01.02.2010

Embracing Choice

Once we realise we can move beyond our limitations, exercising choice gives us freedom and power
Choice is freedom. Choice is power. This is what I constantly tell my counselling clients. Many people feel "stuck" in their lives, relationships, mistakes, the past, problems, beliefs, limitations and so on. Once they realise that, in fact, we all have endless choice to write our own scripts and live our lives the way we want, the world opens up and everything changes.

This topic is perfect at the start of a new year, while we're all grappling with resolutions, plans and goals.

Yasmin Boland, an Australian astrologer, suggests that we make three lists at the start of a new year:

Things we want to let go of from the outgoing yearThings we're grateful for that happened in the previous 12 monthsIntentions for the New Year

These give us a blank canvas, a clean slate upon which to design the life we really want, see our choices, feel our power.

Why do we feel stuck in the first place?

Limitation thinking

We see ourselves and our lives from a narrow perspective, focusing on lack rather than abundance. We concentrate on all the things we can't do instead of the endless possibilities that exist within the most ordinary life.

Labels

As children, we are "labelled" by parents, other relatives, teachers, babysitters and other kinds of authority figures. These limit us and box us into a narrow experience of life. After we grow up, we continue to accept the restrictions of these labels, such as "fat", "stupid", "clumsy", "uncoordinated", "shy" and so on.

Fear

Change is always fearful even for people who embrace adventure. That's why many of us prefer to stay stuck, even while we're moaning about it. It's much easier to stay in our comfort zones. Once we realise that we are, in fact, strong and infinitely powerful, we need to then focus our energies to exercise all the choices that are open to us. How do we harness these?

Financial choice

In our current economic times, risk taking is not a high priority. Many people have been burned in speculative ventures and certainly caution is always recommended but, somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that money is currency; it's meant to move. It's not intended to be hoarded and new age principles teach that wealth accumulation comes from release and trust rather than fear and holding on.

There has to be equity between incoming and outgoing - that much is obvious. Most Westerners are living beyond their means, spending more than they earn, in the process increasing debt continually. This used to be called "buying on the never-never"; these days, we know it as credit cards. As always, balance is the key. Our money supply should be divided up as equally as possible - bills first, then some put away and, finally, "mad" money that's just for fun spending. If all our money is going out in payments, we've assumed too many financial responsibilities; if we focus only on the future, security and retirement, we're not living fully in the now and if we don't enjoy some proportion of our earnings, we become resentful and unhappy.

There are many, many choices when it comes to dispersement of funds, both negative and positive. The negative ones include over-spending, gambling, unwise investments; the positive ones are saving, wise investing, judicious enjoyment of money.

Career

Gone are the days when we would leave school and simply choose a job for life. That gave us security but little room for growth. Young people nowadays take for granted that they work by contract, start off on probation, have to endure continual assessment. I think accountability is good; it ensures that creativity doesn't get lost in the familiarity and sameness of everyday work.

The best part is the wide array of choice. There are so many more options open now for men and women of all ages. Many old restrictions have been lifted. Women can work in industry, men can be career househusbands, everyone can work till they're 80 if they have desire and fitness. Work isn't seen so much as simply income earning, but also fulfilment and even pleasure.

Kahlil Gibran said that, "Work is love made visible." Not everyone experiences their job in that light, unfortunately. To me, eight or more hours a day are too many to spend doing something that is soul-destroying.

There are people who happily accept that they merely work for money and get whatever they can from their workplace, without expecting much. Others identify totally with their jobs, eliciting companionship, self value, mental stimulation, emotional satisfaction and much more. Most fall somewhere in between. Those who really hate going to work, though, should seriously exercising choice. Faith in oneself is always rewarded if it's genuine and unconditional. Conditional faith will never work. We all have the right to enjoy our journeys to the fullest, including how we earn our money. So if you want to try a new job, even if it means relocating or retraining, consider it; don't let fear stop you.

Relationships

Some people seem to have endless choice when it comes to love relationships, because of good looks, personality or charisma. Others take what they can. I would never recommend "settling" for whoever comes along. The scariest part is that choice can be just as negative in relationships as if we were to walk into a room wearing a blindfold and pick a partner, sight unseen. Perhaps that's why arranged marriages have an uncanny way of being successful. It's the motivation behind our relationship choices that holds all the dangers.

Why are we attracted to a particular person? What do we want and expect from relationships in general? What do we think relationships actually are? Relatives, workmates and neighbours, we largely can't choose, but friends and lovers come from a wide array of choice. So, what creates these attachments?

We're attracted for all kinds of unconscious reasons, and because they're unconscious, we aren't aware of them when we go out to meet potential partners. Healthy relationships only develop as a result of conscious choice, from self awareness, maturity and personal growth.

How many of us have all that in our 20s? That might account for the high incidence of divorce in our society. Most people lurch into relationships, armed with only heightened emotion and romantic ideas.

To make positive choices, one needs to approach relationships in a rather more objective light, as clinical as that sounds. Head as much as heart should be engaged. One's relationship pattern needs to be identified and, if destructive, for example, attracting addicts, abusive partners or serial breakups, released and replaced by a better one. That's what I mean about choice creating power - we are not helpless victims of life; we are in charge and can decide what we want, what makes us happy and the people we want to bring in.

Knowing that, relationships around us visibly begin to alter for the better.

Emotions

This is a surprising area for choice. Most people would vehemently affirm that they cannot choose or control their feelings. But, actually, we can. Choice itself is about stepping out of emotion. We can't make clear, positive decisions when we're drowning in a storm of confusing feelings. A good example is jealousy, which is mainly caused by insecurity and lack of trust. Once sufferers realise this, they can actually feel the jealousy rise up, then watch it go by. Emotions are only energy; let them rise, recognise them, then let go.

Here are a list of common emotions and how we might make good choices about them.

Sadness - being sad is fine but we can also decide to feel better.Depression - Not counting clinical illness, if we just feel "blue" sometimes, we can distract ourselves by exercise, spending time in nature or finding a friend.Anger - even if it's "righteous anger", loss of temper is not acceptable. There are positive outlets for rage, hurt feelings and conflict that should be explored.Fear - definitely can be discarded by choice. A life without fear is free and much more comfortable.Doubt - can eat into a person until there's no way to know what's real and what isn't. Trust is crucial for an abundant life. Choose to trust.Hate - often conditioned and learned, therefore can be released by choice.Grief - important to allow it for a natural period of mourning but then we need to choose to grab hold of life again.

The key factor here is that unless we practise choice in regard to emotions, we are slave to them, prisoners of our own making. When negative things happen to us, we have a distinct choice over our reactions. I use Florence Scovel-Shinn's technique of affirming, "This does not move me." I began doing this in 1996 and it's never failed to work. When I say this phrase, a calm comes over me and I no longer feel angry or sad or frustrated, etc; I still have to deal with the unpleasant event, but now my mind is clear and my spirit is calm so it's much easier.

All of life is open to choice. We are not stuck, powerless, weak. We are strong and infinitely powerful, if only we knew it. How many people, after a tragedy, marvel that they got through it? "I didn't know I had such strength", they exclaim. Well, we don't need problems to bring this out. We can call on our inner strength on a daily basis, seeing our choices as we go along and choosing the best ones, the ones that help us to soar and never to fail, make mistakes, yes, but never be defeated. We will always make bad choices sometimes, but with increased knowledge and the desire to live by active choice, we can design our lives as we go, truly creating our own realities.

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