The Stewardship of Choice – Embrace the Uncomfortable to Experience Genuine Change (from AACC)
I didn’t ask for this - a phrase I hear so often in the work that I do. It’s hard to move in any direction when we’re facing the consequences of other people’s choices. Unfortunately, the reaction I typically see (and admittedly do myself) is to stay stuck in the misery of the what ifs and if onlys. We become hyper fixated on how the outcome of a decision would be different if only the other person had behaved the way they were supposed to.
The consequence to this is living in a place we don’t like but refusing to acknowledge we’re choosing to stay there. We may not have chosen our current circumstances; however, we DO choose how we respond.
I like to think of choice as something we’ve been empowered to steward, but rarely do I ever hear people talk about stewarding their choice. Finances, time, resources…yes. Yet, interestingly, even the stewardship of those elements is really a stewardship of choice.
Choices are all around us. I know – my career is focused on helping people stuck in their choices, or dealing with the consequences of past choices, or paralyzed with fear over future choices.
When we choose to live in the circumstances of other people’s choices, we’re at risk of embracing a narrative that falsely defines our identity. Let me give you an example:
Perhaps you were passed over for a promotion at work and the circumstances were for unjust reasons. You’re angry, hurt, bitter, and disappointed – all incredibly valid emotional reactions. However, the narrative you’ve also come to embrace is that you’re a failure, inadequate, and incapable.
NO ONE carries the identity of failure, inadequate, or incapable. If we believe that about ourselves, it’s likely that we’re making evaluations based on emotions. You may have failed to complete a task, been inadequately prepared for a meeting, or been incapable of navigating an obstacle, but those are definitions of your circumstances not descriptors of your worth. Feeling inadequate and being inadequate are two very different things.
So, how do we steward well our gift of choice, especially when we find ourselves in circumstances we would have rather avoided? We have to engage in the practice of radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is defining our present reality without judgment, denial, minimization or justification. It’s like a good old fashioned vin diagram. One circle says FACT. “This is where I’m at.” We call it rationality. It’s logical, tangible, and real. It’s without judgment - not good or bad – it just is. The other circle says FEELING. “I have emotions related to this experience. I feel angry, I feel bitter, I feel hurt, I feel ashamed, I feel unworthy.” Just like your rational thoughts and experiences, your emotional thoughts and experiences just are. They aren’t good or bad/right or wrong.
Radical acceptance is the balance of truthfully interpreting our circumstances and our emotions. When we struggle to radically accept our reality we allow lies and judgements to creep in and then we set our goals in fantasy land – all the while minimizing, justifying, or denying where we are at and what’s within our boundaries to accomplish.
So, when you’re stuck in the circumstances of someone else’s choices, validate the emotions that come with it. Assure yourself it’s ok to feel what you’re feeling but balance that with the facts of where you can go given the reality of where you’re at. This may also require mourning the loss of what you hoped to be, but it will provide more freedom, congruence, and peace in the long run.
For additional information and the PPT to a recent workshop I gave with Dr. John Trent on embracing uncomfortable and the role of radical acceptance in stewarding our choices, please click here.