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Transition – Part 3: The Perception of Limited Choice

In part 1 and 2 of this 4-part series we looked at values and beliefs that drive you and then procrastination. In this post we look at the false perception of limited choice.

As we enter a transition period of our lives we can find ourselves losing connection with the choices we have. Sometimes we can feel that we are so stuck in a rut that we only have two choices;

1) Stay in the rut or
2) Get out of the rut at all costs

Another way of putting it is ‘stay with what you know or leap in to uncertainty’. When faced with such a stark choice of course many stay stuck with what they know. Even though this choice may be damaging and harmful it is known and understood and has less fear associated with it. The inevitable consequence is that the initial rut deepens and, over time, life slips by and the rut becomes your life.

In previous parts of this series we’ve started to look at the problem of focussing on the past and what you don’t want rather than what you do want. We’ll look further at that aspect of transition in part 4 of this series. For now we’ll look at how you can open yourself to more choice than the stark ‘do or die’ dilemma. We’ll look at a number of ways of widening your perspective and some of the questions to ask yourself to help you get moving more constructively.

Do nothing

Doing nothing might be the choice you are making right now by default. One act is to take stock and decide deliberately to do nothing rather than resist the need to ‘have to’ do something. Rather than simply letting life happen to you, and feeling like a victim, you can make a conscious choice to accept what is and choose not to resist. We are not suggesting a defeatist approach, far from it, but rather a way of examining what is and putting a more useful frame on it.

Here’s one way to take stock. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the top left write ‘Pro’ and on the right write ‘Con’. Under the Pro heading spend some time writing down all the things you like, enjoy or appreciate about the current situation. Next spend some time writing down all the things that you don’t like or you wish were different about the current state.

Next it can be helpful to enrich your perspective. For each of the items on the Pro list ask the following questions:

  • How dependent am I on this?
  • If this wasn’t present how would life be different?
  • What value is being honoured by this? For example, ‘the current situation gives me financial freedom to pursue a creative hobby’; freedom and creativity being the values being honoured by the current situation.

For each Con ask the following questions:

  • How to I feel about this and would it be possible to just except this In my life and let go of the need to be any different? How would life be if I did that?
  • What value is not being honoured in this situation? How else might I be able to express this value in my life?
  • What can I learn from this situation?
  • If you step back from this situation and imagine watching it on a video tape what do you notice that you haven’t seen before? If it wasn’t you in the video tape what advice would you give?

Change the rut

It may be that you have many more options than you think in fact as coaches we know that’s true. The choice to leave everything as it is or change everything is usually far from the complete picture. Because the dilemma of only two choices can feel overwhelming then what can happen is stagnation. If you can make some changes (and you always can) then this cannot only improve the immediate situation but also free up your mind to consider other possibilities. A change of perspective can help and here’s a few questions that might help create a few more choices.

  • What one small tiny change could you make to improve things? How could you make it happen tomorrow?
  • What’s out of balance right now? What’s missing or what do you have too much of? How could you put a little more of what you do want in and take some (not all) of what you don’t want out?
  • What is a metaphor for your current situation? Is it like a roller-coaster, a car not firing on all cylinders, an orchestra without a conductor or something else? Taking this metaphor as your starting point what else do you notice? Why did you choose to get on this roller-coaster, what is the equivalent of a good car mechanic that will get the car running smoothly, what music is the orchestra playing and so on and so on?
  • Thinking of someone you admire how would they handle the current situation differently? What values and beliefs drive them and how are they different from yours or simply expressed in a different way? If you could get their advice what would they say to you?

That’s if for part 3 of this series. In part 4 we’ll be looking at the problem of focussing on the past when trying to transition to the future.

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