I had no choice.
How many times have you told yourself that over the course of your life? If I’ve said it once, well, you know the rest… Until, I came to a powerful realization in my life. It’s not true. You always have a choice. Always.
Well, obviously, you might be saying. Those who say they don’t have a choice are really saying that they just don’t like the choices that they have. They are lamenting the limited choices they’re being presented with. Possibly… But, I’d like to suggest that even that is a lie. Well, at least a popular misconception.
Parents agonize over where to send their kids to school because they want to give them the power to choose what they want to do in their life. But, what if that, in and of itself, is a false choice? I ask that because we don’t have to seek a path that gives us the most choices. We don’t have to because the power of choice already belongs to us. We are actually born with this knowledge, yet we have it pummeled out of us by society, our parents, heck, everyone.
Today’s millenials are growing up with so many choices, it’s entirely possible that they’ve been paralyzed by the sheer volume. My youth seemed so far removed from that life! Who remembers when there were only 4 broadcast TV stations to watch? Now there are nearly 700 — and that’s just on cable! My daughter, at 5 years of age, has a smorgasbord of options when it comes to watching entertainment. She can choose between Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube Kids, my iPhone or my wife’s, her iPad, my Macbook (we’re a Mac family if you can’t tell!), or even On-Demand on the TV — which incidentally is always her last choice! If she can’t decide, she can always entertain herself by simply browsing through the endless menus!
It’s never occurred to her that choice is limited. But, every so often I hear the familar song that all kids eventually sing. “Daddy, I’m bored!” I think that’s how you know that your child’s “Choice-ometer” is broken. Because she’s saying she now wants to be entertained, and she wants to surrender her power of choice to someone else, instead of choosing her imagination to create the possibilites.
I now believe that choice is the most powerful gift we’ve been given. It is literally the key to the universe. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky fairy tale idea. I mean that literally recognizing your power to choose how you live and conduct your life will open up an infinite amount of possibilites for you. But, the opposite is also true. By accepting that there are only finite choices at your disposal you are closing off yourself from those possibilities. Again, this may seem like common knowledge to many of you. Choice is not given by the permission of others. Choice is yours, and you have the power to make the decisions to live the life you want to live.
Yet, I ask, how many times have you made a decision based upon the premise that there really was no other decision to be made? How many bills have you paid because the pressure was on, instead of standing back and saying, “No, I’m going to go a different way on this one!” How many “Yeses” that could have been “Nos” or “Waits” or “Only under these conditions.” How many times did you feel backed into a corner in your life, in a relationship, at a job, heck, even at a restaurant?
What if you just said, “This relationship is over”, or “I quit” or “I know it’s not on the menu, but could you just make that into a sandwich?” How empowered would you feel if you could take the limited number of options presented to you and simply create your own? What if I told you that that is absolutely within your realm of control? Even when you’re out of options, recognizing your power to choose one rather than accept that it’s being forced upon you is life changing!
One of the most powerful things we do at IconStatus is to empower our clients by presenting them with a wealth of choices. Many businesses limit their marketing or communications because they simply don’t realize the options at their disposal. Often they feel that those options are limited by their budget. We always tell them that the choice is theirs, and by educating them on what is possible, we open the door for them to positively impact their business in a way they didn’t believe existed.
I just finished listening to the final episode of one of my new favorite podcasts, Reed Hoffman’s Masters of Scale. In the episode he interviewed former Survey Monkey CEO Selina Tobaccowala, who talked about how often startup founders must choose to ignore things about which they supposedly have no choice, and how that choice actually led to the massive success of their companies.
Tobaccowala shared how they were under immense pressure to “prettify” the site. Yet they resisted and focused instead on building a better product that served the true needs of their customers. Had they allowed themselves to become pigeon-holed, instead of determining that they completely had the ability to make a different kind of decision, they would have been snowed under by the magnitude of doing many less significant things, instead of focusing correctly, on the ones that had the greatest impact.
That story illustrates my point. Often we are either overwhelmed by the onslaught of choices, or the narrowness of the ones available. I am saying that we must learn to both simplify and expand upon our power to choose. We can do that in 3 simple steps:
- Recognize that the power of choice belongs to you — but does not define you! Too many of us have heard that people are the sum total of the choices that they make. I don’t believe that. Choices are actions based on a certain type of thinking. Yes, improve your thinking and you will improve your choices, but no one can make the right choice all the time. Don’t get weighed down with the burden of always making the right choice. And don’t become imprisoned by the lie that choice is out of your hands. You can wield it. You can decide. And if you make the wrong choice, then simply make another one!
- Be clear on the outcome that you want. There must be an overarching principle that guides your life. One that is applicable to every instance, a fail-safe if you will to back up every decision. This principle says that regardless of whether this decision pans out the way I want, I can live with it because it was done according to my principles.
- Prioritize the goal. Never choose something because others said it is most important. Make your choice based upon what is imperative for the long run. Remove the emotion from your decision and look at is as objectively as you can.
Throughout the course of a single day we make hundreds, if not thousands of little decisions each day. But, many of them are the direct result of thinking that we had no choice to make in the matter. We make them based on peer pressure, parental pressure, convenience, or even laziness. What if we sat back and recognized this power for what it really is, the ability to do what we really want to do! We can engineer for ourselves a different reality simply by choosing it.
More than choosing happiness, we can choose peace, joy, love, fulfillment, stability or adventure, service to the world or world domination — or all of the above! We can choose greatness, because the power of choice brings limitless possibilities to those who seize it. It is here, in your hands, and it all belongs to you. Start to answer to the world in a new way. Ask yourself “What choice do I have?”, and watch the universe open up for you like never before!