The Power of Choice

One of the most difficult things in the world to do is to accept responsibility for our own results.

It’s so tempting to blame genetics, upbringing, circumstances, him, her, them, the President, teachers, or any number of animate or inanimate objects for our personal situations – whatever those situations might be.

But have you ever thought about how imprisoning that is?

If someone else is the key to your bad situation, is that person, then, the key to helping you to a good situation? Or since someone else got you into the circumstance you find yourself, is some other someone the only hope to get you to a situation that is better?

The key to figuring out how to improve your own situation is to take full responsibility for the decisions you’ve made your current reality what it is… even if your partially responsible, take full responsibility for that part.

Often, when you sit down and identify the choices and decisions that led you to where you are, the solutions – the sets of choices and decisions you can make to get you out of that situation – become more and more clear.

Identifying poor choices offer clues to what the better decisions might be.

The most empowering thing about taking responsibility is that it provides hope.

No longer are you the victim or at the mercy of some other person or thing.  You can start discovering solutions and choosing your way out of the hole you’re in.

Now, some of you might say, “You don’t know my story. You don’t know how I grew up or who has taken advantage of me or the horrible hand I’ve been dealt.”

True… I do not know these things and there’s a good chance I’d cry if I heard you tell your tale (I’m a crier). God knows people have suffered greatly – of no fault of their own.

At the same time, if you and I were to have that heart to heart, we could probably, with little research, find others who have gone through similar or worse experiences and have chosen their way to better futures.

It’s a cliche, but they decided that the people or circumstances that tried to take their mental, emotional, or physical lives would simply not win.

While you might be a victim of someone else’s poor choices, it’s now your decisions that will start you on the road (no matter how long and slow) toward your preferred future.

The best stories in the world are from those who have overcome ridiculous odds. They did this by realizing they had choices, regardless of whose choices put them in their difficult situation.

Others of you might say, “You don’t know my story. I’ve made some of the stupidest choices already. There’s no way I can ever regain what I’ve lost – financially, relationship-wise, physically, emotionally. I’ve ruined my own chances. I was the victimizer. I was the one who caused hurt and pain. I lied, cheated, stole, neglected, gave into addiction.”

You might be the person who caused the pain and suffering of someone else.

You do have the choice to wallow in guilt and shame. True. Again – this is a choice and a decision you are making.

Or… and I pray you take the ‘or’… you can identify clearly who you wished you had been when you made the choices that caused pain and hurt.

Get clarity around that and start making choices in keeping with that guy or gal – the one who would have acted in love, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness.

A tough part in all of this is sitting down and taking responsibility and acknowledging our own missteps and wasted time and opportunity. Even if you were the victim of others or circumstances, you might still hold guilt and shame for letting life get by before deciding to pick yourself up and start moving forward.

And by the way, I do realize that some of you are bearing ridiculously heavy loads. The loss of a child. The loss of a relationship. Major betrayal. Years of abuse. An insurmountable medical situation.

I still believe choice is a key factor, even if it’s the choice to start getting around the right people and asking for the help you need.

But many are dealing with less intense situations.  A friendship that needs reconciliation. A bad habit that needs course-correcting. Debt. Weight issues. Work-related circumstances.

The choices around these everyday struggles might be more obvious and more easily made.

Just give it a shot. It won’t let anybody else off the hook or it won’t discount the part genetics, geography, or family of origin played in putting you in the situation you are in.

Here’s an exercise:

  1. Identify the situation you want to get out of, improve upon, or change somehow.
  2. Acknowledge your own responsibility for that situation – however small.
  3. Gain clarity on what ‘better’ looks like.
  4. Decide on one or two choices you can make now that will start you on the path toward ‘better.’

Just try it. It definitely can’t hurt (although #2 can sting a little bit when you finally admit your own responsibility and take your share of the blame).

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By the way, I believe in a God who can bring forgiveness and life change (sometimes in one huge leap, but most often incrementally).  If you’re a praying person, I recommend praying through the exercise above.

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