You Can Always Find a Choice by By Dr Henry Cloud / Dr John Townsend

Thinking, Dr Henry Cloud,Dr John Townsend I remember the meeting as if it were yesterday, probably because the dynamic that almost derailed the discussion is one of my pet peeves.

I was serving as a consultant in a planning retreat with a business group that was constructing a strategic plan. The company was rich with open opportunities, and it was poised to accomplish a lot of exciting things. Several of us saw the possibilities as endless, and we were really excited about the potential.

€œLet`s do this. I said, and then I explained an idea sure to bring about expansion and profit. €œThe result could be incredible!

€œWell, that would be nice, said one of the chief team members. But we don`t have the resources for that.

€œSo? I said. €œWhat does that have to do with anything?
€œWell,` she retorted. €œIt`s a wonderful plan, but we really can`t entertain that option. To pull a thing like that off will take a lot of people and a lot of money€”resources that we don`t have.

€œYes, I said. €œI understand that you don`t have them. I still don`t get what that has to do with anything.

€œWhat do you meant she said. €œIf you don`t have the resources, you simply can`t do it. I don`t understand what you don`t get.

€œNot having the resources does not mean you can`t do it, I said. €œYou still have choices.

€œI know, she said. €œBut this option is not one of them.

€œI must disagree, I replied. €œYou are forgetting something. You have lots of choices other than just saving no to this opportunity. You have the choice, for example, to go out and find the resources€”the money and the people that you don`t have.

€œHow would we do that? she asked.

€œI don`t know yet. I said. €œWe`ll have to look into it. You could find partners, investors, or strategic alliances that would benefit from the outcome and have them put money and people into it. You could sell the idea to someone bigger and then have a piece of it. You could build the plan out slowly from the place where we are, and then when it`s up and running, find the investment. You could find another group who needs this piece in their puzzle and piggy-back with them. Who knows until we get into it? But, you certainly have choices.

But clearly the dream-killer was still not on board, and I began to get a little frustrated. €œOr, you could dye your hair orange, move to Colorado, and sell popsicles while you spin around in circles and sing €˜Three Blind Mice,` I said.

€œWhat? she asked. She looked befuddled and irritated at me.

€œMy point is this, I said. €œYou have tons of choices available to you, including the last one and a million others. Unlimited choices. if you open your eyes to those choices, you can make this thing work and get where you want to go. But if the first roadblock you hit makes you think it`s all over€”as if you have no choices€”you will never get anywhere.

We then got into a valuable discussion that changed the mindset of the entire company. The group began to look at possibilities in different ways. They began to see options, opportunities, and solutions that they never would have seen before. And it led to positive results, both in that particular situation and others as well.

Those results came from a particular shift in the way they saw the world and themselves. The shift was this:

From I don`t have a choice, to I may not have the choice I want; but I can find other choices instead.

Almost every day Dr. Townsend and I see people who hit a situation and feel helpless to correct it because they think they have no choice. Here are a few common examples:

€¢ I have talked to my husband, but he just won`t listen.

€¢ I have tried to get dates, but there are just no good ones out there.

€¢ I tried counseling, but it did not help me.

€¢ I tried a weight€”loss program, but it didn`t work.

€¢ I confronted my friend, but she would not listen.

€¢ I tried talking to my mother, but she just got angry.

€¢ I want a new career, but they aren`t hiring new positions at my company.

The common denominator in all these complaints points back to our theme of ownership. Each of these statements is saving. €œIt`s not my fault; it`s someone else or the circumstance. So there`s nothing I can do. Okay you do not have the circumstance you want. You did not get the answer you wanted. The critical question is, who owns that result? In this list, the owners of the result are:

€¢ The husband

€¢ The dating environment

€¢ The last counselor who was not helpful

€¢ The weight-loss group

€¢ The friend

€¢ The mother

€¢ The company

But, none of those people is out there worrying, suffering, or fretting about the result. Only the people passing the buck are feeling the results. That`s where the result lives€”in the complainers` lives and souls. For them to take ownership would mean that they must recognize that the problem always ends up at the doorstep of the one who is responsible for correcting it. The problem may not be their fault, but they are the ones bearing the results€”who really own the results€”for they have to live with them. It is their problem, not the problem of those other people. This means they are the ones responsible for doing something about it. It`s up to them to find what choices are available to them that they are not yet seeing.

If you are the wife of the husband who won`t listen, and you want him to €œget it, what are your choices? You have more than you can imagine. And many of them, if you take ownership and responsibility, have a good chance of getting him to change. Others will result in your being happy even if he does not change. Either way, you have choices. You are not relegated to a miserable life because your husband (or wife) is not listening to you about some problem. What are some of your choices? You can:

€¢ Ask someone to evaluate the effectiveness of the way you`re communicating the problem to him. Something in your approach may be contributing to the problem.

€¢ Tell him that in spite of your efforts to communicate, he is not hearing you, and you want to discuss why he is not responding and determine how the two of you can find a solution.

€¢ Tell him that if he does not get it, there are going to be some consequences.

€¢ Tell him that you want him to go with you to counseling.

€¢ Tell him that if he doesn`t join you in counseling, there are going to be consequences.

€¢ Tell him that if he doesn`t join you in counseling, you will go alone to see what your options are.

€¢ Figure out who has leverage with him€”someone he will listen to€”and get that person to talk to him with you.

€¢ Do an intervention.

€¢ Unplug from your need for him to get it, thus cutting off his power over your emotion wellbeing.

€¢ Join an outside support system to get what you need in terms of connectedness, support, validation, and so on.

€¢ Work through your issues from the past that his patterns tap into to fuel your pain.

€¢ Become so strong that he has no more ability to make you react, Then shower him with love, leaving him speechless with no one to light and blame for his life.

These are only a few of the scads of options available. You are never without options. That is the nature of God`s creation. Yes, we are dealt a certain hand of cards, but we choose how to play them. A good player can win even with a bad hand. God has given you a creative will, and be gives you open doors to find a way out of any situation. Listen to the words of Solomon (Proverbs 11:9 NIV): With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.

Or the words of Paul:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV, emphasis added)

God promises that there is no such thing as €œno way out. When we seek God, he will provide some way to escape whatever it is that ensnares us. We often see that reality in people whose lives are working. No matter what happens to them, they find a way out. In other words:

Their circumstances do not control them. They always find choices.

As they look for God and his answers and search for the options, one always appears. A choice is there. It may not be the one they wanted, but there is always a viable option available.

So, why don`t we always see it?

First, it may be that we are not open to it. We want the option we want, and if that option is not available, then we often get stuck in blame and protest loudly that. €œIt`s not my fault. I think this is the main reason a lot of people remain stuck. They know what they want, and when that`s not an option, they think there are no options. It may be due to stubbornness, or it may just be an overinvestment in their preferred option.

This scenario often occurs in relationships. Some people never get over a relationship not working. I have a friend whose parents divorced thirty years ago when she was in high school. I ran into her recently and asked about them.

€œDad is doing well, she replied. €œHe is remarried and really happy. He found a very nice woman and seems to have grown a lot since you knew him. I am really happy for him.

€œHow about your mom? I asked.

€œNot so good, she said. €˜She just stayed stuck after the divorce. She`s still hung up on my dad and wants him back. She is seventy now and quite bitter. It is not any fun to be around her. The family avoids her.

Her story saddened me. I remember her mother. Vibrant and full of personality outgoing and beautiful, she would have been quite the catch for someone. But apparently she would not open her eyes to other options available if she could not have the one she wanted. If not her former husband, she would consider no one else.

Why? Who knows? I don`t know the woman well enough to speculate, because I don`t know what all is going through her head. But whatever the reason driving her refusal to consider options, the result is the same: she is stuck in her miserable condition. And the hard truth is that it`s her own fault. She simply did not open herself to the options available to her when the one she desired was closed off.

Adaptability

One of the most important qualities that a person can have is the ability to adapt. It is one of the measuring sticks that psychologists use to determine a persons maturity and mental health. Adaptability is one of the strengths that vaults a person unto adulthood. Think about it. When children cannot get a particular need met€”such as hunger€”they look to Mommy or Daddy to find the solution. Maybe it`s a nice dinner of hot dogs. But when the children are grown, there is no Mommy or Daddy to come up with another option for dinner if all the hot dogs are gone. The mature person is on his own to find a way to adapt to that reality.

But what if you are not adaptable? You look in the fridge and find that there are no wieners. Being unwilling to adapt and look at options, you say, €œWell, no dinner for me tonight. So you go to bed hungry. And bitter at the world.

But if you ate adaptable, you will adjust your expectations and say. €œI have choices. You will begin to ask yourself questions: €œWhat if I call my neighbor and ask if he has a few spare frankfurters? €œWhat if I look up a good take-out service? €œHow about going out and finding an open food store or a late-night restaurant? You realize that you have choices other than just sitting there and going hungry.

Of course, most people would easily see their options when dealing with the minor inconvenience of hot dog deprivation. But people do fail every day in the same simple process of adaptation when dealing with relationship struggles, emotional difficulties, career stumbling blocks, and the like. They hit the obstacle and think they have no choice but to live with the problem. But if they are open to other choices, a viable option always shows up.

Learned Helplessness

Another obstacle to finding one`s options is what psychologists call €œlearned helplessness. The term comes from some original experiments in which animals were put in situations where no choice available to them would lead to a good outcome. Soon the animals learned to think that no matter what they did, nothing good would come of it. There was nothing they could do to improve their lot. They were truly helpless to change their fate, so they simply gave up and quit trying. When these animals determined that they were helpless, or better put, powerless, they would just endure their hopeless condition even when a visible escape was provided them. They would not take the escape route because their belief system told them that they had no good choice, even when they were staring it right in the face.

People do the same thing. They develop €œlearned helplessness, and it is actually a formula for depression. They learn early in life that no matter what they do, it will not affect the outcome whatsoever. No matter what they do, Dad or Mom can`t be pleased. No matter what they do, someone still gets angry. No matter what they do, they do not get the approval that they need. No matter what they do, they cannot escape the bad outcome, It`s just the way it is. So they quit trying.

Then something even worse happens. In addition to giving up on trying, they develop a way of seeing themselves as powerless in relation to the world. They no longer see the world as operating on a cause-and-effect model in which ones actions produce a corresponding result. Instead, they come to see it operating on a random model in which things just happen and there is little you can do about them. The law of sowing and reaping goes out the window. So they quit sowing into their lives, and as a result, they also quit reaping. Why? Because they believe that there are no choices. Nothing they do can make things better, so when nothing happens to make things better, it is never their fault.

Apply that way of thinking to the situations we listed above and you can see how some people stay stuck in their bad situations for many years. Let`s look at their list of excuses again:

€¢ The husband who wouldn`t listen

€¢ The poor dating environment

€¢ The counselor who didn`t help

€¢ The weight-loss program that didn`t work

€¢ The friend who wouldn`t listen

€¢ The mother who got angry

€¢ The company that wasn`t hiring

But the reality is€”and I can tell you this with all certainty€”that every single day, other people in those same situations do not just accept them as they are and resign themselves to misery. Instead, they believe that there are always choices, and they join the hand of God to find a way out of the captivity of their situation. They look past the choice they wish they could have and search for the one that works. And they find it.

What It Looks Like

Sometimes seeing a way of thinking in action helps you to adopt it as your own. Many people grow up in situations where looking for choices was not modeled to them, and they don`t even know what the process looks like. (They are not the ones you want on your scavenger hunt team, by the way.) But if they could see €œchoice discovering modeled for them, they could learn it. So let`s look at choice discovering modeled in a few specific situations in order to learn the choices always available to us. These examples involving dating, emotional issues, and weight loss will help you picture how expanding your options means you never really hit a dead-end.

Choice-Discovering Model: Dating

I was speaking to singles in the Los Angeles area about dating when a woman raised her hand and said, €œI hear all of this stuff about dating, but it`s very difficult to find anyone good to date in a place like L.A. The people are so transient€¦ no one seems to have any roots here, so they just come and go. As a result, there are no real stable communities where everyone knows each other and can help connect you with someone compatible.

I could not believe my ears. Southern California has about twenty million people. And she thinks there are no dating options in that pool? It was the classic externalization of the problem we`ve been discussing. Her inability to find good dating material was not her fault; it was the environment. Southern California offers no good choice of men. So I`m stuck; there is nothing I can do.

The real kicker was in the next thing she said: €œIt would be a lot easier to find good dates in the Midwest, where people and communities are much more stable.

Why was that such a significant statement? Because earlier that very week, I had been in the Midwest talking to singles and a woman had said. €œIt is so difficult to find anyone to date here in the Midwest. People have been here so long and the communities are so established that everyone knows each other already and you can`t break into the circle. So there are 110 new prospects. And then she said, of all things, €œIt would be so much easier to find people to date in a place like L.A. or New York.

Suffice it to say that I was well equipped to refute California Girl`s excuse. What was keeping these women from finding the dates they desired? One thing: not seeing the fact that they had choices. Their geography was their excuse. It prevented them from finding the relationships they wanted. Their thought process went like this: €œI am not getting what I want. Guess that is the way it is around here. Translated into our earlier metaphor, €œThere are no hot dogs in this fridge, so I guess there`s no dinner tonight.

But, the true reality is quite different than their perceived reality. I met and talked with singles in both locales who were finding very fulfilling dating lives right where those two women said it was impossible. Just like out two complainers, these dating women had also experienced €œdatelessness. But instead of burying their dreams in a tear-soaked handkerchief, they asked themselves, €œWhat are the choices I could make to change this situation? There were only about a million, but here are a few that these women saw and activated:

· Some looked at themselves and figured out the fact that they were not getting dates because of something out of kilter about themselves. So they asked their friends for feedback about themselves, and when they got it, they went to work on the problem. When they corrected it, their dating lives changed. The things they corrected ranged all the way from €œyou are not open to different kinds of men other than your own dream ideal, to €œyou don`t come across as open to men in social situations. Some of these women got in better shape; others had to address certain internal attitudes that were keeping them stuck.

· Some of these women figured out that they were not getting dates because they were not meeting enough people. So they joined a dating service. I just got a phone call from a woman who had told me a little over a year ago that €œthere were no good men to date, and that €œshe never got asked out. At that time I challenged her to work my program of dating that urges participants to stop blaming outside circumstances and start seeing their choices. I urged her to join a dating service, but she was resistant; she did not at first see that as a viable choice. But in time her attitude changed and she became open to her choices. Well, I`ll cut to the chase and tell you why she called me. She had just said yes to a marriage proposal from a great guy who came from one of those dating services. And, as she would tell you, he was not the first man she met. She had to choose to continue her search after the first ones did not work out.

· These women figured out that their €œtraffic pattern was not exposing them to people then had never met before. They realized that there was no one magic bullet€”no single place where everyone found dates. So then expanded their range and started going to new places.

· The women also got active when there were no good activities available where then could meet other singles. They began to organize activities on their own. One group of women from my church started a club called S.W.A.R.M., which stands for €œSingle Women Actively Recruiting Men. They organized monthly gathering and outings to which members invited men they were not attached to but had met through work or some other venue. In essence, they were all recruiting for each other.

The list could go on, but the point is, whatever problem they found in themselves, they corrected it and their date life turned around.

The point here is not in the specific suggestions, although many of them are highly creative and effective. The point is the way of thinking that led to those suggestions. These women realized that when something is not working stop blaming. Stop passively complaining, €œIt`s not our fault and get busy figuring out what your choices are. When you don`t see any choices, keep looking or create them on your own.

Choice-Discovering Model: Emotional Issues

The caller on our radio show asked what she could do about her eating disorder. She had suffered from bulimia for quite a while. She told us that she was in a 12-step program that had helped her in some ways, but it had left her bulimia largely in touched. Her counselors had convinced her that her bulimia was an addiction and that she would always be in recovery for it. But her recovery program was not helping, and she felt stuck.

€œFirst, I said. €œI have a big problem with calling bulimia an addiction. In my way of thinking, an addiction is something that involves a substance that you can`t let go of, and it involves such factors as acquired tolerance, withdrawal effects, and a whole list of other things not associated with your problem. While the term addiction may be a helpful metaphor for some out-of-control behaviors, I do not think that the addiction model of treatment is the answer for bulimia.

€œBut it does involve a substance, she said. €œFood.

€œI understand, I told her, €œbut the difference in food and alcohol. for example, is that you will always eat food, even after you are no longer bulimic. Alcoholics should never touch alcohol again. Their body has acquired an addiction reaction that will always trigger a downslide to non-functional status, There is no safe way for them ever to drink again. There is a good way for you to eat. So, don`t limit yourself to a treatment that is successful for addicts but does not address the issues that are driving your bulimia.

€œWhat do you mean? she asked.

€œBulimia is usually driven by some predictable developmental issue, I replied, €œlike need€”fear dilemmas, autonomy struggles involving boundaries and freedom, perfectionism and ideal demands, and a failure to achieve adulthood in relation to symbol in parent figures. If you would find a good therapist who understood those things, you could work through what is driving your bulimia, and then you would not have to live forever in €˜recovery` for it. It would be gone. I have seen it happen a zillion times.

€œBut I tried counseling, and it didn`t work, she said. That comment made me suspect the real issue behind the problems, but I probed further.

She went on to tell me all the issues that her counselor had addressed, and they were not the kinds of things that resolve bulimia. I told her she needed to find a new counselor, one who understands the kinds of issues that cause and maintain bulimia.

I could tell that she was struggling to believe that anything would really work. I could hear in her voice that she really had tried, and that the very thought of trying again was overwhelming her.

And here was the reason, as I suspected: She was not afraid of the effort of trying; she was afraid of trying and having it not work again. She was afraid of the hopelessness that would weigh down her heart if another attempt yielded no results. She knew well the danger of Proverbs 13:12, which says, €œhope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (NIV).

But here is the point: her hopelessness did not come from a course of action being tried and not working. It came from her way of thinking about trying.

Think of it this way. This caller`s philosophy was that you try something, hoping it will work, and if it doesn`t you have no other options and everything is hopeless. No wonder this woman was holding back. Of course it would he a very scary thing to try anything. If I thought I had just one bullet, I wouldn`t fire it until I had to. One shot is all you get, and after that it is Hopeless City. But€”

What if your hope is not in any particular option; your hope is in the belief that if you keep looking for options, one will appear?

This approach makes a huge difference. Huge! If your hope is based in the fact that you always have choices instead of being vested solely in any one choice, then you always have hope. Hope need never end, because no matter how many disappointments or failures, you always look for the next available choice. When something does not work out, you immediately ask yourself €œWhat are my choices? By considering your choices, you find that you always have somewhere to go other than into hopelessness. You have options, freedom, possibilities, and hope.

This caller had hit a wall because she saw no choices. Her 12-step program, though helpful in many ways, was not making her bulimia go away. (By the ways we are big supporters of 12-step programs. The point we are making here is that there are things that bulimics need to do in addition to 12-step work.) But as I pointed out to this woman, she had a lot of choices that she was not seeing. Here are just a few that we gave her in that short phone call:

€¢ She could go back to counseling, but find a counselor who knows the developmental issues underlying bulimia. If the first one she talked to doesn`t know them, then she should look for another.

€¢ She could choose to bring other people into her struggle when it was actually happening. A 12-step program usually teaches people to call their sponsors or someone else who can help in the moment when the temptation is occurring. This woman could find help in calling someone when she was tempted to binge.

€¢ If one meeting a week was not doing the job, she could choose to up the number of meetings until she got more control. I shared with her that sometimes when people are hinging as often as she was, they choose to attend a meeting every day. The co-host of our radio show, Steve Arterburn, shared with her that many alcoholics go to as many as ninety meetings in thirty days to get in control of their drinking.

€¢ She could choose to admit to her sponsor and the people in her group the reality of where she really was in her struggle. She admitted that it was extremely hard for her to admit her need of other people. She had a choice about whether to admit that need and let others in on her failure when she was not exercising. Making that one choice to depend on others would go a long way in overcoming her bulimia, because bulimia usually involves dependency fears and conflicts.

€¢ She could choose to get a good book that addresses the issues behind bulimia. She could also choose to get into a small group of friends or find an accountability partner to help her work on her issues.

€¢ She could find a specific support group on bulimia in her town and join it to learn what others are doing to overcome the problem.

€¢ She could choose to go into a more structured treatment, like many bulimics do. Once-a-week counseling or a 12-step group is often not enough. She could check into a treatment center and stay awhile. This kind of treatment can be very successful.

Note that all this information was packed into a very short phone call. If someone were to sit down and spend time with this woman, I am sure that they would discover many other choices available to her as well. The point is this: you always have choices. If you do not have a terminal illness that is going to take your life in the next hour, you usually have options available to you. (As a matter of fact, the research shows that even in terminal illnesses people have many options which will drastically affect their quality and quantity of life.) Choices, choices, choices. We never run out of them.

However, we get stuck in our problems because of two things we don`t like.

First, we don`t like it when the choice we desire is not available to us. Consider the woman who was stuck at age seventy after getting divorced at forty because she still wanted her ex-husband. That option was not available and she would not entertain the other choices open to her. Meanwhile, her husband did make other choices and put together a good life for himself

The second thing we often don`t like is this: if the option we have chosen is not working, as in the case of the bulimic woman, we often don`t want to look past it even though it is not yielding results. She was choosing her once-a-week l2-step program, and it was not working. But she wanted that option to work; she did not want to go through the hassle, the risk, and the dread of starting over. The axiom, If you keep doing the same thing, you`ll keep getting the same results, applies to her way of thinking.

We have a tendency either to want our first choice that we can`t have, or to cling to the failing one we have chosen. Neither option is viable, but that does not mean it is all over.

In dealing with emotional issues, there are always choices available that we might not be exercising. When your relationships are not working, you are not limited to patterns you have relied on in the past. You can stop doing what you have been doing and try something different. When it comes to emotional issues, people tend to limit themselves to their long-standing patterns of behaving.

I have a friend who has dealt with depression. When she is depressed her natural inclination is to stay in bed or withdraw. But she has the kind of character that understands choices and options. So when she is depressed she makes the choice to get up and go work out, no matter how she feels. And she makes the choice to call a friend, or go to a group, or get out with someone she is close to, no matter how she feels. She would tell you that these choices have made a huge difference at some very difficult times. While they are not the total cure, and she still has to make other hard choices in order to get well, exercising choices to be proactive about her condition has played a big part in improving it.

Look at your patterns of dealing with your emotional issues and then explore all the other choices available to you.

Another example: If you are plagued by feelings of loneliness, and yet you just go home and watch TV, its time to make some choices to improve your condition. What other things could you do when you feel lonely? You could:

€¢ Call a friend.

€¢ Go to a church gathering.

€¢ Join a small group of Bible study.

€¢ Attend a generic recovery meeting and talk about loneliness.

€¢ Do volunteer work.

€¢ Take a class that meets at the times when you are most prone to loneliness.

€¢ Mentor a child.

€¢ Go exercise with a friend, or a class.

€¢ One million other options not listed here.

The same principle applies to other emotional issues. Often people do not see options available to them other than the patterns they have always lived out. People with anger issues, for example, do not see that their first choice, which might be to never lose their temper, is not an option yet. Their anger does not just go away because they want it to. But they still have choices. They could choose to remove themselves from a situation when they feel their anger beginning to rise. They could learn to recognize the anger triggers and avoid them. Or when they first feel anger rising, they could tell the person affected that it is happening, and they need to back away from the situation.

As the Bible says, God will provide a way of escape.

Choice-Discovering Model: Weight Loss

€œI tried the weight-loss group, and it didn`t work. We hear this comment often on the radio show or in seminars. Or sometimes, €œIt worked for a while, but then I gained it all back. The despair that often accompanies this issue is heartbreaking, especially when people have €œtried. But, when you begin to get below the surface, you often find that the problem was not the program that did not work, but the person who did not work the program. And that issue is related to not seeing available choices.

When looking at weight loss, people usually see two choices: eat less, and exercise more. And they are right. All the many research studies say the same thing: to lose weight, one needs to move about more and eat less. But there is a problem with that solution: people are unable to do it, or at least to sustain it. What they will do is join a program and sometimes get initial results. Then they gradually begin to wane in their commitment to the program. They begin to try just sticking to the diet, for example, instead of continuing in the groups as well. And soon they find what they have always found€”that their willpower fails them. Their conclusion: €œThat didn`t work for me.

In reality, what has not worked is often their openness to explore other choices. A number of key choices are available to anyone who is serious about getting control of an out-of-control behavior€”choices that actually work. As it relates to our current discussion of weight loss, the lesson is this: when your willpower is failing, relying on the ineffective €œdon`t eat that is not your only choice. You could:

€¢ Add structure to your program. If you are not able to stick to some program requirement, then you need more discipline from the outside. Example: A group of women that I know were having difficulty making the tough choices necessary to carry out their goal. So they made another choice. They chose something they could do. They chose to have a thirty-minute conference call every morning at 7:00 to go over what they had to do that day to make it work and support each other. That one choice made it all come together for them.

€¢ Choose to eliminate temptation. If choosing to not eat the potato chips in the pantry is not a viable option because you lack the power to resist them, you can choose to not buy them in the first place. If they are not in the house, you are not going to eat them. People find this technique extremely helpful. They choose to not have any of the no-no foods in the house.

€¢ Choose external self-control support. If you cannot follow the above suggestion because you can`t pass by potato chips in the grocery store, then don`t go shopping alone. Shop with a friend who is in the program with you, or with someone committed to your goal. If you are alone and feeling tempted, have a few friends whom you have agreed to call at such moments to talk you through it. Tell them that you are about to get into trouble and you want help. Make the choice to promise them that you will never cheat without calling them first.

€¢ Choose to bring external discipline and structure to the specific tasks. If you are supposed to exercise several times a week, and you cannot do it because of your lack of self-control, borrow someone else`s structure. Choose to join a class, or choose to assemble a group of friends who will meet every morning, or at lunchtime, and walk or work out together. You may not have the willpower to do it on your own, but you can join others and tap into their willpower. College students utilize this option all the time by joining study groups to help them get done what they lack the discipline to do on their own. Hiring a trainer accomplishes the same thing.

€¢ Choose to deal with the emotions and stresses that are driving you to eat. While willpower is not one of your choices, talking to someone about the problems that may cause your over eating is one possible option. Join a group, see a counselor, meet with a friend, and begin to get at what`s eating you. Journaling is helpful for some people. You always have a choice to let your emotions either be yours alone, or to share them with someone else. When you share them, they will become less powerful, and they will lose the ability to drive you to the behavior over which you have lost control.

€¢ choose to not drop out of your program. Over and over again we hear of people who have joined a particular program, achieved success, but then dropped out. Not only did they gain back the weight they lost, which, as the research shows, usually happens, more often than not they gained even more. Then they say, tried that and it did not work for me. But in most cases, it was the dropping out that caused it to not work.

If you are truly interested in success, you must make two choices here. First, you must choose not to drop out of the program, even if you are not happy with the initial results. The ones who continue are the ones who end up getting good results. Second, choose to do something that will help you to stay in the program. Usually that means getting the kind of outside support and accountability mentioned above. Staying in the program is the most powerful choice. Forget the choice of relying on your willpower to keep from overeating. Don`t cling to a choice doomed to failure.

€¢ Choose to see weight loss as a long-term lifestyle change. Getting into this kind of continuing-the-program mindset is the most important choice you can make. Weight loss is not something you simply €œdo. It is a matter of changing your lifestyle to where it`s the same as the people who do not have weight problems. Those slim and trim people do the same things as the people who are
trying to lose weight. They explore their emotions, seek support, avail themselves of the same kinds of structured exercise routines, and so on. Ever think about that? It`s the skinny people you see at the gym, they go routinely; it`s their way of life. And that is the way you must choose to see your weight€”control routine. It is not a choice just to lose weight. It is a much more far-reaching choice: the choice to change your lifestyle. When you do that, the weight-control choices will begin to take care of themselves.

This brief discussion is certainly not meant to be a weight€”loss guide or a comprehensive program. We have counseled too many people with weight issues to think we can offer a cure-all in a few pages. If weight is your problem, our hearts go out to you, and we encourage you to find good help with a reputable program that shows proven results. But remember, the good programs work only if you work the program. Choose to find one that you can continue to work, or choose to get the support structures that you will need to keep working it. That will be the key to your success.

Circles of Choice

Remember the section on adaptability? We noted that a child who has no dinner has no choice in the matter, as he or she is dependent on a caretaker for everything. But an adult with an empty refrigerator has choices. Then we said something else very important for you to remember.

We pointed out that most of you do not lose sight of your choices in a simple situation like no food in the fridge. You easily see that you have other options, like heading for the supermarket, going to a restaurant, or moseying over to your neighbor`s house to make a sandwich. No problem. But when you hit a relational roadblock or a work roadblock, the €œI have no choice thinking often sets in. Most of us exercise choice effectively in some areas but not in others. Therefore, to avoid getting stuck in any area of your life, you need to:

Find your spots where you lose our freedom of choice.

These spots are different for everyone. Is it when someone refuses to give you what you need from them? Is it when someone gets angry? Is it when you hit an obstacle in the pursuit of a goal? Is it when your emotions are strong, or when you are depressed? When does it happen? How does it happen? Who is able to make it happen? When you learn the answers to those questions, you are on your way to freedom.

One woman who called into our radio program said that she was going to visit her family for Christmas, and she was getting depressed because she knew her grandfather would make things miserable, just as he always did. She dreaded hearing his criticism of her. We asked her why she had to listen to that, and she responded, €œI just have to, that`s all. I have no choice. That is what he does.

This woman lost her freedom the minute she walked in the door of that family gathering. She did not realize that no one can take away your freedom; she chose to give it up. As Paul tells us, €œIt is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1 NIV). She was letting her grandfather €œburden her with a yoke of slaver? He did not have the power to do that without her permission. But the family pressure to take it was so strong, that this was the place where she lost her choices.

As we talked, we quickly thought of several choices she could make:

€¢ She could choose to not attend.

€¢ She could choose to accept that he would be who he is, but she could give up the desire for his approval. That would empower her to ignore his remarks.

€¢ She could empathize with him. €œGee, Grandfather, it seems like its frustrating to you to have me be like I am. That sounds hard. She did not need to get hooked into convincing him of anything.

€¢ She could steer clear of the grandfather at the gathering.

€¢ She could call a friend throughout the gathering and give reports on how crazy he was, and they could laugh it off together.

€¢ She could call him beforehand and ask if he planned to put her down this year as he had before. If he said yes, she could inform him that she might just go in another room when he started his put-downs. She wanted him to understand this beforehand, so he would not be surprised at her action.

The caller actually began to get lighthearted. Just the reminder that she did always have choices was a huge relief to her, as it is to all of us.

WE DON`T DO WELL IN PRISON BECAUSE WE WERE NOT DESIGNED FOR IT. We were designed to be free. And in some ways, life is a continual struggle to gain, regain, and live out Our God-given freedom from the forces, both internal and external, that would take our freedom away.

Find out where your circle of freedom ends and take steps to enlarge it until you can feel free, no matter where you are, by remembering one thing you always have choices! Ultimately, no person, or no circumstance has control of you€”that control belongs to you and you only. So grasp God`s hand and return to the freedom that he died to give you.

[tag]Article, Christian Living, Life Choice, Dr Henry Cloud, Dr John Townsend[/tags]

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