A few years ago, I was standing on a busy subway platform. The station was filled with the noise of people bustling around me, but I had drowned it all out. I was in a world of my own. Between the pressure of running my business, managing my team, and client demands that morning, it felt like I had a heavy, dark cloud looming over my head. I felt exhausted.
In that moment, I heard the voice in my head say something to the effect of, “I’m spent. And it’s because I’m an entrepreneur. This is so F’ing hard. Maybe I should give this up and go back to being an employee instead.”
Just as that thought ran through my mind, my self-coaching dialogue kicked in. I told the gremlin in my head to calm down because, clearly, quitting my business to go back to working for someone else wasn’t the solution to my problems. Instead, I said to myself, “Ritu, you are where you are based on the choices you have made in your life to date. If you don’t like this feeling of being overwhelmed, change your choices!” And that’s what I started to work on instead — better choices to help me manage my stress and live better — rather than quitting a business I love, and which I’ve now been running for 10 years!
We all make choices in our lives every day, both knowingly and unknowingly. From simple decisions like what to eat for dinner and what to wear to work, to the heavier ones about who to be friends with and whether to change jobs, there’s a truth that we must all embrace: everyone has the power of choice. It’s a critical part of our self-development, and each and every one of the choices that you make shapes your experiences and brings you to where you are in your life.
One of the great things about having the power to choose is that if you don’t like the place you are in your life right now, you can change it! You’re in the driver’s seat, and you can actively and intentionally pursue different options for yourself. It’s part of your decision-making on how to be happy in life.
In the powerful book Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl observes that, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Even when life deals us a horrible hand, “Every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” Essentially, we always retain the power of choice.
This critical life lesson is an important reminder that you have control of what you do next. Even in the deepest, darkest moments of your life, you can still choose how you look at those situations and how you respond.
As you’ve heard me say before, it’s not what life throws our way, it’s how you deal with those circumstances that matters. This is a critical self-development concept! For example, it’s easy to get caught up in the pain of a tough situation and overstay your welcome at a pity party. But instead of focusing on the negative, you can re-frame challenging experiences. You can choose to look at and react to difficult moments in a more positive way, allowing room for self-development, growth, and learning.
How to Make Better Choices
If you are unsure of what changes you need to make to arrive at better decisions, one thing you can do is to engage in self-reflection. Diving deep and tuning in to yourself will empower you not only to know yourself, but it will help you to discover what barriers are in your way to making the right decisions. Most importantly, it will allow you to recognize where you want to be.
To get started, ask yourself these questions. (These are the exact questions I asked myself that day on the platform (after my freak out!) and, as a result, I now have a practical decision-making routine that helps me manage my day-to-day stresses. Ultimately, it’s helping me to feel better and live better!)
First, identify an aspect of your life that you’re unhappy with right now. Ask yourself:
And as an added bonus, answering these questions will help you to better connect with your Authentic Self! As I’ve mentioned in my book, it’s important to understand what authentic living looks like for you, so that you can make better decisions.
When you know who you are and the values you hold, you have a firm foundation from which to make decisions about how to handle life’s challenges. The choices you make are richer, more meaningful, and more rewarding. You feel like you’re being your best self.
This is the power and beauty of choice.
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