Feeling stuck? You always have a choice

Feel stuck and depressed

The knowledge that in any given moment we all actually have a choice was the first major realization I gained through my own experience of coaching. Up until that time, possibly like you, I felt that I was at the mercy of certain things in my life.

I really thought that there were many circumstances that I was powerless over or had no choice about: a mortgage to pay; a young child to support; an unhappy relationship; the fact that I was suffering from anxiety and on medication; that I lived somewhere I hated; that I had been working in television and radio for my entire adult life and didn’t know how to do anything else, let alone run my own business.

In addition to these circumstances, I held some pretty rigid opinions and beliefs about ‘how things go’ and ‘that’s just the way it is’. Yes, these things may be fixed, but what isn’t fixed is how you view them, and what you think and feel about them – all of which you can change. Choice Theory was developed by Dr William Glasser in the USA in the 1950s and ’60s and is used by thousands of therapists around the world to treat patients for addiction, anxiety and. depression. His model states that every part of our behaviour – our thoughts, feelings, physiology, is a choice.

Every single part of it. Although feelings and physical responses are harder to control, we do have a choice when it comes to our thoughts and actions, which have an impact on the other responses. Glasser argues that we have full control over our ‘total behaviour’, and when we live a life based on choice, we are more responsible and more empowered.

His theory is that nobody can ‘make’ us do or feel anything, all we do is give or receive information from others, and it is our choice as to how we perceive, process and responds. As Glasser says: ‘The only person I can really control is myself. If I think others can control me, and so are to blame for all that goes on in my life, I tend to do nothing effective and head for frustration.

This is not to deny that we can be subjected to violent and coercive situations, but while we are alive we have choices even in these situations. In the worst situations, these choices may not be enough to save us or they may be painful or they may be choices we wish we never had to make. For instance, a person in an abusive situation may have to choose whether to stay or go, though both choices are painful – there is, nevertheless, a choice and that realization may empower the person to choose to get away.’ I agree 100 per cent.

Change your mind and your life

Glasser’s therapy model focuses on changing our behaviours in order to change our lives, but I’m going to ask you to go one step further and change what you think and believe, and then after that, change your behaviours to match your new way of being. During the course of my first ever coaching session, which took place over the phone, my coach took me from the depths of fear and despair to a place of hope and possibility, where I no longer felt a victim of circumstance.

From there I was able to start taking back control of my life. It was an incredible, life-changing experience, and one which ultimately led me to where I am now. If you think about any set of circumstances, you do have a choice as to how you are going to think and feel about them. Imagine being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

You can choose to say to yourself, ‘This is not happening, I’m going to fight this, I’ll live.’ While at the other end of the scale you can say, ‘I am going to die and I accept this, and I am going to enjoy my last days with my family, and this is okay.’

This is when you realize there is a choice. You may not be able to change the situation (in most cases), but you can certainly change how you think and feel about it and then how you respond to it.

After my own revelation and mindblowing experience of doing this, I then went on to learn how to do this with my clients and the following exercise is my version of the Co-Active Training Institute’s Formula for Balance Coaching.

‘Choice is the most powerful tool we have. Everything boils down to choice. We exist in a field of infinite possibilities. Every choice we make shuts an infinite number of doors and opens an infinite number of doors. At any point, we can change the direction of our lives by a simple choice. It’s all in our hands, our hearts and our minds.’

 

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THE CHOICE ROOM

Find yourself a private room or space – somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Think about one thing in your life you’re not happy with, but which you feel ‘stuck’ with. Place the issue – be it your career or your relationship – in the middle of the room, separating the issue from your perspective (what you think and feel about it now

  1. Choose a perspective and name it
    From where you are in the room, admit your current perspective (e.g. My job is a dead end and I’ll die of boredom if I stay, I feel sad, down etc.) and realize how far you have convinced yourself of this. Go there, embody it, even give it a metaphor or a name.
  2. Try other perspectives
    Now that you have clearly defined your current view, this is the fun bit. Try some different ways of thinking and feeling about the issue. Move around the room, using any props within your space. Try lying down on the floor. Some people like to take on a character or an emotion as they move. For each new place or body position (try five or six), take time to notice what you think, belief, feel and would be doing about your issue. Try naming each perspective, such as ‘on the beach’ or ‘from a window’. Write your new perspectives in the circles opposite.
  3. Choose
    When you feel you have enough perspectives, revisit each one – either mentally or literally. Do you want to stay in that first one? No? Then move around and choose the one you most want to go with right now. Maybe you tried lying down on your sofa, and that reminded you of lying on the beach, and here you really feel that whatever the situation, anything is achievable. Imagine all of the things you would be believing and doing from this new place. Write down the name of this perspective.
  4. Create a manifesto
    Your new perspective, now create a manifesto (like the one opposite) describing how you are going to be, and what you are going to do about the issue at hand.Write it out and refer back to it as much as possible. Give your manifesto a name, for example, The Beach Manifesto.
  5. Create an anchor
    You may want to create an anchor or structure to help connect you back to your new perspective – especially if you feel yourself slipping back to the old one. This can be an image of a beautiful beach, a rock or an item of clothing.
SAMPLE MANIFESTO
  • I will accept how things are at the moment and vow to take regular daily action towards my new chosen career (whatever that is).
  • l I will sleep seven hours a night to help me stay on track with this (with one hour of no TV/screens before bed).
  • l I will spend 30 minutes each morning researching the roles available in the field I’d love to work in.
  • l I will connect with one person a week in this field.
  • l I will switch off my FB/Insta alerts and only check my feeds once a day.
  • l I will take a proper lunch break of 30 minutes and go and eat my lunch away from my desk – outside if not raining.
  • l I will stop complaining about my work.
  • l I will be more grateful for all that I do have in my life already
Need help redesigning your life + career? There are a few ways I can do that
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