The ultimate freedom that each and every one of us has as human beings is our freedom of choice. It’s what makes us unique and is always present no matter what happens to us, or what we do. In Stephen Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” he talks about this freedom of choice being a part of the Seven Habits. Do we have to allow any given situation that happens to us automatically create a stimulus response? Or can we actually choose our response? The answer, of course, is that we always have a choice.
I recently facilitated a workshop during which several people expressed that their jobs “stressed them out.” If we think of this in terms of being able to choose our response, the reality is that they stressed themselves out. They allowed themselves to be affected in a certain way by their circumstances, rather than choosing how they wanted to respond.
If you break down the word responsibility, you’ll see the words response and ability. We always have the ability to make a conscious choice, starting with how we think. In turn, this will guide our feelings and, ultimately, our actions.
Here’s a different example. A friend of mine was recently physically assaulted. He was obviously distressed about what had happened to him and, understandably, was feeling a lot of emotions afterward. While it was a senseless and brutal attack, I encouraged him to shift his perspective about it. We talked about how the magnitude of this event was based on the meaning and significance that he chose to give it. He could choose to feel like a victim or he could use the situation to learn a greater lesson. Granted, it may not be the way he wanted to learn that lesson, but he could choose to view it as an opportunity to create a stronger version of himself—a turning point to a higher state of being. Even in a situation that most people would feel they fell victim to, he still has a choice to be a victor, not a victim.
Look at your own situation. What choices do you need to make now to incite change and what choices are you not paying attention to?