We want to make better choices,
Choices we don’t regret,
Choices that serve our goals,
Choices that earn our self-respect.
Choices don’t wait ‘til we’re ready,
They arrive just in time,
Doors that open from the inside,
Revealing our thoughts and intentions.
Every choice will bend us,
Like wind upon the trees,
Shaping our character,
Creating our destiny.
When you make a choice in difficult circumstances, you are managing a number of competing variables all demanding your attention. This often feels like a tug-of-war between your mind, your emotions, and your body.
Depending on the significance of the decision, the emotions raised, the risk involved and the importance of the relationship you may find yourself in one of two problematic states.
Blocked – You look and never leap until the choice is made by someone else or by the circumstances.
Busted – You leap before you look and make a choice that wasn’t appropriate for you or the situation.
In either scenario, there is little probability you will end up with an elegant response or helpful outcome. That’s the first problem.
The second problem is the habits you form. Many people get stuck in patterns of response that, over time, take them far off their intended course and only lead to more difficult choices.
The good news is you can also build habits that help you make mindful choices even in challenging circumstances.
Mindful choices do not guarantee good outcomes. Life doesn’t work that way. But they do give you the opportunity to exercise your will and strengthen your self-esteem by acting in alignment with your deeper intentions and demonstrating a commitment to your values.
Even if things do not turn out as you planned you will have instilled a habit that will serve you well in the long run.
The steps below will help you build a bridge between your intention and action. The more emotionally charged or stressful the choice, the more these steps may prove helpful. Rather than being frozen on the ledge or leaping blindly you are building a bridge to the best choice for you, and the things you care about, in this moment.
Breathe and focus – Turn your attention to the sensation of your breath.
Relax your body – Sense where you are tense and relax those areas.
Investigate the experience – Be curious about what is happening.
Draw on your intention – Go deep to discover what you really want.
Gather your energy – Direct your mind and body toward this outcome.
Engage the opportunity – You have the power to choose with intention.
All of this takes practice. This process is not natural. What is natural is the default to fight, flight or freeze.
The first step is to master the power of the pause.
In a society that values talk and action, this can seem counter-intuitive and even uncomfortable. When you learn to pause the moment by focusing on your breath you create space for alternatives. So start by practicing that first step when you are facing a difficult decision or stressful interaction. Then try incorporating the other steps. Eventually, this can all happen very quickly because it will become a habit.
You must declare and internalize your intentions.
You can’t very well draw on your intention if you don’t know what it is. Have you taken the time to reflect on why you lead? How about the kind of person you want to be or the impact you want to have with your life? Are you clear on the values that you are committed to living?
If not, start there. Spend the time necessary to solidify these core beliefs and put them in writing.
Choices are your moment of truth.
Your life is made by your choices.
Your influence is measured by your choices.
Your leadership is confirmed by your choices.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
― J.K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets