Tuesday 12 April 2011

Victims & Invisible Choices

You OK? The world is a troubling place at the moment, with global recession, middle Eastern instability and class 7 nuclear incidents.

That's one of the problems with news, of course. Awareness for its own sake is not always - and perhaps is not often - a good thing.

I recall a while ago, when this dawned on me. Hugh Edwards was reading the BBC news and saying "An update for you on that lorry crash in Yorkshire we reported earlier - the death toll has now risen to seven". Why do I need to know that? How should I use the information? Is it for my entertainment? Is it useful public information? A duty to know - or what? Ignorance may be bliss, but it seems "low" somehow. Having a world view seems like a good thing, but why do we think so? Intriguing stuff.

This brings me to my main thought for today - the role of choice as a route to happiness in our lives - a theme I've written about often.

The most powerful insight I can give you about choice is that you always have one - even when you think you don't. It may not look like you expected it to, or like you wanted it to, so it'll take some practice to find it - but it will be a real choice worthy of finding and considering.

Example - it's 5am and you can't sleep through worry about money. Here are the choices you want but can't have:
  • Command yourself to go to sleep
  • Command yourself to stop worrying
  • Wave a wand to fix your financial worries
The absence of these choices can lead us to feel we have no choices at all - we feel trapped in worrying about money at 5am and hating it. But the real choices lay outside of our expectations, and they include:
  • Practice that meditation you've always wanted to get in to
  • Get up and do housework, a special project you have "no time to do", enjoy the sun rise
  • See if you can wangle some early morning nookie without getting knocked out
  • Get up and make a practical start on something to improve your money situation
  • Have a wonderful bath
Another example; your partner is being a it of a sod. It's not your fault, but when he's "like this" he can't be reasoned with. Here are the choices you want but can't have:
  • Reach into his head and fix his attitude problem
  • Wave a wand and make whatever he's fed up about go away
  • Force him to treat you better when he's angry
The absence of these choices - as before - can lead us to feel powerless, but there are still choices worthy of consideration, and they include:
  • Plant a big smackeroo on his cheek (I mean a kiss, not a punch) and shock him out of his self-centred misery (well, try the kiss, then the punch maybe...)
  • Tell him you refuse to be abused then leave the scene
  • Match or exceed his level of aggression long enough to wake him up
  • Pick up the phone and call mum, then hand the phone over to him

This stuff isn't easy because - when we're in a tough situation, we're less "resourceful" (as coaches say). Our creativity and assertiveness tend to suffer when the going gets tough. But it gets easier with practice, and the benefits can be substantial, so it's a skill worth developing (see my article what's in this for me?).

Now the twist. Try to think of this skill not as a nice-to-have, but as a responsibility. When you fail to accept this responsibility, you are choosing to be a victim of circumstances. It is in this sense that you have some responsibility for everything you hate about your life. Not all of it, but some of it, and more than you probably want to accept. Ugly, innit?

It doesn't have to be, and I'm not being unkind here - I'm showing you the way out of the trap. If you can accept your responsibility, and commit to trying harder to find your choices, find your responsibilities and to try to meet them, you'll find yourself blaming less and succeeding more.

And that's not at all bad.

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