eat well for health and weight loss. => Is that true?
- He ruined my life. => Is that true?
Spoiler alert. It’s rarely true. It’s our MIND…HOW we think about things that trips us up. The power of choice in the way we think is the secret sauce. For happiness, good relationships, and liberating ourselves from mental/emotional anguish. In situations where “Is this true” doesn’t fit, you might try, “Is this the experience I want to create?”
We create our experience with our mind. The power of mental choice is always there. Are you ready to change your perspective? It’s only a choice away.
To your empowered well-being,