Life is full of them. In fact, many of us fail to exercise our right to make them and that in and of itself is one of the main reasons for unhappiness. Taking responsibility for the fact that we always have choices is probably the biggest obstacle people face. I can hear someone saying to me, “Well, I didn’t have much of a choice when…” Fill in the blank. No, maybe you didn’t, but would you deny the fact that you had a choice in how you responded to whatever it was that happened? And moreover, that you have choices how you will proceed from this point forward?
Many people remain stuck because they refuse to assume the simple but empowering understanding that they are indeed able to choose differently if they so desire. The most important choice is the choice to focus on what we want instead of lamenting over we are experiencing. A typical example I have heard at least 500 times is over relationships. Let’s break it down. If you are in an unhappy relationship you have choices: 1) leave the relationship; or 2) stay in the relationship. If you decide to stay in the relationship you still have choices: 1) focus on how miserable you are; or 2) focus on ways to improve the relationship; or 3) construct a plan to later leave the relationship. See how that works?
The most important choice you will ever make is to manage your mind and emotions.
Read that again. If you think about it, regardless of what’s going on in the world around you, your ability (and choice) to exercise your right to respond in ways that best serve you is the single most important factor. Our responses do not always change circumstances, but they can alter and affect them. However, what’s important is that our mastery over how we respond to the world around us has everything to do with creating the future circumstances we’ll be experiencing.
Let’s look at another example. Say someone wants to double his income. He says he wants it and is determined to make that intention into a reality. Then he dives into a book, for example, tries all the techniques—for five minutes or maybe for a few days—then says something about how he really wants to believe change can happen, but for some reason it’s just not happening for him. Poor puppy. Let’s review.
First off, if he made the choice to change and really meant it, then his critical first step would involve assuming responsibility for all the previous choices in his life that have led him to this very moment. No blame or shame, just cop to it. He made choices—from the people he spent time with to the jobs he took, to the time he wasted watching television, to the choice of focusing on lack instead of solutions. We make a choice when we yell at someone, obsess about a deal that went bad, or talk smack about somebody we know because we’re addicted to gossip.
How many times do you see people on social media immersed in the latest drama, arguing about which politician is the most evil or how infuriated they are about this or that? Choices. How many times have you decided that something someone did is beyond forgiveness? Another choice. How often do you spend time and money on things that will numb you from admitting the choices you have already made are not that fun to live with?
We all do it. Drink and eat too much, shop or gamble more than we can comfortably afford, or not follow through on promises we make to ourselves about any of those things. Even stopping the worst addiction begins with a choice to try.
Science now shows us that we can create new neural pathways that will result in different ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. New thoughts, better moods, more effective actions.
It’s never too late to change your brain or your choices. Make up your mind how you want to live and then work toward creating that reality. Tune in to listen to my guest Thursday, Dr. John B. Arden, one of the pioneers in brain-based therapy and the Director of Training for Kaiser Northern California (click here for show).
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