I believe the choice to be excellent begins with aligning your thoughts and words with the intention to require more from yourself. ~ Oprah Winfrey
Making choices is probably the most stressful thing that we do as humans. Or perhaps more accurately, the stressful thing we do is to choose avoidance when we don’t like what choices we’re facing. This is what creates the stress.
It doesn’t have to be that way though, especially if you don’t make yourself solely responsible for the outcome of all the things that you don’t like about your life. Basically we work like this: When we don’t like the result of our choices, we blame ourselves and lose confidence in our ability to make choices in the first place.
None of us can predict the outcome of every choice we make – including how others will or won’t respond to the things we choose for ourselves. And to think that we can, need to, or should is the enemy that so often prevents the feeling of living with purpose.
What we can do, however, when we are fearful about making a choice, is turn towards it, rather than away from it. Get uncomfortable for all of five minutes (that’s literally the length of time of actual discomfort at most), and make a decision in your mind to see how it feels before you act on it. You can learn to do this in just a few moments with practice.
To help you, here are seven strategies for not only making choices, but creating choices that you did know you had.
7 Choices You Always Have (that you don’t always give yourself)
1. When faced with a choice that you don’t like or want to make, first ask yourself: “In this situation, what choice makes me more of who I want to be in this world?” Your choices are a reflection of what you value most in this world whether that’s love, kindness, integrity, courage, or something else.
2. Reflect on the choice you want to make and then ask yourself: “How will I feel about this choice in 10 minutes? 10 days? 10 months? 10 years?” Your mind can imagine future feelings that will help you to make big decisions like which job to take, what school to attend, or who to marry, etc.
3. Ask yourself a more beautiful question than: “What should I do?” – I guarantee that the answer is never good when the word “should” appears.
Substitute with: What’s the courageous thing to do? What is the loving thing to do? What is the life-serving thing to do? Or make up your own more beautiful question!
4. When in doubt, ask for some space and time before you answer. A few minutes. An hour. A day. A week. No one expects you to answer right away (except you). This way you can still your mind and feel into the right choice for you.
5. Find a “private ear” – someone that will mirror back what you really want for yourself. There’s always a part of you speaking your truth amongst the jumble of other stuff you’re saying. Well-meaning, highly invested people are well-meaning, highly invested listeners.
6. Always give yourself permission to choose again. And again. And again. Practice making choices! If you choose and it doesn’t go well, no need to be stubborn and think “I promised.” No one really benefits when you do something that you don’t want to because it shows and builds resentment.
7. It’s okay to re-open a decision with: “I thought this was what I wanted, but now that I have more insight/information/awareness of how I’m really feeling, I’ve decided …” You will like yourself better for doing this plus you build genuine relationships this way – the kind that you actually want in your life.
The goal: To feel more at home in the world. Of course!
at 6:50 pm
Hi Steve. Thank you for your comment and engagement. I appreciate hearing that the post offered you some insights, but not only that, it sounds like it created a pause to consider what you’d like to see in the world – from yourself and others. 🙂 I have been teaching a Listening Workshop for a number of years now (that I put together as Session 2 of the Bliss Kit) and time and time again, the instance and example comes up about those moments when we really just want to be listened to. The anatomy of the moment is that there is an ache to just be witnessed so that we can access our own wisdom underneath the pain being experienced. In these moments what we instead receive is a combination of ignoring, advising, lecturing or sympathizing (because the listener’s pain body has been triggered but without their awareness often) from others. Rather than recognize what we actually want (because we too are in pain), we fight to be witnessed on an energetic (or verbal) level with others (because we don’t know how to listen to ourselves that way yet).
Point #5 is a choice that we have to consciously find a private ear or a witness listener (so that we can learn to do this for ourselves eventually) rather than using up our energy in unproductive engagements and prolonging what wants to be resolved within. The pain just wants to be processed, and when met with resistance (in the form of undesirable levels of listening), hides deeper each time and more deeply over time and controls us in ways that we don’t understand. So the wording from #5 comes from a collection of stories, anecdotes and discussions from people that have done this workshop with me.
I understand that language and word count limitations produce a creative tension to express something of a more elaborate nature, but I’m always hoping that readers take away the highest intention for their own personal benefit (as you seem to). Nonetheless, I thought that the context would be useful as I understand where you’re coming from too. I was merely referencing a moment with a particular anatomy.
at 12:18 am
Wow! Great post, Sabrina. And beautiful, fully present profile picture.
Holy cow. “What choice makes me more of who I want to be in this world?” This is so powerful, in part, because we so often forget to calculate that into our decisions. But then, I guess that’s what you whole post was about. I love the options to choose again, to revisit a decision. You have given a graceful form to back out of a bad decision, which I found helpful. And while I agree finding a “private ear” can be priceless, I don’t agree with your idea that, “Well-meaning, highly invested people are well-meaning, highly invested listeners.” Sometimes they are, but certainly not all the time. Lots of people are well-meaning and bumbling. Lots are highly invested, but can’t listen. Their investment in a person may make them controlling or overly worried. I would have preferred to see: “Well-meaning, highly invested people often make for great, highly invested listeners.” Or even, “Be on the lookout for great listeners.”
But then I read # 5 again and wow. “Find a “private ear” – someone that will mirror back what you really want for yourself. There’s always a part of you speaking your truth amongst the jumble of other stuff you’re saying.” This is such great stuff. Thank you for your clarity. I am sure you are one of those great listeners. I have also worked hard to get good at this. Thanks again for this.
at 7:02 pm
Hi Caroline. I’m so glad you liked the post + the quote. It’s a great quote (selected by the Purpose Fairy for the post). 🙂
at 7:09 am
Great post and love that Oprah quote, which is so true.
at 4:01 pm
Hi Annmarie – Your comment is so true! We can only ever make a decision with the information that we are aware of in this moment (including our priorities of this moment). It follows too that the more at peace I am with my own decisions, the more at peace I am with the decisions of others too.
at 12:21 am
“Choices are a reflection of what we value most.”
This is so true. We blame others for who we are, and what we do far too often, when it is we who really had the choice. Reading your article has opened my eyes to so many areas in my life, where I have been debating in my mind what to do. The many decisions I have to make really just boil down to what I consider a priority in my life at this time. Years from now, regardless of the outcome of my decisions I will be able to say that I made the best decision that made me feel most comfortable at that time. Priorities change as time passes, which ultimately can interfere with what we or others perceive as our basic values. Thanks for sharing.
at 7:15 pm
Hi ACP – glad to know that the article’s content was timely. 🙂 In my books (for what it’s worth) it’s courageous to admit your preference to yourself, give yourself permission to say it, and be at peace with the outcome. – Sabrina
at 5:35 pm
James – I am truly touched that you are sharing this with others. Your passion to share is inspiring. – Sabrina
at 5:32 pm
Hi Brenda – thanks for sharing what your favorite part was. I value naming things because I see it as a driving force of compassion. By naming something, we open keyholes, windows and doors (maybe even blow the roof off something) to create something different and more in alignment with (our) Life. – Sabrina
at 5:16 pm
Yes, rather than allow the growing that wants to happen through us, we are actually afraid of it. Makes me think that if we make our own growth fun, we’d embrace the task of making choices without a second thought. 🙂 Thanks for the insight. – Sabrina
at 11:56 pm
Thanks for this great post. Too often we doubt ourselves when making choices; more often than not, our inner voice will guide us in right thing to do (and when I say ‘right’, I mean right for you).
Too many people let fear of failure hold them back from pursuing their dreams or goals; but experience is what allows us to grow as human beings. I often think that I have learned more from my mistakes in life than from my successes.
The questions you have put forward are a great framework for inspiring people to take action and trust themselves. Thank-you. 🙂
at 5:34 pm
My favorite part of this wonderful article are the words, “Making choices is probably the most stressful thing that we do as humans. Or perhaps more accurately, the stressful thing we do is to choose avoidance when we don’t like what choices we’re facing. This is what creates the stress.”
When we learn to lean into what’s present instead of trying to escape what’s there, life is much easier. Thank you for a really good article.
at 2:41 pm
Outstanding note this morning and I’ve shared it with all that connect with me… It’s the premier challenge facing society and often we do nothing because of fear of failure! I’ve taken your note and placed it everywhere that I can in order to share and area of opportunity…
Thank you again!
at 2:13 pm
How timely your article for the crossroads I’m at right now in my relationship. I have asked him to make a choice; it seems I am the first one to do so and the first one he has taken seriously — he has a lot on his plate to mull over, mostly his own mind and that which will give him more happiness, in spite of me. I pray everyday for him and that he will make the choice that is best for him so he can be happy, even if it means him not being with me. Thank you for the illumination — God always works in the most mysterious ways…..