C is for CHOICE
The Coach’s Alphabet: C is for CHOICE
by: Stacey Zackin, PhD, MSW, PCC
aka: theCoach4you ~ Coach/Speaker/Educator
As a life and executive coach, I help people to live their lives and lead their organizations in alignment with their values. But, before you can honor your values, you must identify what they are, understand what they mean to you, and acknowledge how they do or do not show up in your day-to-day world.
The Coach’s Alphabet is a tool I created to prompt reflection on what is truly important to each of us, how our thoughts and behaviors support those priorities, and where we get caught in a pattern rooted in unconscious habit and predictable routine. Using the alphabet as our guide we explored accountability and balance in the last two columns—today we look at choice.
Choice refers to having the power, right, or liberty to recognize and make a decision from available alternatives based on personal preference. This definition positions choice as an action, when seen as a value, choice is less about selecting from amongst tangible possibilities and more about being willing and able to see that there are alternate options. William James said, “when you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” Yet, many choices and opportunities are missed because our investment in status quo causes us to interpret certain variable aspects of our lives as fixed or inevitable.
As human beings we are inclined to obey Newton’s first law of motion: “an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force.” This is why many life changes are instigated through crisis such as: the loss of a job, the break-up of a relationship, or the diagnosis of a disease. The fortunate aspect of these unfortunate circumstances is that they force us to make different choices about how we prioritize our careers, our relationships, and our health…choices we previously thought we didn’t have the time or ability to make.
Everyday we make thousands of decisions, some are pro-active (to create change) and some are reactive (to adapt to change). Some are driven by distress (from a place of fear), some by ambition (from a place of desire), some by curiosity (from a place of play and wonder), and others by impulse (motivated by unconscious instincts and emotions).
Contemplating your values helps to ensure that regardless of what path you take and which direction you travel—that you are not a passenger in the back seat but the driver behind the wheel.
Yet, choice is not always about pro-activity and control. I am not one of those self-help folks who think that we create or attract everything in our lives. Positive thoughts and optimistic attitudes are great strategies from which to approach the world, but it helps to acknowledge that random things happen that are beyond our control (and beneath our consciousness), all we can do is take responsibility for how we respond.
Maybe the real “secret” of success was proffered by Viktor Frankl, a neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, who wrote that, “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” This is a concept I assume most people understand and agree with, at least theoretically—our challenge is in its application.
To that end, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to contemplate the following questions to better understand and possibly shift your relationship with choice.
- On a scale of 1-10, at what level of choice are you living?
- In what areas of your life do you feel you have the most choice? The least?
- What choice(s) are you most proud of in your life? Why?
- What choice or decision would you make if it weren’t such a risk?
- Start to notice the many options that present themselves in a day. Keep a record of the choices you make and your decision making style (i.e.: weighing the pros and cons or trusting your gut instinct, etc.) What do you learn about yourself and your relationships with choice?