You Always Have a Choice
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Hector Garcia Puigcerver, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life
“I had no choice.”
This is never literally true.
This can be translated more accurately in one of these ways:
· “I didn’t like any of my other choices.”
· “This was my best option available.”
· “I couldn’t think of any other option.”
· “Even though I didn’t like this option, I did what I needed to do.”
· “I don’t want to take responsibility for my actions.”
We always have choices.
Even undesirable options become more tolerable if we think of them as choices we make.
“I have to go to work today” can become “Even though I would rather go to the beach, I choose to go to work because I like the benefits that come with having an income.”
If we can reframe the thing we have to do as something we choose to do, our experience is much more positive.
This is the Stoic philosophy: fulfill our obligations with resolve and grace.
As commendable as this is, there is something even better.
When we find ourselves in staggering circumstances that we are powerless to change, we still have the freedom to decide what our attitude will be.
As difficult as it is to believe, we can even experience joy in the bleakest of situations.
In the 1997 film Life Is Beautiful, a father finds himself imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp along with his young son.
To protect his son, the father makes an elaborate game out of prison life.
He gamifies one of the worst horrors of the 20th century.
The father couldn’t leave the concentration camp or secure his son’s freedom, but he was able to change their experience of that brutal reality by his attitude and creativity.
No matter the circumstances, we have the freedom to choose our attitude.
The next time you are tempted to use the words, “I have to,” reframe your situation to “I choose to.”
And when you are tempted to use the words, “I have no choice,” remember that you are free to decide what attitude you will have in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances.
You always have a choice.
— Rod Pickett
Now available at Amazon: The Courageous Heart: Wisdom for Difficult Times in paperback and eBook.