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Perhaps there is something about your circumstances that you don’t like. You accept it, grudgingly, and put up with it ‘because you have no choice’. It doesn’t feel too good, but congratulations on your stoicism. You’ve probably got a few things you tell yourself to help you put up with the situation.

Short-term this is OK. Saying things to yourself like “Life can’t be perfect”, or “Everyone has to put up with things they don’t like”, is admirable and a practical method of coping with a state of affairs you dislike. Longer-term though this can lead to a feeling of hopelessness and disempowerment.

There is always choice. I know that in real terms we often don’t feel that that there is, because we think the consequences of those choices would be worse that putting up with things as they are. But here’s the trick:

Having choice and exercising it are too different things.

Next time…

Here’s an exercise. Take five minutes to generate a list of options. In a job you don’t like, for example, an obvious option might be to leave the job. But there are other, more subtle ones too. For example, you might consider switching to another department; taking two part-time jobs; re-training; even checking with the agencies to see what other opportunities there are out there. The list can grow quite quickly, have fun with it, this is a time for dreaming. Don’t edit or think through what comes up, just put it on the list.

You probably don’t feel like exercising any of these choices, but now you have several options. Rather than the single and debilitating thought “I have no choice”,  you now have “I have several possible routes even though at the moment I don’t feel like taking any of them”.

Or: “Right now I don’t feel like doing this stupid exercise, but I’m going to pick a date three months from now when I’ll take a day to myself to really think about and research my options.”

Before you reject this, try it. See what subtle shifts can begin to happen when you change your way of thinking. Quite literally, it is empowering to have choices, even though you don’t want to act on them. Being ‘spoilt for choice’ is a nicer problem to have than feeling trapped.

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