Have you ever found yourself saying something like this?
- “I have to go to work today”
- “It was my son’s birthday party, I had to eat a piece of cake.”
- “I have to go to the gym later.”
- “I didn’t want to drink 8 beers, but it was an open bar.”
I’m sure you have – we all have! Using words or phrases like, “I have to” or “I had to” show that we think, or at least speak as though, we don’t have a choice. When you say, “I have to ______”, you’re basically saying you have no other option. When there is no other option, you don’t have any control. Most of the time when you feel you don’t have control, you experience a sense of helplessness….like no matter what you do this is just the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it.
We’re going to change that.
We can help you get the control back in your life and start to feel more empowered in three steps:
STEP #1: ACKNOWLEDGE
To begin with, acknowledge the fact that you are surrounded with situations every day where YOU get to decide which choice to make. These situations are EVERYWHERE. From the second your alarm goes off in the morning, you start to make choices. Wake up or hit snooze? Pee in the toilet or in my pants? Brush my teeth or scare people away with my breath? Eat cereal or eggs or a bagel or nothing? Go to work or call in sick? Etc, etc, etc. This goes on ALL DAY LONG! We get so caught up in our daily grind it’s easy to forget that we are making choices during all of these situations. You MUST acknowledge that you make choices all day, every day. You do not HAVE to do ANYTHING, you CHOOSE to do EVERYTHING.
STEP #2: BE CONSCIOUS
Now that we recognize that we make choices during every little situation in our life, we need to start being more conscious during these situations. Often times, we get so caught up in doing the same things day in and day out that we make most of our choices sub-consciously. We MUST start being more present during even the most basic decisions in our lives.
For example; most people will say that they ‘have to’ go to work. News flash, you don’t have to do shit – there are people all over this country that don’t go to work….just look at my 28 year old unemployed cousin who lives in his parents basement and still marks the orange juice in the fridge so no one else drinks it. Every day he chooses to sit on his ass instead of working. It’s not that you HAVE to go to work, you CHOOSE to go to work – why? Probably because you like to have money so you can buy stuff and take care of your family and eat and not live in a cardboard box. There are a ton of reasons why we go to work every day. From now on, when you’re getting ready to go to work, tell yourself that you are CHOOSING to go to work. Think about your reasons for working and know that if your reasons are bullshit, you CAN make a change. Step 2 is all about being more conscious during your day – ask yourself ‘why’ when making the choices you make, even the basic things like going to work or attending your kid’s baseball game.
STEP #3: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Ok, we acknowledged that we get to make choices all day every day, and we are going to be more present when making these choices, Now, we’ve got to start taking complete responsibility for the choices we make. Here’s a scenario: you go to your child’s or nephew/niece’s birthday party and of course, they are serving your favorite cake. Oh, and by the way, you’re trying to lose 20lbs to get back to your ‘look good in a bathing suit’ weight.
What often happens is that you will eat a piece of cake (and probably ice cream too) because you’re at a birthday party and then feel guilty later because you know you should have skipped the sweets. You may feel as though you didn’t have a choice, because eating cake and ice cream is what you have to do at a birthday party!
Feeling guilty doesn’t *do* anything. It’s not a solution or a motivator. Instead, practice making a CONSCIOUS decision about whether or not to have a piece of cake and to do it for the right reason(s). Here are two possible examples of that:
Option 1: “This cake looks delicious but I’m trying to lose weight and because it is more important to me to lose weight than it is to enjoy this cake, I’m going to skip out on it.” – When you make this type of decision, you don’t walk away feeling like you missed out on cake, instead you feel empowered and excited because you are one step closer to your goal.
Option 2: “I’m trying to lose weight but I promised my son that we’d share a piece of our favorite cake together on his birthday. The bond I have with him is more important than the minor setback I’ll have on my weight loss.” – Again, when you make this type of decision you don’t walk away feeling angry with yourself for eating cake, you feel excited because you followed through on a promise and connected with your child.
That is what it looks like to make a conscious decision and take responsibility for it.
With this strategy there should be no more guilt, no more anger, no more helplessness – you have the POWER to make choices, for the right reasons, and feel excited about the choices you’re making.
As you begin to practice this kind of mindfulness, you might find that you’d benefit from an expert opinion on what the right choices are regarding your nutrition, finances, fitness, relationships, school, etc. I recommend you find an expert and/or coach in whichever field you’re having trouble with and ask for some guidance.