When Choosing Doesn't Seem Like An Option

I don't know about you - but sometimes it doesn't seem like we get to choose in life.  Do you ever feel this way?  Do you ever feel trapped in the hand that life has dealt you?  Yeah, me too. 

Whether it's the end of a relationship, saying good-bye to a loved one, the job you've always worked and don't need to get out of, or the line at the drive thru, sometimes life can seem choice-less.  Is that even a word?  Help me you grammarians! 

Along with not having a choice, feelings of defeat and resignation follow us to the point where we give up trying.  We think and act like this is the only way to be.  

Interestingly enough, one of the things I've learned in coaching is that the choice is ours.  We can't change our circumstances but we can change how we show up for those circumstances.  In short, sometimes our attitude is the only thing we can control.  

I just gave a workshop called Stepping Into Being.  In this particular workshop, we focused on what we call in coaching the Committed Ways of Being.  The committed ways of being are just that - attitudes we want to commit to.  It's the way in which we intentionally show up with our attitude.  It's how you want to show up at work.  It's how you choose to show up during difficulty.  It's how you choose to intentionally show up in relationships, and ministry, and your everyday errands. 

During the workshop, we examined our own attitudes and how we are currently choosing to show up in life.  Are we discouraged?  Are we resentful?  How can we change our perspective?

To open the workshop, I read a devotional I found by James MacDonald.  He used Matthew 15:18 as the basis for the devotional which says, "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person."  The point?  The attitude that comes out in the most difficult of circumstances is already in our heart.  And we can choose the attitude that we place in our heart, the things we think, and the thoughts we act on. 

James went on to state this very convicting thought:  "The very same circumstance in life can feel like the Promised Land or the wilderness - depending on your attitude."  Ouch!  That one hurt!  Have you ever felt like you were in the wilderness?  And could a change of perspective change that to your Promised Land?

To be honest, intentionally choosing my attitude in each circumstance can be challenging.  Because I am a logical and systematic thinker, I tend to find the holes - the places where we need to improve.  The places where someone forgot to be thorough.  Or just what I wish were different.  

Since I've started being coached and coaching others, I'm learning that I am not a victim to any circumstance or person.  I'm learning that I get to choose the one thing I can control - how I show up in each and every circumstance.  I'm learning that I can challenge my thinking and consider what God thinks about my circumstance, that relationship, and my work.  

Stuck on what kind of attitude to intentionally choose?  Try one of these on for size to start your day tomorrow: 

  • Sanction Presence: Be Awake
  • Extend Honor and Respect to Others
  • Pay Attention to What Has Heart and Meaning
  • Speak Truth: Be Candid
  • Come from a Place of Curiosity: Be Surprised
  • Be Observant and Grateful
  • Be Open and Flexible
  • Be on Time and Ready  Be Prepared

These are just a few of the attitudes we talked about choosing at the workshop.  But this list is not a formula or exhaustive.  

The Bible is full of attitudes God would have us choose.  From the fruit of the Spirit to modeling our choices after Jesus own attitude in Philippians 2, we have plenty to draw from the Word of God. 

One of the Christian life coaches I follow had this to say: "Our expectations and beliefs shape our behaviors."  Basically, our attitudes determine our behaviors.  Or as James MacDonald put it, " What we think we become." 

So how can you and I challenge the attitude that comes naturally in that circumstance or relationship?  How can we take a step back and intentionally choose to be present, to be curious, to be grateful, or to be humble?  

It starts with choosing instead of reacting.  It starts with knowing who we are and who God asks us to be as His followers.  It begins with taking time to be intentional about how we want others to experience the life-changing message of the Gospel through us.  

It all starts with refusing to give in to the lie that we don't get to choose.  Today, let's you and I choose intentionally the God we serve and the attitudes that reflect His work in our lives.