Whenever I open up my daily planner, I see frantic scribbles accented by multiple underlines and exclamation points. Lists, lists and more lists: school assignments, appointments, errands, “Things to Think About” (aka things I’ll never think about), house chores…With the amount of Post-It stacks and paper pads circulating in my apartment, you would swear I’m a professional list-maker. If writing to-do lists was an Olympic sport, I’m pretty sure I would take home the gold.
But instead of providing some type of relief or sense of organization, my lists usually serve as hair-raising reminders of all of the things I have to do. Things I need to do. Things I should be doing instead of making dinner or sleeping. All of these obligations, lined up in a row, leave me feeling overwhelmed. I find that my typical to-do list is never ending: once I cross a task off, I can find three more to tack onto the end. I’ve become a slave to my responsibilities. I feel those shackles tighten around my ankles as my chain of chores grows longer and longer. When my daily tasks feel like burdens, it makes my bed so much more appealing in the morning. I found that I let my responsibilities control me rather than me having control over them.
These past few weeks, I’ve been training with Maria as she works toward her iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching) Life Coach certification. I’ve been her guinea pig as she tests out her life coaching skills and it’s been a huge eye opener for me, especially for my personal and professional development. During our weekly chat on Friday, she made me realize perhaps one of the most important aspects of my personality: I look at so many responsibilities in my life as anxiety-ridden tasks, as a “must do, need to do, have to do…or else.” Using her intuitive listening skills, Maria stopped me after I expressed my fears and concerns of my internship and job search, fretting over all of the things I absolutely “had to do, right at this moment, at this very second…but where’s the time?! What about that assignment/chore/other crazy task on my to do list?!” Then she asked me:
“Do you realize that you don’t have to or need to do anything? Whatever you do is your choice. You have the power to choose what you do. How do you feel about that?”
Whoa. I just stopped dead in my tracks, phone pressed to my ear and jaw hanging wide open. I had choices. I have the power to choose what I do with my life. While this may seem like an obvious insight, this concept totally blew my mind. I have spent so much of my life looking at my responsibilities–from folding laundry to attending school–as do-or-die commitments, things that I needed to do in order to lead a successful life. I always felt as though there was a specific formula I “had to” follow in order to succeed–personal choice be damned. I “had to” do what was expected of me, what I thought others expected me to do.
But when Maria introduced this concept of making personal choices, I felt such a sense of volition. Looking at projects and duties through this new perspective is empowering. Not only am I excited to take on the things that I choose to do, but I take pride in the tasks I can accomplish. Viewing school as my own personal choice to better myself–rather than holding onto the “Oh no, not this class again” mindset–allows me to appreciate my education so much more. As Maria is constantly reminding me: “Success is doing what you say you’ll do, regardless of the outcome.” The power of choice, of choosing what is truly important to me, allows me to be successful.
After my chat with Maria, I wrote a little note to myself in my journal. I’d like to share it with you here:
Remember, every action, decision and thought is a CHOICE. You do not “need to do.” You do not “have to do.” You have the power to choose what you do with every moment of every day of your life. Unexpected things will happen. Emotions will affect you. You cannot plan what happens in life. However, you have the power to choose how you respond. You have the power to choose flexibility. Never forget that the power of choice lies within you. No one, thing, act or event has that power. It is your choice.
Share your thoughts on the power of choice with me below.