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Within a sequence of decisions, your most hesitant and vague decision will have the greatest effect on the overall consequences. Alexander Cortes
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« The Conditional Perfect | Main | Don't just catch up -- get ahead! »

It's Your Choice!

One of the abiding themes that I keep coming back to in my writing is that we choose our lives and our circumstances pretty much to fit in with our own unconscious desires and wants. We may often be unaware of our real motivation, but there are always some strong drives which are keeping us where we are. This is not to say that there aren’t circumstances over which we have no control but that in today’s prosperous modern world, as lived in by most of us, we have a much larger degree of control over almost every aspect of our lives than would have been imaginable to previous generations.

When there is something in my life which I want to change I find it is often a good starting point to admit that I chose it to be the way it is in the first place. So for instance if I am heavily in debt, I need to recognise that I am in debt because I have chosen to be in debt.

I said this to a friend of mine and her reply was “But surely there are many people who have no choice over whether to be in debt or not? They have been forced into debt by circumstances.”

She certainly had a point, but she was assuming that I meant that the decision to be in debt is always a bad choice. If someone has a choice between their family starving and being in debt or being homeless and being in debt, then being in debt is probably the best choice there is. But it’s still a choice.

The great thing is that once you have recognised that being in debt is your choice, then you have the freedom to change your choice.

So the first step to changing any life situation is to accept that you have chosen it:

“I am in debt because I have chosen to be in debt”

“My relationship is a disaster because I have chosen that it should be a disaster”

“My house is untidy because I have chosen that it should be untidy”

“I am overweight because I have chosen to be overweight”

Even in situations over which we seem to have no control, if we are honest with ourselves there are often many factors we have contributed ourselves. So if we are ill, we may have been leading an unhealthy life style. If we have a car accident it may be that we drive too fast or didn’t maintain the vehicle properly or weren’t paying attention, and so on. It helps to remember that the reason we are exploring our contribution is not so that we can make ourselves feel guilty but to help us to regain our power over the situation.

Now it’s a bit too big a jump for most of us to go straight from saying “I am in debt because I have chosen to be in debt” to saying “I am free of debt because I choose to be free of debt.”

No, with this sort of problem we need to sneak up on it a bit!

A good place to start is to look at why we chose to be in debt (or whatever) in the first place. To do this, write down the choice you made and then think up as many reasons as you can for having made it. Like this:

“I have chosen to be in debt because:

It was either that or not going on holiday this year

I don’t want to wait until I have enough money before enjoying the good things of life

Budgeting is too much like hard work

I hate doing the accounts

When I get depressed buying things makes me feel better

Credit cards make things so easy

Most of my income seems to go on taxation and the mortgage

etc. etc.”

Now we can try an exercise to see what it would take not to be in debt.

But wait a moment! This is usually the point at which our minds start rebelling. We have probably got strong resistance to the idea of getting out of debt (or whatever issue we are trying to resolve). Our minds are not going to let go of something so easily – after all we spend a lot of time and effort getting where we are!

A good way to switch off our rebellious mindset is to reassure it by saying something like: “I’m not planning to make the effort to get out of debt now, but if I did choose to I would….” Then think up as many endings as you can. Like this:

“I’m not planning to make the effort to get out of debt now, but if I did choose to I would:

  • Draw up a list of how much I owe now
  • Work out a budget
  • Keep a record of my expenditure during the day
  • Cut up my credit cards
  • Start saving something every week
  • See a debt counsellor

etc etc”

Once you’ve done this exercise, you may well discover that choosing to become clear of debt (or whatever your aim is) is not quite as terrifying as you thought.
In fact you could even decide to put the plan into operation.

Whether you do or you don’t … it’s your choice!

Reader Comments (5)

Dear Mark

My jaw is sitting in my lap! This is positively brilliant! Once again you provide us with a highly effective tool (in this case: insight) to improve both ourselves and the quality of our time here on this planet. Yet again, I bow to the Master! Thank you.....I'm going to use this again and again in conjuction with my journaling and see where it takes me. Thank you so much for this powerful tool.
March 8, 2007 at 12:45 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
"Even in situations over which we seem to have no control, if we are honest with ourselves there are often many factors we have contributed ourselves. So if we are ill, we may have been leading an unhealthy life style."

As a doctor I have to disagree if this is a general rule. Many people, and those who have the most difficult diseases, inherited them. Many others who take great can't avoid serious diseases. And it is an additional burden to say they are responsible for their condition.

But I understand your point and I refer to a samll portion of patients. Among those who are in debt few have done everything to avoid it and it is true.

Thanks for suggesting this trick.
March 8, 2007 at 18:55 | Unregistered CommenterRose
Hi, Rose

Well, what I said was that there are often many factors which we have contributed ourselves, not that we are entirely responsible for our condition.

My aim is to help people take responsibility for what they *can* control, not make them feel guilty for what they can't.

March 8, 2007 at 19:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark....fear not......I am quite disabled on many fronts, and not for one second, did I interpret this to conjure up guilt. Instead, I took it as a tool to INCREASE my power by learning how to take responsibility for myself in ways that I can, disabilities not withstanding. True, I still find myself cursing my pain and my permanent losses. But after reading your article, I've come to realize that I'm ADDING TO MY PAIN by focusing on who I was versus who I am now. Even with pain and brain injuries, I can apply your message to improve the quality of my existence in many ways.....the first step being to pay more attention to where I'm putting my focus. Instead of mourning my "glory days" and cursing my limitations and pain, your article leads me to focus on what I can do to still carve out the best circumstances life allows me. My self-pity and maudlin thoughts are a waste of time and I can certainly refocus my mind toward better choices in both my thinking and doing what I can to feel as accomplished as I can manage when I look back on myself. I thank you so much for giving me this tool that gives me the power to learn how to reclaim some of my power, my pride and a more hopeful future. Notice that guilt nor hopelessness 't fit here? I thank you for that
March 8, 2007 at 22:08 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
To celebrate "The Path to Awesomeness" (TPTA) being published I have resurrected this article, the first in the book. for anyone wishing to discuss it further.

I'll start.

"I have chosen to allow my time to be filled with a job that do not bring me joy"

"I have chosen to not look at the reasons for that"

"I'm not planning to find a job I'd enjoy right now, but if I did..."
October 19, 2013 at 22:12 | Unregistered Commentermichael

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