The Danger of Assuming Lack of Choice

Have you ever heard or said these dangerous words?

“Some people just don’t have a choice.”

Of course this is true in some aspects. You don’t necessarily choose to get fired or for someone you love to die. The danger comes in when we confuse the line of what’s in our control versus what isn’t.

I’ve heard this phrase said in relation to someone’s job. “They just don’t have a choice…” And to living arrangements, relationships, financial situations.

In these scenarios, you have a choice. You always have a choice.

We have so much more choice than we sometimes accept or recognize and recognizing what’s in your control is the most important aspect of living an empowered, intentional life.

I won’t lie though. Deciding to live life differently – to ask for a raise, to change careers, to get a divorce, to ask your grown children to take more personal responsibility, to start dating again – requires massive courage. It requires setting aside others’ opinions of you and it sometimes requires challenging and editing your entire belief system and identity. We have to be willing to rely on this courage if we want to live a truly joyful life.

When I was graduating college, I felt choiceless. I had chosen to go to a business school and I had taken on quite a few student loans. I didn’t feel like I had a choice to travel the world or take risks like I wanted to at 22. I felt like I HAD to get a corporate job like my school promoted and promised (“95% of graduates have a job after 6 months!”).

I thought I HAD to follow the path laid out for me. And so I did. I don’t regret it because it led me to where I am today, but I felt utterly choiceless.

This wasn’t true. I eventually realized that and chose to follow the road less travelled. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been so worth it.

If you’ve ever said:

I can’t…

I have to…

This is the only option…

Then I want you to ask yourself, according to whom? Who says?

Lay out all of your fears and doubts. Get clear on whose opinions you’re afraid to hear. Who are you afraid of disappointing?

Start with awareness and attention on your internal dialogue. Even if it takes time to actualize major changes, you may begin to see all of the choice in the smaller moments day to day. In how and what you communicate, in your perspective, in where you can say no or yes more often.

Pay attention to choice, and more choice will find you.

On choice, here’s one of my favorite poems by the great Tom Robbins:


The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible.

The word that puts the free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love.

The word that throws a window open after the final door is closed.

The word upon which all adventure, all exhilaration, all meaning, all honor depends.

The word that fires evolution’s motor of mud.

The word that the cocoon whispers to the caterpillar.

The word that molecules recite before bonding.

The word that separates that which is dead from that which is living.

The word no mirror can turn around.

In the beginning was the word and that word was


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