What’s Your Choice?

ChoiceEverything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl

I have used this quote many times to illustrate the power we have to make choices. Having read the book Man’s Search for Meaning as a college student for my Psychology class, I recently listened to the audio version. I appreciated it so much more this time and I became quite emotional as I heard those words I’d often repeated. In context, they are even more powerful.

Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, writes with incredible eloquence about how he and others rose above despair, enduring daily atrocities and indignities. He experienced first hand just how much can be taken away from a human. That is, all but his power to choose.

Sometimes we take choice for granted and often, we narrowly define the elements where choice is available to us.

Or, we convince ourselves “I have no choice.” There is always a choice.

You can choose your attitude, your behavior, your emotions, your beliefs and your response to a particular set of circumstances. You can choose where to focus your attention and your energy. And, you can even choose your thoughts!

Think about it: before you actually do anything, it all starts with a thought or an idea. Your thoughts turn into action. So whenever it makes sense to do things differently, it also means you need to think differently. This is why, for me, any workshop or seminar or leadership retreat I facilitate, always starts with mindset. Once you know how to think about something, the doing becomes much easier.

The power of your thoughts to control your destiny is profound. To me, this is so important, I wrote a book about it. Becoming Deliberate: Changing The Game of Leadership From the Inside Out is available now from your favorite online retailer and soon in bookstores nationwide.

As you go about your life in the next week, think about this: In what area of your life right now do you need to be more deliberate about your choices?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Making The Choice Against All Odds

comfort zoneDuring an extraordinary career as a senior banking executive, I was often given opportunities way beyond my comfort zone. Yet, having established a track record of success under circumstances of massive change, ambiguity and uncertainty, I was often asked to take on more such roles. In retrospect, I realize this may have stemmed from some early life experiences. Whenever people told me I was not good enough or smart enough to pursue a particular course of action, I became hell-bent to accomplish said action. And yes, that was a pattern of experience in my youth.

As a result, whenever senior leaders came to me with a request that seemed impossible, I readily agreed to attempt it. Some of my colleagues thought I was crazy, for example, when I suddenly moved from Upstate New York to Rhode Island to work for a man who was commonly considered brilliant but terrifying. (Who could turn down a job like that?)

I knew, even then, that if I failed, I would learn so much in the process that it would be worth it. And since learning stuff is at the core of what drives me, I just had to do it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, because of the doors that continued to open after that one.

It can be very difficult to see beyond the immediate decision to the longer-term consequences or outcomes, so how do you do it? You learn to trust your gut instinct, even when everyone else is on a different page. I realize this takes courage. And it takes a belief that whatever happens will be okay.

You need to have faith that you will be able to deal with it, to figure it out, to get the help you need when you need it. And that can be a big leap.

It is also important in the process to fully understand what is most important to you at the time. Is it being safe? Is it being comfortable? Do you need to have control? Or, is it, as it was in my case, the desire to have a new experience, to learn things I did not know, and to change my environment, including the people around me?

Ask yourself today: What choices are you making? Are they keeping you comfortable or helping you grow? And how do you feel about that?