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  • Coach Deb

If You Choose Not to Decide...


...you still have made a choice. Such is the wisdom of rock music, and these words are no less true than if they been penned by Confucius or Plato instead of Rush. You always have a choice. And perhaps more importantly, you are always choosing, even when you refuse to acknowledge the presence of options or commit consciously to one over the other. Whether you choose Door #1, Door #2, or to avoid doors altogether, a choice has been made. And all choices have consequences.


Herein lies the first reason that accepting the totality of your power regarding choices is vital in creating the life you want. Choices create outcomes, and your current reality, for better or worse, is the sum total of your outcomes. If your current life were a jigsaw puzzle, each piece would be the outcome of one choice. Put them all together and they create the picture of your life, right now. Want a different life? Whether you'd like to change just one corner of the picture or the entire landscape, you'll need to shift some outcomes.


Different outcomes require different choices. You may have heard Henry Ford's famous quote, "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." If you continue to choose Door #2, you will continue to get what's behind Door #2. Tired of what you keep finding in there? Choose another door!


Though this principle seems simple, many people continue making the same choices, even as they profess a desire for different results. Think of the wife who feels unsupported in her marriage and dreams of a man who is more partner and less potato sprouting from the couch cushions...but she continues to choose the man in front of her, the one who isn't a partner. Or the executive whose skin crawls at every board meeting, revolted by the company's values as they are reflected in decision and direction. She longs to work for a company whose values align with her own. Yet each day she wakes up and chooses to continue working for Slimeball & Sleezebag, Inc.


We've all done it, said we wanted X while we continued choosing Y. The most frequent reason? Because we've forgotten that we have a choice. You always have a choice. This fact is a key ingredient in the recipe for robust personal power. Take it in, fawn over it, give it a long, wet kiss. Learn to love this universal rule. The deeper into love you fall with the ubiquity of choice, the greater your ability to create the outcomes you desire. Say it with me...I. Always. Have. A. Choice.


At this point I would ask you to note that having a choice does not equate to having multiple appealing options. That's your choice at the Cold Stone Creamery. While life may sometimes imitate ice cream shops, it's also been known to imitate the Inquisition. Snickers or sprinkles is great, but sometimes your choice is flogging or the rack. Most often in life, you'll find yourself faced not with a vanilla or rainbow sherbet kind of choice, nor with the options of water torture or sleep deprivation. Often, the decision before you ends up being some odd mix of the two that doesn't really feel like a choice.

Would you like chocolate or broken knee caps?


Well, let me think about that...


That's not a choice! Of course I'll have the chocolate. And that's where humans tend to go astray, right there at "that's not a choice." Because it IS. You could choose the broken knee caps. Chances are exceedingly good that you won't, but you could. And a seed of personal power rests in the cradle of this distinction.


If it's not a choice, then you're forced to have the ice cream. Maybe you hate chocolate. Or perhaps you don't mind it, but you'd much rather have sherbet. When you fail to see the busted bones as a choice and see a double scoop of chocolate as your only option, you've entered victim mentality. You have to pick the ice cream, or so you tell yourself, and suddenly what was once a creamy treat now feels like a serious burden in life. You start whining to yourself...I don't even like chocolate. It gives me gas. This is why I only buy sherbet. I don't know why I can't have what I want. This sucks!!


Suddenly you're a spoiled toddler, pitching a fit because you want that option and Mom is only willing to buy you this one. Through the haze of tantrum tears, you've lost sight of the fact that you have a glorious choice in front of you--you could go home with ice cream! You've completely missed the reality that you could also go home with NO ice cream (or worse, no unassisted walking). No ice cream is a common outcome in day to to day life, one that you've been spared today. But you're not feeling the love. You're so focused on what isn't on the table that you've lost sight of what is.


Far more devastating, you've lost hold of your personal power. You've entered the realm of the victim. Powerlessness is the very essence of victimhood. A victim is, by definition, without choice. And if you have no choice, your outcomes are beyond your control. You can't change the picture because you don't have the power. The distance from the ice cream parlor to this precipitous edge is surprisingly short. It's about the length of once choice.


Sherbet wasn't on the list of options today, but broken kneecaps was. You chose the best option in the moment. Maybe that doesn't immediately equate to the life you want to be living, but it probably moves you farther in that direction than two non-functional legs. Fact check it, but I'm pretty sure I'm correct on this one. If you can accept the chocolate as the best choice in this situation and move on, you'll encounter choices that DO hold a greater potential to help you create the outcome you're seeking. If you get caught up in pouting about chocolate, it's game over. You've made another choice (I told you it's always happening!), and this time you chose to be powerless.


To review: bad news = having a choice is not the same as being presented with multiple options, all of which hold strong appeal. Good news? The perceived lack of power created by an ice cream vs. torture choice is an illusion. Victim mentality is a lie. Even a true victim--someone who has been raped or abducted, or who has woken up one day to find their home in the middle of a war zone--has the choice between the mentality of a victim and that of a survivor. Victim mentality is just that, a mentality, a way of thinking. A set of circumstances does not create this mentality. You enter into this head space when you refuse to acknowledge the omnipresence of choice. As soon as you recognize that a bat to the patella was an option, you're back in business.


Unless...you rather equally dislike chocolate and broken knees. I mean, what if you're allergic to chocolate? What if it gives you kidney stones or migraines? Now you really don't have a choice! So you don't make one. And you think "whew, dodged a bullet on that one! No lithotripsy or ATK amputations for me today! #winning." Except...

Remember that bit about always doing what you've always done? When I say you always have a choice, I don't mean only that each situation holds multiple options. I'm also referring to those wise words straight out of 1980 hair rock: if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. And that choice is to keep things the same, to retain the picture you currently have, to continue experiencing the existing outcomes.


This isn't an inherently poor choice. It may be that the reality you're currently experiencing is superior to what could be created from any of the alternatives available to you in this moment. To choose not to decide is a valid option, provided you have a firm grasp on the operative words in that sentence: to choose. In a perfect display of irony (and a brilliant bit of songwriting genius), to choose not to decide is to have made a choice.


The potential danger here lies in failing to recognize this truth, in assuming that the continuation of your circumstance has been handed down to you from on high. The choice not to choose is a guarantee of continuity, a vote for the status quo. If you fail to recognize that you've cast a vote, you may find yourself feeling that you are forced by some universal task master to remain in place, pinned down like a butterfly beneath glass, ready to fly but unable to move your wings.


Back to the jigsaw puzzle. You remember, the one that depicts a picture made from the outcomes of each of your choices? If you want to change the picture, you need some new pieces; you need to make different choices. When you choose not to decide, the choice you've made is to keep all of your current pieces. You're choosing to stay the same, to retain the picture precisely as it is in this moment. No one has driven a pin through your wings; you have laid down beneath the glass. Remember, my friend, you are always choosing.


There is no way to avoid the pervasive presence of choice. It exists even beyond the human plane. It is true and necessary on a scale that puts death and taxes to shame. Each and every moment of your life is, in its essence, made of choice. There is no opt-out, no way to tap choice on the shoulder and say "uncle," no referee who can declare you knocked out and thereby released from the ring of free will. More than gases or minerals, more than matter or energy, the Universe is made up of choice.


What, then, is a soul to do? If you can't beat choice, perhaps you should meet it. Perhaps the time has come to lay down your resistance upon the altar of rock gods and accept personal power as your savior. Maybe this is the moment when you realize, I DO always have a choice. I may not like the options. I might choose not to decide, to continue with my current outcomes for the proverbial hot second. But these are choices. These are my choices. They are creating the picture of reality before my eyes today, and I am welcome at any time to choose differently, to shift the outcome for myself.


As you consider choice and the power you have to wield it, perhaps you'll come to agree with Rush and you'll find yourself saying "I will choose a path that's clear, I will choose free will." Or...maybe not. It is, after all, your choice.

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