"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Releasing the Power of Choice: How To See You Always Have One

Image of white and purple rhododendrons flowers in full bloom with text: A fresh perspective opens an array of choicesHow often do you see the choice in what you do?

Are you going through life believing that you don’t have many choices?

Have you ever been put off doing something because you felt you had to do it?

How many of us tell ourselves we ‘should’ do something because we believe it is what our friends, family, or partner want us to do?

At my very first therapy appointment, my therapist told me that I didn’t have to like the village I had moved to. He told me I had a choice and it was okay not to like it. This came as a complete shock to me, because I had believed that I didn’t have a choice.

The most common way people give up their power, is by thinking they don’t have any. - Alice Walker

I am a city girl and I moved to a foreign speaking country and village, to be with my partner. It was where he had grown up and where all his friends and family lived – a large close-knit community. My husband loved it there, and so did all his friends and family, so when I struggled to settle there too – due to mixture of not feeling welcome or included - I felt like there was something wrong with me, that I was letting my husband down; I felt like a failure. These feelings were then compounded by my partner’s flat refusal to move to anywhere else, putting the onus on me to find a way to accept living there if I wanted to stay with him.

So when my therapist showed me that I didn’t have to like it there, when I realised there was a choice, and I was allowed not to like it there, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Suddenly I was able to make a decision about the place for myself, rather than feel it had been decided for me. I was able to think about it objectively rather than having it forced on me.

"Freedom is realising you have a choice." - T. F. Hodge

It had been expected of me to like living there. I had felt pressured and been given no time to decide for myself, which had made me resent the place before I’d even given it a chance. When I saw I had a choice, I was able to look at it from a whole new perspective and ask myself whether I did actually like it or not, something I hadn’t done up to that point (some six years later!).

This then extended into other areas of my life. Whenever I found myself feeling resentful about a ‘have to’ situation I would rephrase it in my head, asking myself what other choices I had.

Situations like:

- Going along to a coffee morning to meet other mother’s from my children’s school class. I felt I should go, to be sociable and friendly; I felt like it was expected of me. When I realised that I had a choice, and that I didn’t have to go, I changed my mind - I went and thoroughly enjoyed it!

- Taking my child to play football: I don’t like football; I felt that it was what my husband wanted; I felt it was expected of me as a mum. But when I realised how much my child enjoyed it, how good it was for him to be involved in a team sport, I changed my mind. I was happy to take him – I wanted to do it.

This new perspective also enabled me to realise I could say No, too.

I was able make a choice and stop doing the things I didn’t enjoy as well.

Every year my partner and his close group of friends rent a house and go away for the weekend - couples and children too. But I didn’t enjoy going along. They weren’t people I interacted with on a daily basis, so I found it hard. I was only going along to please my partner, who wanted me to go too. I felt I had no choice because I didn’t want to ruin his fun, even though I wasn’t having any.

When I realised I had a choice, I found the strength to say No. I told my partner I didn’t want to go anymore. And although I worried there would be a lot of upset about my decision, there wasn’t. I was firm and decided and he was happy to go along with just the children. And although I felt guilty when I waved them goodbye, I ended up having a calm peaceful weekend to myself, and they had lots of fun too!

"By saying Yes when you need to No, cripples the most important relationship in your life: the relationship between you and you." - Nea Joy

In realising I had choices, I released the power I had over decisions I made in my life. I was able to ask myself what I wanted, rather than do what I thought others wanted me to do – or expected me to do. I felt happy about the choices I was making and the things I was doing.

By releasing the ‘should’ I was able to change my thoughts from a negative to a positive. It enabled me to enjoy the moment, rather than resent it.  It gave me a sense of personal power and control over my life, enabling me to step out of victim mode and feel as though I was taking an active role in my life.

So if there are things in your life you are struggling with, or doing that are making you unhappy, as yourself these questions:
Would you change your mind about something if you had the opportunity to decide for yourself about it, rather than feel it was expected of you?

Can you see the choice within that releases your personal power, and helps you feel you are making the decision for yourself, rather than having it made for you?  

Embracing the things we do feels a lot better than resenting them. 

"No matter what the situation, remind yourself 'I have a choice'." - Deepak Chopra  


  1. I like when you phrased it as "releasing the 'should'"... some friends and family in my circle have a phrase we try to remember to use, which is "don't should on yourself." It's similiar to this sentiment, and very helpful sometimes. When you should on yourself, you make yourself feel bad, and often other people around you as well.

    1. Yes, you end up resentful and that is never a good thing. Thanks for reading. I'm glad you liked it.