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“What choice do I have?”

Do you ever go to work and feel like you keep hitting one road block after another? With every email or meeting comes another problem over which it seems you have no control.

If you find yourself thinking “I don’t have a choice,” I have good news. You not only have one, but you have many.

Here’s why it’s important to recognize that you always have choices, even when faced with a scenario that feels impossible.

Realizing that you have choices puts you in an empowered state of mind. Thinking that you have no choice keeps you stuck in a victim mindset. And when you feel like a victim, it becomes next to impossible to change your outcomes.

Last week, you may have read my article on the Broaden and Build Theory and the power that comes with a positive mindset.

When you recognize that you have a variety of choices, your brain starts to go to work solving the problem at hand. Infinite possibilities open up. Your odds of finding a solution are much higher when you can focus on your choices.

One sign that you’re in a victim mindset is that you see only two choices, and both of them leave you in a losing position. For example, “I can work late and finish the project, but miss my son’s soccer game. Or I can go to the soccer game and miss the project deadline.”

If you can get yourself out of the “lose-lose,” scenario you will find that there are several other options. Perhaps you could go to part of the soccer game or delegate some of the project work. You could consider whether the project deadline could be pushed back a few hours.

I recently had a client who felt trapped in a similar scenario until he determined that he was the one creating his own schedule. He felt he had no choice because he would have to stay late and miss the game. But after taking a closer look, the deadline was self-imposed and he actually could leave the office on time.

A small shift in awareness like this can free you up to create a ripple effect of ongoing successes.

If you find yourself frustrated that someone or something outside of your control is the cause of your problems, here are two things you can do to get out of victim mode and into a place of empowerment and productive problem-solving:

  1. Make a control list. This is a great tool to use when faced with any situation that seems impossible. Take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side, make a list of all the things that are in your control. On the right side, list the things that are outside your control. Take a good look and commit to throwing out the list on the right. Focus only on those things that are in your control. This is a great tool to use in any meeting where you have team members who insist on harboring on all the reasons why you can’t accomplish your objective.
  2. At least 3 solutions. Commit to identifying at least three ideas that could solve your problem. There are always more options than we think. We get stuck in the “either/or” revolving door. We think we are stuck with option A, which is no good, or option B, which is even worse. These “lose-lose” options that pop into our minds tend to be black and white ideas at extreme ends of the spectrum. When you push past these options and commit to more ideas, you will begin to see doors open up for you. A common example among leaders is “I can either delegate daily tasks that will get done poorly, or do them myself and have no time for big-picture strategies.” If you can let go of the black and white thinking, you will see there is plenty of room for other options.
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