Power of Choice

Your life is a result of the choices you make.  If you don’t like your life, make better choices.”

There is more than “One Way”.  Many go through life just “letting things happen” or “having gut reactions” rather than choosing to make things happen or choosing their actions to achieve the outcome they are after.  Your power comes from your ability to recognize when you have a choice and to choose wisely.  In basic terms, if you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

Introduction

Let me give you an example.  Have you been driving (or a passenger) when suddenly someone swerves into your lane, cutting you off and nearly hitting you?   What is your typical response?   Do you yell?  Curse?  Make a hand gesture?  Call them names?  Insult their family?  Speed up and drive on their bumper?  Can you say Road Rage??

Take a minute to dig a little deeper into the impact of your reaction.   Be honest.  It matters!

  1. How did you feel the moment you were cut off?
  2. Did you simply react? Or did you make a conscious decision to react that way?
  3. Did your feelings and actions continue to impact you once out of the car?  For how long?

If you are anything like I was, I was angry.  I simply reacted; I didn’t choose.  I thought my behavior was justified.   My “gut reaction” impacted me not only in the car, but when I walked into the office and was rude to the receptionist when she said good morning because I was “still angry”.  It impacted a coworker that was looking for some help, when I said I can’t, because I was “still angry”.  I bet my actions and anger rubbed off on them and impacted their behaviors and choices.  I know it carried me all the way home because I was spreading negative energy all day.

A split-second “non-choice” I made had a profound and lasting impact.

Using this example, here are the 3 steps I take to recognize what I wanted to un-become so I could become who I was meant to be.

  1. Improve your ability to become aware of your opportunities to choose, stop taking choices for granted, and understand why it matters to you.
  2. Be grateful for the opportunity to choose better when things get hard.
  3. Take action by making a different choice and reinforcing it.

Become Aware

“You are always one choice away from a completely different life.”

Consider these questions.

  1. Why did you feel that way?
  2. Why did you react that way?
  3. Why did you let it continue to impact you?

Why did I react so strongly when I could not find one justifiable reason.  Did they do it on purpose?  No.  Do they not like you?  They don’t even know me.  Did they actually hit you with their car?  Nope.  Were you late to where you were going as a result?  Nope.  I kept asking questions to find a reason.  I couldn’t.  My reaction only impacted me and others around me. I certainly did not realize in that moment that I was not proud of my behavior.  I had missed the opportunity.

  1. So, how do you feel right now?   
  2. Now that you are aware, will you choose to react that same way next time; or do you want to do it differently?

The opportunity for choice happens every second but most are unaware.  I became aware I didn’t like how I reacted to being cut off.  I didn’t want to be “that” person.  I don’t recall what changed my perspective, but something did.  I decided I was never going to be that person again simply because someone else was in a hurry or was not paying attention or I was in a hurry and mad at the person that got in my way.   I want to bring energy and joy into the world not anger and frustration.  I want to fill people’s cups, not empty them.

POST EDIT:  Funny enough my sister claims credit.   I was sharing this blog and she said “That was me! I asked you those questions and you yelled at me.”   This is a topic for another post, sometimes you need a little help and its ok to accept it even when you don’t ask.

Be Grateful

Now that I have become aware of my road rage behavior, how did I go from anger to gratitude? I changed my perspective.  As my son says, “Break the switch!”

Simply this, I choose to be grateful when I get cut off.  Each time (past, present and future) it gives me the opportunity to be a better, healthier version of me.  I choose to be calm, kind and compassionate toward others.

I believe that mistakes, failures, and stress are good things (when you are aware).  They provide the opportunity to learn, change, grow and shape you into being the version of yourselves you choose to be.  This does NOT mean I don’t make mistakes, I don’t fail, and I don’t get stressed.  I DO!!!  But I work to change my perspective from something harming me to something helping me become a better version of myself.

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” – Lewis Carroll

Take Action

Now you are aware you want to change something, and you are grateful for the opportunity; how to do you change?   There is one more step – take action.

What is one action (when you become aware again) you can make to improve the outcome and how can you reinforce throughout the day.

I choose to take a deep breath, smile, and thank the other driver for not hitting me.   I then take it one step farther to reinforce.  Every time I get in the car and put my hands on the steering wheel, I say a quick prayer for safe passage.

Fast forward: The next time I walked into the office, I had a smile on my face and was kind and friendly.

I find it amazing actually.  It is a lesson I am reminded of every time I get in the car, every time I am cut off, every time someone flips me off because they don’t like how I drive, or every time someone speeds by me to merge into the lane in front of the line of cars.  It no longer takes any effort.  I take a deep breath, I smile, and I am thankful.  I have also shared this lesson with dozens of people that I have been in a car with when their “road rage” takes hold.   I have witnessed their changes on the spot.

“Everything is a choice. To be happy, sad, stressed, fulfilled, it’s your choice. The key is the best choice is not always directly in front of you. You may need the courage to change your perspective, realign your compass, and take a different path”

Your Turn

Here are the 3 steps I used to make better choices regarding Road Rage.  Now it is your turn.   Think through your road rage answers above and my 3 steps below, is there anything you would do differently.  It is easy to make better choices when you are aware and have a repeatable framework to apply and it is never too late to start.

  1. Become Aware: I don’t like how I react to being cut off.  I don’t want to be a negative person.  It has major health and relationship implications.
  2. Be Grateful: I am grateful my Road Rage gave (and continues to give) me the opportunity to be a better healthier version of me.  I choose to be calm, kind and compassionate toward others.
  3. Take Action: In the moment, I choose to take a deep breath, smile and thank the other driver. Each time I get in the car, I choose how I want to be and pray for the safety of everyone on the road.

I choose compassion over anger and gratitude over blame.  I choose to not just apply this to road rage but to apply this to any area of my life where I become aware my behavior is not aligned to my choices.   Other areas for me include “work rage”, “relationship rage”, judging a book by its cover, the blame game, you name it.  It is always a work in progress.  We are always learning and growing.   The more you practice the easier it becomes to start the process of becoming aware.

5-Minute Cup Filler Exercise

Here is a 5-minute daily exercise to develop your skills around choice to improve your outcomes.

“Choose to be a better version of yourself every day.”

Think back over the last 24 hours.

BECOME AWARE: Name one choice (reaction, behavior, regret, struggle) you made you want to change the outcome of and why.

TIP: If you need help getting started, try thinking about some of these categories: family, friends, faith, work, health, finances, community, strangers and ask yourself these questions.

  1. Was there anything you did you are not proud of?
  2. Were there times you reacted negatively (perhaps for no known reason)?
  3. Were there times you felt out of control (things are just happening to you)?
  4. Did you pass up any opportunities to be better?
  5. Are there things you just know you want to change?

Why does this matter?  Why do you want to change it?  How is it impacting you or others?

TIP:  If you need help getting started, try thinking about these questions

  1. How did you feel the moment you made the choice (or didn’t make)?
  2. Did you simply react? Or did you make a conscious decision to react that way?
  3. Did your feelings and actions continue to impact you after?  For how long?
  4. Why did you feel that way?  React that way?
  5. How do you feel now?
  6. Next time it happens, would you choose to do it differently?

BE GRATEFUL: Rephrase your original action into the choice you can be grateful for.  What is the “better version of you” you choose instead?

TAKE ACTION: What is one choice (when faced with it again) you can make to improve the outcome?   Name an additional action you choose to take throughout the day to reinforce.

Choose to commit to repeat daily until you build your choice muscle, and it becomes natural!

Download the Free Power of Choice printable workbook and journal page.  Become a Patreon Subscriber to the morning cup and get access to all other lesson workbooks and journal pages.

Jen Weis

The publisher of Morning Cup.

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