Week Two / Day Five – Choices (Step Four of the process)


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The next step after establishing your aim is to begin assessing HOW you are going to achieve your aim.  It is one thing to have a goal, but you need to be clear on what you need to do to get there.

Sometimes it is pretty simple how you will get there and other times you have no clue what to do, or the decisions and options seem difficult.

In this step you learn how to resource information in order to educate yourself on how to get to your goal and also learn how to make the best decisions for you and your situation. Not only that, but we also look at your mindset to help you assess which option to take.  Your mindset plays a massive role in which decisions to make, as your beliefs will dictate what your priorities are.

It can be difficult sometimes to decide what the best option is for your situation and although some options are easier than others, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the easiest option is the best one (for example a marriage break up versus staying and being unhappy).  This may happen because you are thinking about the judgments of others, what others may think, getting approval, worrying that your decisions may upset someone else, worried that you are not good enough to have what you want, worrying about the consequences of your decisions and who they effect etc.

If you consciously assess what your beliefs are about each option, you may just find that, after aligning some of those beliefs with reality, you may just make a different decision than you would have, if you hadn’t looked at the situation in more detail.

This in depth look at your mindset does not always happen with every use of this step however.  Sometimes it is quite straightforward to look at what your choices are for working towards your aim and creating a path to get there.

For example, if you had the aim to master the skill of breastfeeding, you would simply start researching how you could get help in this area.  You would look for lactation consultants, videos, books, friends who may be able to help, internet or mother’s chat forums.  All of these resources would help you to learn more about the skill of breastfeeding.  It would be easy to create a plan of how to get to your aim of mastering the breastfeeding skill because the options are easy and don’t really require you to look at your mindset.

However if you were trying to reach the aim of putting your child into day care, this could be a whole different story.  You would have to weigh up the options of full-time, part-time, which centre to put your child into and why you want to put them into day care.  You would need to look at how you feel about putting them into day care and why you feel this way, addressing any feelings of guilt.  In this step you would have learnt already about priorities and what governs your decisions, so you will learn to use this information in the context of making conscious decisions about aspects of your life that may be sensitive to you.

The point of this Choices step is to move you into more of a solution focused approach to your problems.  Rather than feeling consumed and trapped by your situation, you are expanding your attention in the direction of answers.  You are starting to search for answers in this step by researching and resourcing information.

There is a popular saying that ‘knowledge is power’.  When we know what we have to do to get where we want to be and then we educate ourselves on how to do it, we feel much more empowered.  This step is helping you to stop allowing yourself to sit in your problems and instead resource solutions and teach yourself how to get what you want.

The Chairman of the Anti-depression Association of Australia whom I’ve had the privelege of working with as well as my own mum, have both been an inspiration to me in my life.  They have both taught me that if you don’t know how to do something, then all you need to do is learn how to do it.  Educate yourself.  Also within the multiple self-help books that I have read throughout my life, the common theme seems to be:

When you don’t know how to achieve something, seek out people who have achieved this very thing, learn from them,
copy what they’ve done into your own life and you will surely reach your aim.

As you have already learnt, we are all learning from one another.  Each and every one of us has information that we give each other every day.  Each and every one of us has had experiences that someone else may not have had and we have learnt from these experiences. 

Seek out those that have experienced and learnt from the very thing that you are challenged by and educate yourself on what they’ve done to succeed.  You have to let go of the idea that I ‘should’ know everything otherwise I am weak or worth-less.  Because the reality is you don’t know everything.  You never will.  You are constantly learning and growing.  Everyone is.  This is the purpose of life.

So in this step, I am urging you to begin learning by resourcing all of the options that are out there that will help you to achieve your aim.

It is a common trap that when we set a goal, we become fixed on getting that goal so much, that we forget that every step we take on the road towards that goal, is you achieving that goal.  The value does not come from getting to the goal. Even though there is a wonderful sense of joy and achievement when you get there, the real quality, valuable stuff comes from what you learnt when you were travelling towards your goal.

Here’s how to apply this Choices step into your life:

Research, research, research.  Start searching for options on how you can achieve your aim.  Use chat forums to ask other parents if your child’s behaviour is the issue, ask maternal health nurses, doctors, go to your library, research on the internet and seek out books or videos that teach you what you need to know.  Use this step to gather information, educate yourself on the options that are available that will get you to where you want to go (your aim).

List all of the potential options you have and start assessing which one may be the best one for you.  As you do this, be mindful of the thoughts you are having about each step. What is the ‘story’ you are telling yourself about why one option is better than another?  Is there any emotion attached to any of the options you are assessing?  If so, look into what’s underneath these emotions and what you must believe in order to feel this way?  Do your beliefs need to be aligned with reality?  (Don’t worry.  You will get help with doing this last part as the program continues).

In this step, you may find that you don’t need to go through assessing your beliefs on which option to take, it may be clear cut.  You will be able to gauge this by how you feel about the decision you are choosing.  If you feel absolutely no hesitations, guilt, or fear when choosing this option, then you do not need to assess your mindset.  If this is the case, then simply use this step to help you to move further away from the consuming feelings of being stuck by your problems. 

Whenever you feel down about how life is going, just stop for a moment and assess where your mindset is at.  Are you thinking of the problem?  Or are you searching for solutions?  Is the problem because you don’t have the knowledge to change?  If so, then get on your computer, get down to the library and educate yourself  about how to change things so it is not a challenge anymore.

Embrace challenges as an opportunity to learn more, instead of seeing this challenge as a poor reflection on your abilities.  No one ever knows everything about life.  The only way to know something is to actively learn it.  Memorize this mantra:

If I don’t know how to do something, it doesn’t mean I’m useless.  It just means I have something to learn.  How can I learn what I need to know?

This goes for whether you are trying to breastfeed, teach your child manners or respect, create a successful marriage, change a bad habit of yours, lose weight, quit smoking, heal yourself from postnatal depression, learn how to make friends, improve a work skill, conceive another child, learn about how to like being a stay at home parent, changing careers, or mastering the work/home balance.

Seek out those who are successful in your challenge and learn from them instead of being sucked into ‘I can’t do it’ and feeling bad because you can’t.  The only reason why you can’t is because you lack the knowledge to do what you need to do and all you need to do is learn.

This step is all about research and education so that you do know how to make those changes in your life and reach your aims, all without pinning your self-worth on how life unfolds.

In tomorrow’s lesson, we look at the final step on the Mind TRACK to Happiness Process – Know your plan & action it.