The Choices We Make
An Introduction to Coaching
By Gord Riddell & Kathy Ryndak
One of the wonders of the human mind is its ability to think, to analyze and to make choices. Some people can problem solve and decide a new course of action in the blink of an eye, while others need to ponder the information, weigh it or compare it against their history and other peoples' input and then make their choices. Whether we are fast or measured in our ability to make choices for ourselves, it is truly one of the greatest gifts we have.
Our ability to choose is truly liberating. It will take many of us awhile to realize this and truly exercise our right of choice but we can and will make choices throughout our lives. No matter what the situation, we can at any point decide if we wish to continue in any given situation. The more often we exercise our choices the freer we will experience our life to be.
Making the Choice
That being said, making choices is often not that easy. When it comes to our life it is not clear cut as to the decisions we may want to make. It is not as simple as taking the relevant facts alone and deciding on something different. While the human mind has a brilliantly intellectual portion it also is subject to the emotional mind which is often neither as clear nor as linear in its processes as our intellect is. Add to this equation the fact that for the first 15 or 18 years of life we really did not have any choices. The family structure made them for us. We were told what to do for the most part, so the ability to make decisions was never really properly trained in us.
As adults our desire to change something in our life is often overridden by sheer emotions. Fear, is first and foremost, but also our needs become very loud in their attempt to have a driving voice inside our head. We are all influenced by our needs. The need to feel safe, the need to love and be loved, the need for security including financial are all major human needs. So to make a decision involves the intellect identifying what must change or is just wrong for us, the fear of letting go of something you know and are attached to, no matter how bad it may be for you, and the vacuum that seems to potentially be left when our needs may not be met. This combination of internal experiences can make the freedom of having choices much more difficult.
We are often very surprised at our self when we arrive at the decision that an earlier choice we made is just no longer working for us. The fact is we can and do make bad choices. Perhaps the most obvious place this happens is in our attraction to someone intimately. As we are needs driven in this kind of an example we are not listening to any other part of our brain. The person we are interested in may have run every red flag up the post and we choose not to see the flag post or the flags. They may be obviously unavailable, have no common interests, a substance abuser and on and on and we choose not to see or believe what we can see and hear. Instead we move forward anyway, our needs in hopeful overdrive that somehow this is the one for me. We are always so surprised when things do not work out. If we were honest with our self we already knew this but we had made another choice along the way, not to listen to our inner voice that was jumping up and down pointing at the red flags they were carrying.
The next surprise too many is that all our choices carry consequences. Some of those consequences are wonderful. Some are not. It is something we learn along the way. It may not be overly developed in our teens but as we mature (not necessarily age!) we learn to weigh the longer term outcome against the shorter term choice we are making. The more aware we are of our self and especially our needs, the better decisions we will make that will have more positive outcomes. The easiest example is drinking and driving. The consequences can be dire. The more aware we are of the consequences the more likely we are to take a taxi or not imbibe at all.
When things do not turn out the way we thought they might or at least we had hoped for, we are usually disappointed and angry. We direct those feelings at the other the person or event because it didn't turn out as planned. The fact is we are angry and disappointed with our self. If we continue with the example earlier on in this article, the other person had all the red flags fully displayed. Are we angry for the flags?? Not really, we are angry because we chose not to heed the warnings, believing that we could change the flags. The longer we hold anger at the other person the more connected we stay to them. They are who they are. We chose not to believe them. If we can redirect the anger away from the other person, knowing it is really at our self for not listening, then we can learn from the experience and move on to making better choices in harmony with who we are.
Now the spiritual argument about what has been said is that we do not make bad decisions. Everything that happens does so for a purpose. Right you are, but only if what has happened can be learned from. Many people repeat the same patterns or exhibit the same attractions over and over again. They do so because they did not learn from it the first time. In pointing out that we make decisions that are bad for us perhaps we can develop a greater awareness of our self to fully examine what the choice we are making fully entails and what may be the consequences. In helping people discover more about them self we can help alleviate a lot of pain and suffering by developing greater internal awareness. Many people do not really ever make decisions or choices, they are suddenly in a relationship, let go of a job or in financial straights. By discovering the freedom of making fully aware choices at any time in our life we must also discover the role our intellect, needs and emotions play in arriving at the choices we make and the consequences they may hold.