Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/04/06/the-power-of-choice/
You choose who you spend time with. You choose what you spend your time doing. You choose what you eat, you choose when you sleep. You choose to feel disappointed when you’ve been stood up, and you choose to feel relieved that you’re not on a date with someone who doesn’t really want to be there.
You probably agree that you have choice about those first examples, how and with whom you spend your time. But I imagine that you might have been surprised by the last example. ”I choose to feel disappointed or relieved about being stood up??”
But that is the real power of choice. You actually have choice in what your experience is like in this moment. You are already choosing whether you agree and enjoy what I’m writing, or if you disagree and think I’m full of it, or if you’re curious and want to read more. All of those are options and you are presently choosing one of them.
But that isn’t how we normally think about our experience. We don’t usually look at our experience as a result of our choices, but rather as a result of something that is happening to us. And let me go through three reasons why that is.
First, many of you probably experience emotions as a knee jerk, automatic response which you have no control over. ”It’s just how I feel.” But your emotions really arise from the combination of your needs or values being met or unmet, as well as the beliefs you hold about the situation. You get stood up on a date. You’re desire for connection, fun, and the potential for intimacy are all thwarted. That’s real. You also tell yourself a story that this person is a jerk, or that you will never find love. That’s a story you’re constructing. If you think your emotions are an automatic response that you have no control over, then begin by gaining more awareness around what stories or beliefs you are holding. Slow down. Take time each day or each week to journal about moments where you felt happy or sad. See if you can identify what needs or desires of yours were met or unmet. Then see if you can identify the story or belief you have about the situation.
The second thing is that our choices are habit forming. If I choose to sit at home, eat ice cream, and watch TV every day after work, it becomes a habit. I start doing it on autopilot. It then becomes a real struggle for me to undo that habit and head to the gym. Your choices create a sort of motor memory. If you find that you have awareness around what is causing your emotions, the needs and the beliefs, but still struggle with making different choices I want to encourage you to have perseverance. The only way you create a new habit is by repeating a new set of choices.
Finally, some of you may not want to take on the responsibility that comes with the power of choice. There’s the classic saying “with great power comes great responsibility”. If I can choose to feel lousy or choose to feel at peace then I have the choice to make my life a living hell or heaven on Earth. That’s powerful! And it means you’re responsible, you’re in charge. If I see my partner as a horrible jerk, that is my choice. And since it is my choice, then I am responsible for seeing my partner in that way. And so you must own your own responsibility for your experience. Owning that responsibility is unnerving. Instead we like to blame, judge, or stick it on someone else. But the truth is that the person who is responsible for your experience is you.
I help clients reclaim their power of choice by helping them build their awareness, providing patient, loving, support as they practice new choices, and by helping them own their responsibility in making their choices. It can be challenging work, but I see how in the end it gives people the power and freedom that they’ve always wanted.
KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.