I choose to
Have you ever thought about the way you describe the things you may (or may not) do in the future? I have to do this… I need to go there… I want to buy that…
I will never forget the early days of working with my first Coach, when she said that everything was a choice. At first, I didn’t agree with her. I mean – you have to pay the bills, and do the laundry, right? You have to eat! And what about all those things you do that are just automatic, done without even thinking – you’re not really choosing to do those things. Right?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how true it is: Everything is a choice.
Some choices are made for the sheer value of their results – I love my kids, so I choose to do things that make them healthy and happy like making them healthy meals and driving them to their activities. You might frame some things as the desire to not experience the result otherwise, for example you could say I feed my kids because I don’t want them to starve. But these are two sides of the same coin, so perhaps it’s just where you put your focus that will drive how you describe your choices.
It is also a choice to operate in autopilot mode, a somewhat passive choice perhaps but choice nonetheless. Stepping back, reflecting, can illuminate these autopilot actions… which then enables more active choice. The concept of autopilot brings to mind one of my two favorite TED talks: “Are we in control of our Decisions” by Dan Ariely. Fascinating stuff, and entertaining delivery. Well worth the 17 minutes!
If you read “More than Words” you already know I like to think about words and their meaning. I don’t recommend obsessing over every single word in every moment – that would not be a life well lived. And it would be a little odd if everyone just walked around only saying “I choose to…!” We will all use lots of different words throughout our days. And that’s a good thing. It’s just interesting to notice how these different words might be impacting our emotions. Or perhaps it’s how we feel about an impending action that influences the words we use?
“I have to…” This is probably one of the most widely used expressions. Have to can imply a sense of requirement, and a lack of choice. I used to have a very strong “have to” mentality, and consequently felt somewhat overwhelmed by life, by all the things I “had to do,” before I started working with a Life Coach. A major factor in my transformation was recognizing that I didn’t have to do all the things, that I got to determine which things stayed on my to-do list and which didn’t. Have to can also be used to demonstrate a strong desire or passion, as in “I just have to have those shoes!”
“I need to…” Need is like an older, stronger cousin to Have. It implies necessity, a reliance of something else on the task at hand. It suggests importance or weight. It can imply lack, or that there are consequences to the contrary. Need can also express a deep personal sense of obligation, or a longing.
“I should…” Should may be the only one I try to avoid, or at least check myself when I do use it. A feeling or belief that something should be done is based on expectations. Whose expectations? Are they your expectations or do they belong to someone else? If they are yours, where do they come from? It is very easy to look around and think we are supposed to be and do according to what (it looks like) everyone else is being or doing… but appearances can be deceiving, and we are each meant to be and do our own uniqueness. Should implies that otherwise would be failure, reason to be disappointed in oneself. It often feels like there is a subtext, an unspoken sentiment of “but I know I won’t…” or “but I don’t really want to…” I chuckle every time I think of Tony Robbins saying “Stop ‘shoulding’ all over yourself!”
“I want to…” Want suggests desire, anticipation… and this can be very empowering! Or it can be disempowering when it is said with disbelief in the possibility, with an expectation of unfulfillment, that so often accompanies the statement.
“I get to…” I don’t hear many people use the phrase “I get to” very often, but I loved the message in the Journey to Manifesting podcast “Three words that will radically transform your life” - by looking at your tasks from the perspective that it is a privilege to be able to do them, you invoke the magic effect of gratitude. You can go from feeling grumpy about morning traffic… to being grateful that you have a job to go to, a car to drive in, good music (or podcasts!) to listen to. You can be grateful you have the physical ability to drive – you can see, use your limbs and your brain. It’s not about comparing yourself to others to feel superior or pitying those in other circumstances. It’s about appreciating what you have and looking at your tasks through a lens of gratitude. This can truly transform how you feel about the things you are doing.
Looking at everything as a choice, perhaps even a privilege, can be quite liberating and empowering, like how a child feels choosing to be a superhero. If you catch yourself feeling burdened by “having” to go somewhere or “needing” to do something, just remember that there are always alternatives. Or try to articulate the outcome or reason (for example, perhaps you are going to work because you get paid and the money you get paid finances your life) and you might feel better about the situation or even decide you are going to do something different.
Cheers to choice!