In a year where we have had so much choice stripped away, it is not surprising that our sense of freedom, of hope and of optimism has taken a massive hit.
So many people have lost their jobs and businesses through no fault of their own, it is because suddenly they worked in the ‘wrong industry’ or lived in the ‘wrong location’. So many people have had holidays cancelled. For many people I know, it was a much anticipated and long-looked forward to big trip.
Visiting family and friends for Sunday lunch, celebrating birthdays and weddings, paying our respects at funerals, all these events have been cancelled or seriously curtailed. We have missed not only the human connection but also struggled to come to terms with the fact that we suddenly had no choice or control over them.
This lack of choice has had an enormous impact in every sense, and for most people, it has certainly made it more difficult to sustain a sense of optimism and hope.
This has been further aggravated because our unspoken expectation of a few months has become many months, and we all know there will be many more months with major restrictions on our choices.
The Surprising Truth About Choice
Yet there are some surprising truths about choice that can really help us, particularly now. Here is a recent post by Seth Godin that made me really think about choice:
‘We like what we choose.
Not the other way around.
It feels safer to say that we’re born with talents and gifts, that we have a true calling, that we’re looking for what connects with our passion.
That’s not useful (because it means you spend a lot of time shopping around) but it’s also not true.
New research confirms that random choices lead to preferences, and then it follows that preferences lead to habits and habits lead us to become the person we somehow decide we were born to be.
If you had grown up somewhere else or some time else, there’s little doubt that you’d prefer something else. The things we think we need are simply the things we’re used to.
And if you like what you like simply because you have a pattern, that means that you might be able to like something else if you could develop new patterns.
In short: If we commit to loving what we do, we’re more likely to find engagement and satisfaction. And if what we do changes, we can choose to love that too.’
Three things jump out of Seth’s post for me.
#1 The Things We Need are Simply the Things We are Used To
Certainly, COVID has made us all address the difference between ‘want it’ versus ‘need it’. We have been forced to slow down a bit, and that has presented us with the opportunity to reflect on what is really important in life.
Many people I have worked within in the last few months have said that they believe this has been one of the ‘silver linings’ of COVID. That it’s been a very good salutary lesson. The chance to reframe, rethink and reprioritise, and then to start to live out those priorities better than we did in our pre-COVID world, a world typified by so much choice and such a fast pace.
#2 Habits Lead Us to Become the Person We Were Born to Be
In truth, habits are such a powerful force.
An excellent working definition of attitudes is that they are ‘habits of thought’. When you choose your thoughts wisely and repeat those thoughts they form your attitudes and beliefs. Your attitude drives your actions and subsequently your results. In fact, we are who we are hugely because of our habits.
Hold your positive habits close and work hard to change your negative habits.
#3 We Can Like What We Choose
Train the voice in your head, your subconscious, to say ‘I am choosing to …’ rather than ‘I have to …’. It will drive you to make good choices and you will like what you have chosen much more.
During COVID we have sometimes not had the choice available that we would most like, but there are still some choices, some options. If we can ‘choose’ one of these rather than ‘have to accept one’ our attitude to that choice will change. And as a consequence of that change in our attitude, our perspective on life will change too, just a little bit. And lots of little bits do add up!
There is some choice and therefore there is still cause for some optimism and hope.
Train the voice in your head and develop new patterns. Decide to enjoy what you are doing and you will find that the decision drives a new perception and therefore a new reality for you. This is the start of the chain reaction – little by little you will get a new sense of satisfaction and enjoyment, because you have decided to enjoy the choices you can make rather than resenting those choices you would really like to, but cannot, make.
Happiness is not determined by having everything we want, it is mostly determined by being grateful for what we have and by choosing to enjoy that.
Is the glass half-full or half-empty? It depends on your perspective ie. on the way you choose to look at it.