Anyone who knows me at all knows that I live by this mantra: “You always have a choice.”
When I think about the daily interactions I have with people, the stories and circumstances change, but the truth of that one statement – and its implications – does not. If you do not accept that you always have a choice, you become a complainer. A cynic. A victim of circumstance.
In my newly released book, “The Best Advice So Far,” the overriding theme is choice. One chapter is devoted to this idea:
No one can make you happy. If you expect them to, you will always be unhappy.
This is followed by a chapter on a similar idea:
Life is not fair. If you expect it to be, you will always be unhappy.
At first consideration, some may see these as negative statements, akin to “Don’t trust anyone” or “Just accept your knocks in life and trudge forward.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth! These bits of insight, if seen through a lens of choice, are actually some of the most freeing concepts I’ve encountered.
Just today, a friend of mine texted me: “My mother makes me feel like a loser.”
If my friend lives by the belief that he has no choice in life, he instantly becomes the victim here. His mother is the enemy and he is the betrodden. There is nothing he can do but to sit there, feeling like a loser – and consequently living like a loser – all the while blaming his mother for the crime of it.
The truth is, just as no one can make you happy, no one can make you mad. No can make you jealous. And no one can make you feel like a loser. We may choose to live like a loser because someone said so; but make no mistake, it is a choice. Or perhaps we already felt like a loser but are choosing not to take responsibility and commit to a positive course of action to change things. In this case, it is easy to take our own silent feelings and blame them on the person who simply voiced what we were already thinking.
When we truly accept that other people, or some general force called “life,” are not controlling us, we begin to make choices that lead to joy and freedom, rather than to bitterness and immobilization.
Think of it this way. If my friend’s mother had said to me whatever it was she said to him, would I automatically be condemned to feeling like a loser? When we say that someone made us feel a certain way, we place the power in their words. But if the power were truly in the words themselves or within the person who spoke them, they should have the same ill effect on everyone, should they not?
I repeat: You always have a choice.
My friend can choose to let his mother know how her words are coming across. (Believe it or not, people don’t always realize it.)
Through choosing to do some honest self-evaluation, he may find that something his mother touched upon rang true about him, and he may then choose to take steps to change it.
He can choose to hear her words and yet disagree with them, assuring himself that he is on track with positive goals in his life and that his mother is simply not seeing the whole picture.
Or he can choose to live out the part of the victim. The loser.
We certainly don’t choose everything that happens to us in our lives. But we do always have a choice of what how we respond – the choice of what we will do next.
So – what will you choose to do next?