In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Do we choose our destiny, or does life just happen to us? I always wonder what road I should take and in doing so, I often remain on the same path, for fear of making a mistake. So, is this the life I choose or the life I accept?
When we feel we have no control over our lives, we cease to believe we have choices. We accept that life is random, so we simply sit by and wait for the next thing to happen. But this is not a good way to live, because we don’t make positive changes in our lives. We only react to life, without creating our own destiny. We’re victims of our own failure to act, and then we blame it on bad luck, or our “lot in life.”
But we do have choices, whether we believe it or not. Just doing nothing is a choice! It’s a choice not to get involved, a choice to have others make the moves that affect us. Life pushes us as if we were adrift at sea, but only because we choose to let it do so.
Choices and change are scary
Having choices involves decision-making and this can be uncomfortable. Making a decision means bringing about some change, which can result, once more, in another uncomfortable situation. In addition, making choices is mentally taxing. If you spend too long debating which road to take you become exhausted, paralyzed even. You have to take action and follow through, even if you risk making the wrong choice.
We may believe we are stuck, that we have no way out. This is fear paralyzing us. “Will I make the right decision or the wrong one? It’s better if I just do nothing and see what happens!” Then when we don’t like the outcome, we can complain and blame our bad luck or even other people!
The courage to choose
Choosing involves courage, the courage to be willing to step into the unknown and make the best of whatever outcome may result. We have to accept that we might err, and have the courage to make the leaps of faith that will either carry us forward or land us flat on our face. Yet when we choose the path that is more challenging, difficult or unknown, the reward can be far greater in the long run.
Learning how to choose
Like most things in life, choices are a process.
If you’re struggling to make a decision or a change in your life, follow these steps to make the process more manageable and less daunting.
- Consider all the alternatives. Write them down if you have to.
- Face your fears about each alternative and write them down on paper.
- What is the worst that can happen and how will you deal with it if it comes to pass?
- Think about how you’ve dealt with similar situations in the past. What can you learn?
- How will your choice affect those around you?
- Are you acting emotionally, or on a whim?
- Listen to what your gut tells you.
- Don’t choose while angry or anxious.
- Take your time deciding, but do give yourself a timeframe.
- Get advice from people whom you admire and trust.
- Try taking a long walk, run or bike ride alone, and you are apt to be more centered and focused.
- Try to choose for yourself, and not follow what others tell you is right “for them.”
Recommended reading: “The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Inyegar
This video from TED conferences is a real eye opener, questioning if too many choices is such a good thing! The Paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz: