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
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
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!