I have the privilege of being married to my wife who is amazing with kids, and works with children that most other adults do not have the patience for. She has reminded me a couple of times the importance of giving a child choices when it comes to diverting their attention/behavior from something undesirable. For example, if a kid wants to eat a snack while being in the play area (and snacks are not allowed in the play area), the child could be told, “You can eat the snack over by the table, or you can play and not eat the snack in the play area. Which one do you choose?” This creates a situation where the child can think about picking something, rather than just lashing out when being told, “no you can’t eat the snack in the play area.” Having one or more options to choose from gives a sense of freedom (guided freedom towards something constructive, that is).
I thought to myself, “You know what? That doesn’t just apply to kids. That’s so true of us adults, too!” When we lack choice (or think we don’t have choices/options), we can feel things like restriction, obligation, stress, and feeling trapped or stuck.
Choices give us the sense of freedom which gives us the sense of abundance. Who doesn’t want to live/think/feel in a state of freedom and abundance in all they do?
I remember back when I was promoted from assistant general manager of a retail store to general manager. It was a big jump in that I went from a partial leadership and support role to being the head person. Everything came back on me for the success/running of the store. That, combined with seemingly impossible sales goals, put me on a quick road to chronic anxiety.
I remembered having days where, in the quiet half hour of time doing duties before the store officially opened for the day, I would think, “What if I just put in my two weeks notice? What if I actually did that?” But I would immediately think, “No, I can’t do that. That’s not fair to my team, and I don’t know what I’d do next. I can’t do that yet.”
Needless to say, I felt trapped. I am a loyal person, and it felt wrong for me to seek a job change in less than 6 months of being in this new position. I also felt like it would reflect poorly on my resume – and I can’t have that, now, can I? Those were my thoughts.
When have you felt trapped and stuck? What issues/situations are you in where you feel like you just have one option, and that’s it?
What if it were true that there always is a second option?
Wouldn’t that be a game changer?
I remember meeting with a couple of good friends at a coffee shop early one morning before my work shift, and finally shared my turmoil and stress. My friend, Tim, said something like, “It is okay to look for another job, even though you’ve only been in this one for six months. It is okay to start looking at other opportunities.”
Just hearing someone else say that unlocked hope in me. In the prison walls I had believed were all around me (metaphorically speaking), knowing I had a choice (and that it was okay to make that choice) helped me turn my eyes around and see the opening in those prison walls. I realized I could start moving in a direction to hope and freedom. I had a choice. I was not trapped. That alone was such a freeing moment for me. I still was needing to face, for the time being, the job I was in, but now I had options!
So, a few short months later, I had a new job! I got to take a month off between jobs to recuperate, and move on to the next season of my life. Better yet, those experiences from the stressful store manager job helped support my ability to land the new one. Life interweaves itself, and there are always choices we can make. Sure some may be wiser than others, but we do not need to be stuck with one choice.
So how does this come back to healthy living?
I’ll give you some examples of why this change in mindset matters so much:
- Instead of “On this diet I can’t eat ____” think, “I can instead still choose ____ or _____ as an alternative.”
- Instead of “I’m not supposed to eat sugary snacks,” you can think, “I can choose fruit instead, that’s healthier even if not quite meeting my sugar goals.”
- Instead of “I either fail or succeed in a strict 21-day detox,” you could think, “I can pick up where I left off after a bad day.”
- Instead of, “I need a support system, and I don’t have one,” you can think, “I can try looking for one and see who’s out there.”
- Instead of only having plain water to drink, give yourself the option of lemon water for flavor.
- What if, instead of just having that one healthy snack option, you could choose between two to fit your mood in the moment?
- What if, when you have a full day and feel tired and no time to cook, you have not just one quick meal choice, but two?
- Let’s say you have free time to do something fun. Isn’t it more fun to have a choice of two or more things, instead just the one activity (and hoping that you’re in the mood for that one activity)?
As you can see, in many ways, it’s just as much about having options in how we think through a situation, let alone our options of action. When we choose between two or more options, we get the sense that we are navigating our day more to our preferences and desires instead of because that’s what we have to do. And that elevates our mindset to one of freedom and abundance.
What are some areas in your life that would be more freeing if you gave yourself one more option to choose from? How would that feel?
To you health and wellbeing,
Lead Health Coach, Dan Tribley
EPIC Functional Medicine