Want to get more exercise? Eat healthier? Learn a new skill? Write a book? Get a better job? Start a business? Travel to a India? Cut back on booze? Quit smoking? For every personal goal there is a litany of excuses:
“I’m too busy.”
“I can’t afford it.”
“I have family and/or career commitments.”
“I’m too old/too young.”
“I’m just too —-. It’s just the way I am.”
“It’s just too hard.”
“I’m not strong/capable/disciplined enough.”
These are the tales of woe we tell when we aren’t doing the things we say we want to do. They are stories. Every one has a story, but every story has different angles. There is one simple solution to living life as a victim of circumstance.
Make Choices not Excuses
The first step towards living the life you choose is to start making choices. I’m not saying that you necessarily have to make any changes in the beginning. It’s more about changing the angle of your story. The act of making a choice is empowering. If you want to learn a new skill, like a martial art for example, but you have a bad back due to some previous injury, it can be tempting to say to yourself and others, “I’ve always wanted to do that, but my back just couldn’t take it.” Often people say this without having ever even spoken to a doctor about it.” It’s something they believe they have no control over so they don’t even try. The victim story can be addictive too. Whether you tell it to yourself or others, the rewards are immediate. You don’t need to take a blow to your self-esteem, because you’ve confirmed that you have no power over it. You’re not in control. Making a choice re-writes the angle of your story. “I decided not to take up a martial art because of my back injury.” As soon as you change that angle, you’re no longer a victim of circumstance, you’ve chosen the path you’re on. You’re no longer powerless. It also means you can make new or different choices.
Owning Up to Your Choices
As soon as you’ve made a choice, you can now look at the reasons for your choice and whether or not you want to choose to make changes that will allow you to revise your initial choice. So if you’re not taking up a martial art because you don’t think your back can handle it, find out if that’s actually true. Challenge your beliefs, especially long-held ones. Sometimes the way you perceive yourself or the world around you isn’t accurate. See your family doctor and get medical advice on how to rehabilitate our back to full health. There is always a chance your doctor will tell you that you’ll never be able to take up an impact martial art like Jiu-jitsu ever again. If you’re really keen to do it, you might even get a second opinion from someone more qualified in physical rehabilitation. Or, once you’ve gotten your back to the best state of health that can be expected, you might still enquire at local Jiu-jitsu schools to see if they have a program or modified curriculum that might still allow you to train despite a bad back. Or failing that, you might explore other martial arts that have less impact on the body. There are always other options, other choices you can make to make the most of your situation.
Confidently Asserting and Accepting Your Choices
Ultimately, you may decide that the effort required to follow through on a goal isn’t worth it and you’d rather choose to do other things that make more sense in your current circumstances. That’s fine too. Then your story becomes, “I was always interested in the martial arts, but I decided to do other things that make more sense for my body. I still enjoy a good martial arts flick though.” Say it with a smile and a knowing that your new path will also take you in new and interesting directions. Be happy that there are other people out there who do pursue the martial arts allowing you to appreciate it from a distance.
If You’ve Chosen a Dark Path…
If you’re in a dark place in your life because you’ve adopted one or more self-destructive habits, you still need to re-frame your story as a choice. If you smoke, and you’ve been told by your doctor that you have to give it up or face increasingly serious health issues, you still have say, “I am choosing to smoke,” whenever you pick up a cigarette, even if you want to quit. It always begs the question, “Why?” giving you the opportunity to answer. Your answer may be because your high-stress career is a higher priority right now and quitting will temporarily affect your ability to perform. This leads you to beg the question again when you pick up a cigarette at the end of your project, at which point you might decide you’re now willing to put it down. Perhaps it will only last until the next project, but at least that’s an improvement. When you notice the pattern, then maybe you’ll later be more comfortable putting the cigarette down when dealing with a less stressful project. Gradually, your choices become healthier and healthier.
Some people don’t get there without more dire circumstances make keep making the choice to smoke until a more serious warning comes in the form of disease like lung cancer or emphysema, after which they may finally choose to quit for good. For some, the decision comes too late and they have to live with the consequences of that choice. They may look back and say that the things they accomplished in their career over the course of their lives was worth it, even if there is some lingering regret that maybe they could have done more good in the world if they had decided to give up smoking when they had the chance. I’m not trying to downplay the difficulty one can face when trying to move away from any physical dependency or addiction. There are many challenges in making that choice, for some the choice to continue is just far too tempting than the choice for a healthier life. Either way the story plays out, a person is a lot less likely to find their way out of their dark place if they don’t accept that it was there choice to be there in the first place.
Choose Your Own Adventure
When I was young, I loved to read “Choose Your Own Adventure” books in which the reader gets to a fork in the story and they choose one path or another, leading to the next part of the adventure, an unexpected challenge, or their untimely demise. That’s how real life is. You choose your own adventure as you go along. The only difference is that you can’t flip back to the fork and change your choice for a better future. You have to accept the choice you made and continue on with what you have in your current circumstances. I write this blog post not to admonish or push, but in the hope that it serves as a reminder, a reality check. The truth is, you have always been in control of your life, whether you make your choices consciously or not, no matter what circumstances or challenges you’ve faced. When you accept this as fact, you then empower yourself with the option of making the choices that give you the best life for yourself in whatever circumstances you face.
Now over to you: have you made an important choice that has changed your life for the better? Please feel free to share your success stories in the comments to help inspire readers.