A Coaching Power Tool Created by Olga Labutina
(Executive & Transformation Coach, GREECE)
It is hard to argue that literally, at any given moment, we are making a choice, both consciously and unconsciously. At this very second, for example, reading these lines and not thinking about or doing something else is a definite choice you are making. Similarly to how choosing not to continue reading this article instead, and engage in another mental or physical activity – will be a choice you can make if you find the piece irrelevant or your priorities eventually shift.
According to an article in UNC-TV it’s estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. Every time we make a choice we roughly either choose to:
- do something (1),
- to not do something (2)
- Or to do something instead of something else (3)
Each decision, of course, carries certain consequences with it that are both good and bad. To illustrate, every time a smoker smokes, she either chooses to (1) have another cigarette (continue smoking) or (2) chooses to not abstain from smoking that cigarette, or (3) to smoke instead of, for instance, taking deep breaths, meditating, drinking water, etc. Simply put, she chooses to eventually harm her health by taking such a decision or making such a choice, which is probably sometimes completely unconscious or at least remotely conscious.
At the same time, her choice given she was conscious about making it, could have been to (1) abstain from smoking/ to be healthy, (2) to not harm her health, (3) to meditate instead of smoking that cigarette, and work on getting rid of that harmful habit. The author is not, however, neglecting the physical side of nicotine addiction, but rather placing a bigger emphasis on the mental side of choice in creating a healthier future for oneself.
According to the same source mentioned above, the researchers at Cornell University estimate that we make 226.7 decisions each day on food alone.
If we apply this information to healthy eating and taking care of one’s nutrition, that will mean, for instance, that those with health-related issues do or do not make that amount of the right choices related to the improvement of their health daily.
Thus, what is the turning point, the trigger we are ought to pull to be making the choice that leads to a healthier lifestyle, as presented in the examples above, instead of choosing to not stay healthy?
Awareness is the key that opens the door to choices that lead us to our healthier, happier, and more prosperous lives.
It is misleading to say that somebody “chose” a dysfunctional relationship or any other negative situation in his or her life. Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel, and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind”. –Eckhart Tolle
Long before embarking onto a coaching journey and choosing this profession, I have always been fascinated as to why some people I encountered would own their life, acts, and thoughts, consciously understanding what they need to focus on to achieve their goals, or simply, how they need to think and behave to get where they want to get. They would always strive to consciously choose the way of thinking and behaving that eventually led to efficiency and success.
On the other hand, there were always people, the majority I have to admit, which knew what is that they need to do, how they need to treat a given situation, and yet they will CHOOSE to keep on going back to their dysfunctional behaviors and/ or perspectives, trying to find excuses along the way on why they failed and whose fault it was.
So many times one can hear people say something along these lines of:
“But what can I do, that’s how I was brought up/ that’s how I am/ that’s how life is/ etc”. You probably are “those people” yourself in some situations.
The above is a vivid illustration of a mindset where a conscious choice is not yet discovered as an option. What else we can clearly see here is a total lack of desire to change the habitual comfortable way of thinking, challenge the status quo, and choose the mindset that will be significantly more effective, efficient, and eventually prosperous.
I have been noticing this frequent pattern with my clients – what prevented them from choosing behaviors and thoughts that will benefit them in the short and the long term was the lack of awareness.
A study conducted by M. A. Killingsworth, D. T. Gilbert stated that almost 50% of the day we actually spend on autopilot, acting with no focus, and mainly out of habit. For the majority of us getting out of bed in the morning, going to the bathroom, brewing the morning coffee, driving to the office and many similar behaviors are those we act upon in autopilot unconscious mode. As harmless and usual as the above may seem, if we add smoking the first cigarette with your morning coffee or eating a piece of cake with it, the negative consequences of such autopilot behaviors become obvious.
The same goes for negative thoughts and limiting beliefs about ourselves and the outside world that we hold on to automatically and unconsciously.
Unless we become fully aware of, firstly, the fact that we do it, secondly, what will such ways of thinking or behaving lead to and cost us, and lastly, why it is important for us to chose to act or think differently, we will continue staying trapped in that autopilot mode, which in this case will prevent us from making the beneficial choices and living a more fulfilling, healthy, prosperous, and successful life.
When we become fully aware of the situation we are in, the choices we make every day, and how they affect and influence this situation, we can start consciously making the choices that will change, enhance and improve our lives in general and parts of them in particular.
While reaching awareness is the foundation for success, it is insufficient to solely be aware. And here comes the concept of choice in its full power.
The Power of Choice
Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.- Roy T. Bennet, “The Light in the Heart”.
Awareness provides and presents us with the grounds on which we are to “plant” the choices that will beneficially alter our lives.
Once we realize what are the choices we make, how they influence us, and what we want to achieve instead, we are ready to embrace the power of choice in its full strength. Ironically, choosing to embrace the power of choice is a choice on its own. And it is up to us from there on to either ignore and neglect our ability to consciously choose and the power it has on altering our lives, turning back to the “that’s how life is/ that’s how things are” types of dysfunctional beliefs or consciously choose to act on it.
Let’s consider the following example:
Tracy, a Sr Director in the biggest global FMCG company, is struggling to get promoted to the next Vice President level, although he possesses the required credentials, strengths, knowledge, and experience, while already managing the scope and the budget that corresponds to this higher job level.
Tracy is very analytical and result-oriented and is convinced that getting a job done, rolling up her sleeves, and being hands-on is the right strategy and behavior that a high performing employee has to demonstrate. At the same time, she sees less result-oriented and more “political” colleagues of hers enjoying higher recognition and more frequent promotions, while their results and actions are not as vivid and strong as the results Tracy brings.
With her coach, Tracy realized that the way she works and her idea of how a “good employee” should behave (that was, of course, created out of her limiting beliefs) is slightly obsolete and not any longer relevant to the higher corporate levels and positions, where the bigger focus is placed on building 360-degree relationships, delegating tasks, supporting her team and their performance, performing high-level strategic management tasks and not being so involved in the day-to-day activities, and, needless to say, self-promotion.
Helping her bring her awareness to the above-mentioned dissimilarities made her face a sequence of conscious choices:
- Choosing to accept the fact that the required and recognized behavior is different from what she believes it is.
Here she could have just kept on insisting on the fact that it is not true and there are other reasons why she is not being promoted.
- Choosing of wanting by all means to climb the career ladder in this company.
Alternatively, she could have decided to stay where she is without a need to change her approach or try to investigate other opportunities, presuming that her approach will be better accepted in another company.
- Choosing to want to change the behavior.
Instead, Tracy could have kept sticking to the known and comfortable behavioral pattern believing, for example, that eventually, it will lead her somewhere.
- Choosing to investigate more on the topic, discuss it with her managers and reports, etc.
Over the course of 6 months, Tracy’s awareness of her choices and focus on choosing to act and think in a certain way not only led to receiving higher recognition in the corporate environment but also enhanced her social and personal life as she was constantly trying to be aware of what is important to her and what are the choices she makes about it.
Try the following exercise:
- Think of any part of your life and work that you feel needs improvement.
- Agree with yourself to consciously choose to make a change in this specific domain of life or work.
- Consider a goal you would like to achieve in this specific domain of life or work.
- Observe and journal on both conscious and unconscious choices you make concerning that domain
- Right them down: Be specific and detailed. Mention even the tiniest of choices you come across, (like choosing to sleep 15 minutes more in the morning or choosing to drink an extra glass of wine) that can potentially influence your goal
- State the conscious choices you need to be making instead.
- Pick a small number of them and incorporate them into your daily life.
- Assess the results and add more.
- Keep on implementing the beneficial choices you stated in point 6 and evaluate the results and correct the course of action if needed.
- Apply the exercise to other parts of your life.
Hasler, E 2018, The built environment, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool.
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda 1876, Book VI, Chapter XLII
UNC-TV, How Many Daily Decisions Do We Make?, February 7, 2018
Matthew A. Killingsworth, Daniel T. Gilbert, “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind”.Science 12 Nov 2010:Vol. 330, Issue 6006, pp. 932, DOI: 10.1126/science.1192439
Glasser, W.,1998. Choice Theory