The Choice Trap
Our most powerful tool, choice, is also our most abused and unused. This basic mechanism of consciousness is the direct demonstration to ourselves of our power and powerlessness. Are we choosing the best life? Are we choosing to destroy it? Are we not making choices because we’re afraid? Are we afraid of any choices at all?
These are really deeply existential questions that get at the core of what we are: creators. We create our life only by using choice. In fact, making choices is something so natural, so automatic, we oftentimes don’t realize that we are choosing the pain, discomforts and unwanted conditions we “live with” on the day-to-day. We tell ourselves, “We have no choice” about this, that and the other.
I like to call this the Choice Trap. We pretend we’re not choosing and things get bad or worse, and then we suddenly realize we “have no choice” but to…(fill in the blank). My spiritual teacher once told me, “Choosing is an exercise in paying attention. Be aware of what you choose, because it’s the only way you’re going to get what you want.” At the time I laughed at this seemingly obvious statement, but later I realized it was quite profound. There are so many “choices” we make in the form of choosing to “go along” with others, or choosing to procrastinate, or choosing to not do what you know needs to be done, or choosing not to think about your life. These are, often times, unconscious choices that become a sort of operating manual for life.
We can too easily choose to be a victim, or choose to look outside ourselves for causes, or choose to be “right” as opposed to “correct”. In fact, most of our psychology is constructed on the choices we’ve made to embrace or deny our values. What’s the more important choice? Being right or being compassionate? Being truthful or secretive? All of these types of questions point out what we are choosing any given day.
A friend of mine visited last week on vacation, and said, “It’s been so nice to be on vacation. I don’t have to make any decisions–I just go wherever I want and do whatever I want.” To him, making a decision was a big deal, and yet he was making choices the entire time of his vacation as to where to go and what to do. He didn’t think of these kinds of choices as being significant. And yet, these are the kinds of decisions that get us from Point A to Point B every day, and are the key to living the highest and best life we can imagine.
There are a couple of “choosing hacks” I like to use to keep me mindful of the choices I’m making moment to moment. One is, “light or heavy”. Say you’ve narrowed your choices down to two. Ask the question, “is this light or heavy”? One of the choices will seem lighter than the other one, or if they both seem heavy, there is another unacknowledged possibility you aren’t considering. If they are both feeling light, well, then, have fun! Always favor lightness. It will serve as your North Star for navigating through your day.
The second choosing hack is “follow the energy”. This is similar to favoring lightness, but it’s much more specific. Get the idea of something you want to have. Feel the energy of that as though you have it. Now, start choosing the things to do in your day or week that make you feel that same energy. Before too long, you will have that thing you originally wanted, and usually more. It’s the “act as if” drill applied to energies.
So, carefully observe every time you make a decision, no matter how small or inconsequential. You’ll begin to see where you’ve actually decided to have the life you have. And once that awareness dawns, you can change it by using your most powerful tool: Choice.
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