Life Is a Matter of Choice

Viktor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning wrote (emphasis mine):

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

I cringe when people casually say that they “have to” or “need to” do something. When I hear others say things like, “I have to do this…”, “I need to do that…”, I think to myself, “No, you don’t have to do anything unless you want to. You have implicitly chosen to do it”.

When we say, we “have/need to do” something (or any other reactive language), we are accepting that we are not in control of our choices, and our lives by extension, that we are forced to do something that we would rather not, and that it is not within our control to choose otherwise.

Here is the thing. We don’t have to do anything; we choose to do it. No one can make us do things. Even if they could, it would not be worth their effort. Everything we do is by our own choice whether we want to admit it or not. The power to choose cannot be given or taken away, it can only be forgotten. We always have a choice even when we think we don’t have one. We are always making a choice even when we think we aren’t making one. Just because you didn’t explicitly make a choice doesn’t mean that you haven’t already made one implicitly. Remember that not acting is also a choice.

Another example: If you find yourself working in a job where you complain about the long hours, you’ve forgotten that choosing to sign up for the job was your choice to begin with. And just like that, you’re free to leave. Choosing to complain about the work will not change anything. We tend to forget that when we explicitly make a choice (through our actions), we are also implicitly taking responsibility for the consequences.

When faced with any situation (particularly a difficult one), we have two choices. We can either focus on the negative aspects (which doesn’t help much and doesn’t change things), or we can focus on the positive.

For instance, when a family member (or a work colleague) is challenged by others in the family (or at work) who are not supporting them, instead of treating oneself as a victim of one’s environment, one can choose to look at it proactively in terms of challenge/opportunity for personal growth. That means their (positive) actions are not dependent on others’ (negative) actions and behavior. And by extension, their success at work (or at home) is not dependent on their circumstance. They can choose to focus on the work while compensating for others’ weaknesses with one’s strengths. In this instance, they might have to extend themselves to be able to accept some pain from others without hurting them back. This is also where they will grow the most in their lives because once they have moved away from their family (or work), it is likely that they might not get this opportunity to learn again. When they have gone through this experience and when they find others complaining to them in the future about their situation, either they can accept their complaints or they can choose to focus on the positive side of their situation.

In any situation, we must first have the self-awareness that how we respond is our choice and our responsibility and that others’ actions don’t affect our own, despite the pain we may suffer in the process. Choosing to focus on the positive side in any situation is a choice only proactive people can make. We can choose to be happy in any situation. Nobody can take that personal freedom away from us without our consent.

Adopt the belief that all people are good without exception. Choose to see the good in others despite their negative traits. Look at others’ weaknesses with compassion and compensate for them with your strengths, thereby rendering their weaknesses irrelevant.

Focus on things that we can change. That means that we accept things we can’t change, make our peace with it, and live with it.

Use proactive language. The language we use with ourselves and with others affects our emotional state a great deal. The words we attach to our experience become our experience. Instead of using reactive language such as “I have/need to, I should be, I must”, we choose to respond with, “Let’s do this, I choose to, I decide, I will, I am doing this/that, etc”. We don’t “have to” do anything. We choose to do it.

We forget that we always have a choice even when we think we don’t; even when we think we haven’t made one, we have. When we realize that we always have a choice, we are in control of ourselves. Others don’t control us, neither should we feel or act based on others’ thoughts. No one can hurt us without our permission.

When we wake up every day, we have two choices: we can choose to be in a good mood or we can choose to be in a bad mood. Each time something bad happens to us, we can choose to be either a victim or we can choose to learn from it and focus on what we can do to improve it. Every time someone complains to us, we can choose to accept their complaint or we can choose to focus on the positive side of their life/situation.

Every day we have the choice to live fully. We can either regret the past or get busy living in the present. Whether we take it up or not is our choice. The moment we choose actions, we choose results too.

Everything in life boils down to making choices. When we trim the “fat” from any situation, it comes down to a choice. We are always making choices, explicit or otherwise. How we respond in situations, particularly difficult ones, is entirely our choice. It is up to us to determine if we allow others’ actions to affect our own.

How we use language with ourselves affects our emotional state, and thereby, our choices. Using proactive language is a key factor in shifting our mindset and results. The words we attach to our experience become our experience.

Yes, it is possible to be happy, positive, and upbeat all the time. It is a highly proactive choice that we make despite the difficulties we face. We are not changing any facts here. We are simply choosing to see a different (and better) perspective.

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