You always have a choice.
This is not an empty maxim. Not an inspirational quote.
It is a fact of life. And recognizing this fact will make you happier and allow you to live a better life.
There are times when things happen to us that are outside of our control. But it is always our choice how we respond (or react) to them.
The most common place where people struggle with this idea is where they feel stuck. They feel stuck in a situation, in a relationship, or in a job.
And I get it. Change is very hard. Our brains are wired to fear change.
But step one is realizing that the way out is in your control. And step two is recognizing that when you don’t make a choice, that is also a choice.
Let’s take a look at a situation in which you feel trapped in your job. You hate going to work every morning. You are miserable at your job. You are living paycheck to paycheck, so you keep going to work to pay the bills.
Trapped in a Job
First, recognize that you can choose a way out. Second, recognize that every day that you continue to get up and go to work without trying to fix the problem is another day that you have chosen to keep living that life.
Of course, you can make the choice to just stop showing up for work. Not a great option, as you will get fired, stop receiving paychecks, and have nothing to fall back on. But it is still a choice that you can make.
You can choose to spend an hour a day researching new fields or networking or studying something new.
You can choose to cut out some of your expenses so that you can build an emergency fund and no longer rely on your paychecks every other week.
You can choose to talk to your boss about other opportunities that may be available at your company.
You can choose to pick up some freelance or side hustle work in your free time to learn a new field or pick up some extra money.
You can choose to keep going to work every day. Maybe you think through all of the options and decide that the stability of your current job is preferable to your other options. Just make sure that it is the choice that you want to make.
The Happiness of Choice
This type of thinking can lead to a better life in a few different ways.
First, you will never again be trapped by your circumstances. If you become more likely to look for other options, you become more likely to find them. Being better able to recognize all of the options available to you opens up a new world of choices and opportunities.
Next, this mindset shift helps to combat the status quo bias [link]. The status quo bias is our brain’s preference to stick with the default and to avoid change. This bias keeps us trapped in suboptimal situations. Actively looking for other options helps keep us from getting stuck by our brain’s fear of change.
Finally, this is scientifically shown to make you happier. By recognizing that you always have a choice, you develop more of a sense of control over your life. People who feel that they have more control over their lives are one-third happier than those who do not.
Think about that for a minute. A simple mindset shift that can increase your happiness by 33%. That’s not to mention the new opportunities and the world of choices that it can open up for you.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a change I would choose to make.