Viktor Frankl believed that. He wrote Man’s Search For Meaning and talked about how in Nazi concentration camps in WWII, regardless of what was done to them, they always had a choice as to what meaning they gave an experience. And it was the meaning people attributed to the situation which had a bigger impact on their survival than any physical attribute.
Now let’s lighten things up before I go any further, as most of us are not in, nor are likely to be in that kind of situation. But it is a great reminder that we always have some choice. It gives us some perspective.
In The Guidebook to Happiness I have a chapter dedicated to the equation E + R = O. The equation stands for the EVENT + your RESPONSE to the event determines the final OUTCOME. That is, the MEANING you give something (through your response) determines the final outcome. Plus it affects the biochemistry and health of your body. You ALWAYS have a choice of how you will respond in any situation.
But for most of us, that might mean slowing down a bit and becoming more self-aware. So start with that.
A book all about Choices
I am currently reading a book by Tal Ben-Sharar, an ex-Harvard Professor and a leader in the Positive Psychology field, called Choose The Life You Want. I definitely recommend it, and what I want to do is share some of the Chapter Headings from the book as the subject matter for today.
Chap 1: Just live your life OR Choose to Choose
‘Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibilities.’ Oprah Winfrey
The first thing to know is that you have a choice. Always. You have the ability to CO-CREATE your destiny every day of your life, by the choices you make. The choice of what fuel you put in your body. The company you keep. The habits you own. What you focus on. What stories you tell yourself (and others). What books you read. What emails you read. How to spend your precious time. What meaning you give to events and experiences.
I am sure you get the idea. 😉
Chap 21: Chase the next material acquisition OR Invest in experiences
‘It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.’ Charles Spurgeon
There is a bunch of research to suggest that we derive more happiness, for longer periods of time, from pursuing positive experiences as opposed to pursuing possessions (although the advertising industry would suggest differently ;-)).
What positive experience can you create in the next few days? Meeting friends. A phone call to someone you have not spoken to for months. A lunch date. Seeing a movie with a friend. Taking your kids or nieces and nephews on an adventure. Organising a dinner gathering. A trip to the local waterfall or lake or mountain.
Chap 65: Act hastily OR Slow down
‘Life is too short to be in a hurry.’ Henry David Thoreau
You know I love to tell people to slow down. This increases our awareness and is more likely to stop us REACTING, as opposed to RESPONDING.
Can you slow down more today? See how it feels. Try it on for size.
Chap 70: Perceive difficulty as a threat OR Perceive difficulty as a challenge
‘A pessimist sees the difficultly in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’ Winston Churchill.
This will not only change your level of success and the emotions you experience, but it will change the way that stress impacts your body. Are you seeing the opportunities in the challenges? Are you seeing the field of possibility on the other side of discomfort?
Someone close to me took a voluntary redundancy last year. After the year off, they have had a challenge getting back into the workforce. This is pretty un-fun and challenging, as you can imagine. But the good that has come of it is paying more attention to what they spend their money on. They have reduced a lot of waste and unnecessary spending in their household that they would not have noticed without this experience. So now when they get back in the workforce, they will be able to save so much more, and maybe don’t need as high a stress job, because they need less money to live on. There is always a flip side to every situation.
My Final Words
I just want you to know that you and me always have a choice. Many are not easy and I often talk to my clients about the need sometimes to have tough conversations to resolve a situation, or get clarity, or step up to the next level of life’s experience.
If you believe you have no choice then you don’t. Conversely, when you know you always have a choice, you always have a choice. Even if that is just what meaning you give to something and how you respond. That choice will impact your psyche and your physical health.
So now comes your choice of what to do next…;-)
Enjoy!! And all the very best.