The Choice Is Yours
“Your life is the sum of all the choices you make, consciously and unconsciously. If you can control the process of choosing, you can take control of all aspects of your life. You can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of yourself.” Robert F. Bennett
Have you ever stood in a grocery store and felt overwhelmed by the choices? Several dozen types of salad dressings. Six brands of tomato soup. An entire aisle of frozen dinners. Ice cream flavors from amaretto to zucchini (I’m not kidding).
We are swimming in options and we make hundreds, if not thousands of choices every day: What time to get up. What and when to eat. How hard to work. Whether to exercise, shop, buy a pet, read, meditate, move to another city or take time for ourselves. Which e-mails to read, write and forward. Who to spend time with.
Despite this reality, many of my clients behave as if they have little or no choice in most aspects of their lives. Their conversations are peppered with the words, “have to.”
Without thinking, they say, “I have to work 16 hours a day and weekends.” “I have to make dinner for the family every single night.” “I have to be a taxi service for my kids.” “I have to work three jobs.”
No, you don’t have to, you are choosing to.
If you concede that you always have a choice, what difference does using the words “have to” make?
Try this little experiment. Say out loud, “I have to brush my teeth twice a day.” Take a moment and notice how that feels to you. Now say “I choose to brush my teeth twice a day.” Try saying, “I have to pick up my son from baseball practice,” and follow that by saying “I’m choosing to pick up my son from baseball practice.” Finally, pick an example in your own life, say it out loud both ways, then consider the difference between how you feel when you’ve said each of the pair.
Like me, you may be awestruck at the intense power that brief phrase, “have to,” imposes. These simple words, when repeated hundreds of times a day, week after week, year after year, strip us of our ability to acknowledge our own needs and allow us to blame others for our failures.
This is not a small thing. A life dominated by the knowledge we are consciously choosing in each moment, enables us to experiment, to try, to go outside of ourselves to discover what, for instance, zucchini ice cream might taste like. It gives us power and drive, determination and exuberance. We live a life of our choosing.
“Have-to’s” enclose us. They act as a noose. They keep us from seeking creative answers. True, they keep us safe. But they also keep us stuck.