It’s easy to feel like our lives are just a series of obligations – choices and decisions made because we have to, not necessarily because we want to. From paying bills and working 9-5 to attending continuous professional development seminars, family events and keeping up with the Joneses. When we view life through the lens of obligatory choices, we can feel frustrated, stuck and hopeless.
On his blog in 2019, Seth Godin wrote: “If it’s an obligation, then you don’t have a choice. Pretending you do is simply a way to create frustration. Free yourself to simply do what you have to do. On the other hand, if you do have a choice (and you probably do) then it doesn’t make sense to treat it as an obligation. Own the choice.”
He’s not actually talking about obligations and choices here; he’s talking about mindset. Whilst acknowledging that some things are as they are and we can’t change them, Godin reminds us that we can choose how we think and feel about our actions. Rather than blaming others, owning our choices empowers us to make different choices.
When we own the choice, we can change the choice. Then, it’s not because we have to, but because we want to.
But – we need to understand what’s happening when we make a choice. With every choice, there is a trade-off (or multiple trade-offs).
Saying yes to something generally means that we’re saying no to something else. When we accept the loss inherent in the choice, we can move forward with peace and clarity. When we choose something, it is so easy to only think about what we get from that choice. However, by choosing something, we are actually letting go of something else.
Our lives, ultimately, are not merely down to chance but choice. We don’t have to stay stuck in a job we don’t want, or a relationship that’s unhealthy for us. We can change the situation by either changing how we think about it – or trading it for something entirely different. From debt to a dead-end job, from unhealthy eating to sedentary lifestyles, we can change because we want to, not because we have to.
When we know what’s in the trade-off, it’s so much easier to find the motivation to become unstuck.