So often we get stuck in our thinking. We think a certain way about a situation and feel as though there is no other way around something. Have you ever experienced this? In another blog I addressed the cycles of thought and how they can bring unnecessary stress in our lives, particularly if the language we use with ourselves is limiting. Building on that “thought”, I am reminded of the concept of CHOICE and how the power of options can truly facilitate a more expansive way of viewing things. It never ceases to amaze me that when I remember to stop and deliberately think about my choices, new ideas open up in my life. Acting and thinking in ways beyond a “black or white” approach to making decisions or viewing circumstances often leads me to find new perspectives and opportunities that I may have missed before. It’s almost immediate that when I can see a way through something that I haven’t seen before, I am re-energized, ready to strategize and then eager to move forward with a fresh perspective. It is nice to know there’s more out there available to all of us than we think, simply by stretching our minds a little bit.
I would like to offer you a simple, yet potentially inspiring exercise to illustrate what I mean. Have a pen and paper handy and try this out for yourself:
Let’s say Jim hates his job and wants to quit. He’s been miserable for some time now but simply does not know what to do about it and feels stuck. For the exercise, write a list of what you think his options may be.
You may have come up with something like:
- He could quit.
- He could buck up and keep suppressing his growing frustration
- He could find another job.
Based on those choices, things don’t look very bright for Jim, do they? But what if we were to come up with several different options for him? What if, no matter how silly they may sound, we challenged ourselves to be creative, off-the-wall, and outrageous with some of our options? Let’s see what happens when we try it. So for this next time, go ahead and figure out as many different choices you can think of that Jim can make. Here’s my list:
- He can quit.
- He can buck up and keep suppressing his growing frustration
- He can look for another job.
- He can talk with his boss
- He can research potential promotional strategies
- He can hone in on what the REAL issue is, and address it
- He can take a sabbatical and figure out what he really wants to do
- He can practice grace and gratefulness in his daily work
- He can re-focus on why he’s there and what value he brings
- He can go back to school
- He can focus on the things in his life he DOES love
- He can ask around to see how other people are handling job distress
- He can call a team meeting
- He can suggest management improvements
- He can find hobbies to help offset his unhappiness in the workplace
- He can choose to smile about his job anyway
- He can commit to his job for x amount of time, and then have a plan
- He can compromise his work
- He can ask co-workers about their level of job satisfaction
- He can donate money to a charity to help bring greater purpose to his paycheck
We can go on and on. My point is, although not all of these are the greatest of options at least we HAVE options in the first place. There is freedom within choices if we grant ourselves the time, creativity and permission to come up with them.
Can you imagine what might be possible if Jim actually pursues #7? That he takes a break to discover his passion and as a result, realizes he wants to become an entrepreneur? Or if he went with #8 and the ripple effect of his grace and gratitude at work causes his co-workers to respond to him positively and it makes work life much more enjoyable? Or how about #19 where he talks to co-workers and discovers everyone is unhappy and then implements #14, and as a result management makes the appropriate adjustments that make it all a bit more bearable?
The opportunities can be limitless if you give yourself permission to play and truly explore as many possible options that you can conjure up – even the options that don’t seem possible. Why not allow your imagination to run off a little bit?!
Now here is the real challenge: Think of a situation, a problem or some sort of circumstance you are faced with right now. Take this exercise and apply it. You may want to start with your original choices that have caused you to feel stuck. Then, create your new list where you write out as many options as you can come up with. And remember to have fun and play with it to see what transpires. (A key to this exercise is not to be attached to the “how’s” or “why’s”. It is not about critiquing the items on your list or arguing whether or not you can actually follow through on some of the action items. At this point, it’s all about possibility and stretching the mind to explore what all you haven’t consciously thought of yet. Make sure you come up with at least 8 different ideas and see what opens up for you!)
One of my therapeutic and coaching techniques includes helping clients to do just this: focus on cultivating options and build upon what is possible in order to take a maximized and more satisfying approach to life. Interested in learning more? Let’s meet up for a free conversation!
Sara Hunter, MA, CPCC