Posts Tagged ‘choice’

Today is Mine

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

I heard this song yesterday for the first time, being sung by Australian guitar maestro Tommy Emmanuel. The words speak for themselves but the thing that struck me was the title “Today is Mine”, so often we feel a victim of time and say things like “I don’t have time..” or “I can’t do that..” These statements ignore the fact that we are constantly making choices about what we do and what we attend to, what is important and what isn’t. We make something important by giving it our attention, those things we ignore we are, de facto,  making less important. So often, if you ask people, they would say the most important things to them are their family or their health, yet they spend their time & energy with other people doing unhealthy things!

I always say the only time you can make Change happen is today, and if you are not taking ownership of your day then, you are failing to attend to those things which are important to you. Maybe it is time to reclaim today and make it the day you want and the first day of a life you have chosen…

Freedom from the insidious power of “I have to…”

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I had a strange awakening this morning.  My plans for the day were already vague as the person I was seeing had lost the use of their car and this freed up my day.  Like everyone I have a list of useful chores I could ‘tick off’ if I used this time, and I‘d feel virtuous about that.  It is a lovely sunny, if chilly, day and being outside and perhaps walking would also be invigorating and make me feel good in different way.  Then again I’d awoken feeling the early signs of bug trying to ‘get me’ and maybe if I just had a gentle day, and finished the book I’m so enjoying; I’d be healthier tomorrow .  Then I thought I could have my mother round for tea and be a virtuous son…. or I could make some bread and that would be lovely for lunch…  So many possibilities, so many choices, so many ways to spend a single day.

I know it is necessary to plan and manage how we use our time, it is after all a key resource, but I so often hear people who are totally driven by these plans and commitments and it blinds them to so much, and by-and-large, leaves them feeling victims in their own lives.  How often do you hear people saying “I’d love to BUT…”  Of course some of the time they are just being polite, but certainly not all of the time.  We all have the power to choose, every minute of every day.  Perhaps it is true that Change (with a capital C) starts with you making a different choice about what you do next…  You might pause next time you hear yourself saying  “I’d love to but” and ask yourself what you truly want, what is really good for you.

I hope you make a positive, enriching and fulfilling choice

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”   Joanne Kathleen Rowling

Choice = Power or How to reduce resistance

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I found myself pondering a situation today and wondering how I’d handle it and realised that one of the key issues for me was the fact that I had none of the facts in the case and had been offered only a binary choice, take it or leave it.  How you feel about that kind of thing perhaps is greatly affected by your life experience, your circumstances and your personal ‘wiring’, but I know my reaction would be very different had I been presented with the facts, been invited to contribute to the solution and come to a mutual conclusion on how to take things forward.  This reminded me that one of the key reasons that people resist change is because they are only given this kind of binary choice.  If you want them to go along with your plans, engage them, involve them, consult them and allow them to be part of the decision making process…

Choice… is it a good thing?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I, and suspect many of you feel this too, tend to really value my ability to choose.  Free will is deeply enshrined in our social systems and even though these days much of this freedom is illusory, we treasure it.

Yesterday I went to a talk on Behavioural Economics, which is the study of why we make our buying decisions.  However, it touched on some deeper issues, like why do we choose to preserve freedoms even when they doesn’t make us happy.  Just think of the happily married man, with a lovely wife and children who is serially unfaithful.  He has no desire to wreck his happy home or harm the people he loves but keeps exercising that old right to choose… 

He quoted from an experiment with MIT, where students (all very clever chaps), were asked to make a series of choices with aim of maximising their ‘profit’ from this exercise.  Each choice cost them points, and won them variable amounts of money.  The fascinating thing was that even when they were told that limiting their options would make them more money, they still couldn’t resist keeping them open.

I wonder how often in life we delay a choice, wondering if something better may come along, only to miss out in the end.  Apparently, not only may ‘a bird in the hand be worth two in the bush’ but the bird we have may make us happier too!

This kind of behaviour goes very deep, but it is always a good idea to remind ourselves what we are trying to achieve before making, or delaying, a decision; and asking what the cost and potential benefit of doing so is…

Do you have any stories about preserving choices and getting bitten in the bum?

 “There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it’s easy.”

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  Joanne Kathleen Rowling


Your brain really does switch off when given ‘expert’ advice!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Professor Berns has discovered that our brains literally can be seen ‘switching off’ when offered expert financial advice.  He monitored 24 volunteers using fMRI technology whilst asking them a  series of questions spanning the range from gambling to guaranteed payouts. 

“During some parts of the game the subjects had to make decisions on their own, while in other parts they were advised by an expert economist.

The subjects tended to take the advice, even though it was not always likely to lead to the highest possible earnings. Their brains also showed different patterns of activity when advice was available and when it was not.When participants had to make choices by themselves, they showed high activity in brain areas such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which are involved in active decision-making and probability calculation.”

It is another example of Flight / Fight behaviour.  Emory University have observed that when confronted by money related ‘stuff’, we have two main responses, boredom and fear, in other words, flight / fight!

I would imagine that this our response to expert advice which  spans a much wider area than just the financial.  If it is important and we don’t really understand it, then we are likely to turn to an expert, and we then find ourselves in this position of being apt to surrender our power to them.

Be careful who you pick.  Do remain critical.  Despite all indications to he contrary, you are the expert on your life.

.. of course, as this is ‘expert advice’ you should retain your personal right to ignore it!! 😉 

“An expert is someone who knows a lot about the past.”   Tom Hopkins

“Expert: Someone who brings confusion to simplicity”   Gregory Nunn


Are you a fiddler?

Monday, August 4th, 2008

I think that the world probably divides into two sorts of folks, those who like to leave well alone if something is working, even if it isn’t quite perfect It’s good enough isn’t it? and those who will take the same system and think “I could make this just a little bit better..” I have to admit to being a compulsive fiddler. I like things to work the way that works for me. So in the last month I have been ‘playing’ with 2 different laptops and managed to have to render both inoperable! Luckily, I was able to recover from both potential disasters without having too much grief. I guess this is one way of testing your disaster contingency plans… by precipitating the disaster: though it is a bit like testing your sprinkler system by setting fire to your house!

Some people are happier with self-induced change, others feel that Change will find them soon enough without going looking for it! A lot of people certainly feel safer when they have some degree of choice about the issue, and in a business environment giving choice wherever possible is an important element in engaging people. Some decisions need to be reserved for the ‘bosses’ but there are many non-crucial ones that are important to the staff and are neutral to the overall program. Allowing people this element of self-determination helps reduce resistance and usually improves the overall result. Also the more people you ask, the more likely you are to spot things that could go wrong, and to tap into hidden expertise and enthusiasm.

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” JK Rowling

I believe..

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

I turned on the radio the other day and heard an old hit from the 60’s “I believe” by the Bachelors and whilst it is rather schmaltzy it got me thinking. We are all governed by a set of deeply ingrained beliefs about things like how safe the world is, how it operates, peoples essential nature etc and these beliefs drive much of our behaviour. If you think that the world is fundamentally unsafe then you are constantly scanning for danger and often in a state of pre-flight/fight in case you need to escape or attack. If you believe it is a dog-eat-dog world, then you are probably expecting everyone you meet to be conning you and so find trust difficult.

I’ll be honest with you; I think this is not only a crucial area, but one I find hard to get to grips with. I know there are people out there who think that we can choose our beliefs, and perhaps some people can, but I find that hard to credit. There are others who feel they have tools to alter our beliefs and I have had some fascinating conversations about this subject with them. I suspect that our beliefs come from our upbringing and our experiences; the former are hard to shed without sufficient of the latter that contradict these early messages.

We may not find this an easy area to change, but I think that it is crucial that we take stock of our beliefs and understand the behaviours that they drive, because, make no mistake, they are very powerful. Knowing where they drive us gives us some element of choice about our responses.

I would love to hear from you about your beliefs on this subject and your experiences.

“Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.” Andre Gide
“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” Paraphrased from Buddah

The Power of FREE!

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Sarah Arrow, a voracious reader, kindly brought this blog to my attention, which is well worth a read, and basically talks about the slightly irrational way we react to things marked as “Free“. Now we know in today’s world, there is no such thing as a free lunch, but this doesn’t stop us being ensnared by this magic formula “Free“. Here is a small extract of the piece:-

Imagine you are in the market for an Amazon gift certificate. Consider which of these two offers you would go for (try to do it quickly):

  • A $10 gift certificate for FREE!
  • A $20 gift certificate costing $7.

If your first instinct is the same as absolutely everyone in a study carried out by Shampan’er and Ariely (2006) you’ll take the first option, the free option. Economically, though, this doesn’t make any sense. When you look at it you can see that the $20 gift certificate is actually better value: you actually get a $13 gift certificate for free, but this is camouflaged by the question. That word ‘free’ just shakes all rationality out of us.”

The word has a great deal of power in other areas too. Think about the attraction of idea of being unfettered, burdened by no responsibilities, your deeds having no consequences, cheating Fate, being Free! How many times do you here this line in dramas “I just need to be free!” Of course one reason for its seductive power is that we all know that it simply is a fantasy.

We are (relatively) free to choose our actions, but the consequences are generated by the Universe. At times it might feel like a giant game of Snakes & Ladders, where we patiently wait our turn, throw the dice, march forward a few steps then wait again. Of course, occasionally we find a ‘ladder’ and jump up a level, and then somehow contrive to sabotage ourselves and slide down our own personal ‘snake’.

I guess one of the markers of being an adult is taking responsibility for our actions, and accepting the consequences for our choices. If there seem to be a few too many ‘snakes’ in your life at present then maybe this is a good time to make some different choices and see if they work for you. I wish you luck and hope you roll a 6!

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

“The truth shall make you free, but first it shall make you angry”


Duty… it is all in the Balance

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Duty (from “due,” that which is owing, O. Fr. deu, did, past participle of devoir; Lat. debere, debitum; cf. debt) is a term that conveys a sense of moral commitment to someone or something. The moral commitment is the sort that results in action, and it is not a matter of passive feeling or mere recognition. When someone recognizes a duty, that person commits himself/herself to the cause involved without considering the self-interested courses of actions that may have been relevant previously.

All of us have a variety of duties that come with the various relationships and positions we have and hold; we are citizens, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, employees, bosses etc. If we look at the French root of the word duty it comes from devoir which refers to things we have to do.

As we move into adulthood we acquire certain rights (freedoms) and duties (obligations), and it is not unusual for us to proclaim the former and curse the latter. I don’t know about you but sometimes life seems to provide less and less space wherein we have freedom to choose how we dispose of our free moments and hard-earned pennies. Money itself is interesting, because having it buys us freedom and choices, but the earning of it so often ensnares us!

One of the key things about Life, and also Change, is that we like to feel that we have an option whether we do something or not. Duty tells us we have to! However, amidst our net of duties there are conflicts and balances to be struck. How do we offset the duty we owe our clients against that we owe our spouse; or those owed to our children against those to our parents? Here we each find our own recipe for balance.

If you are finding yourself overburdened by duties to others, chances are you have not factored yourself adequately into the equation. On this long, holiday weekend, learn from Sisyphus1, lay down your boulder and take a little space for yourself. You will serve others so much better on Tuesday!

“Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles, and kindnesses, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort” Humphrey Davy

“A sense of duty is useful in work, but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked, not be endured with patient resignation.” Bertrand Russell




  1. Sisyphus, cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill

You Must

Saturday, April 26th, 2008


  • modal verb (past
had to or in reported speech must) 1 be obliged to; should. 2 expressing insistence. 3 expressing an opinion about something that is very likely.

  • noun
informal something that should not be overlooked or missed.

  — ORIGIN Old English.

I woke up this morning feeling better rested than I have all week, the sun was shining, and I awoke to an empty day. I lay there contemplating what it might offer, and then that little phrase “I must…” started to swirl round my brain. I decided that for my own sanity, that today was no day for ‘musts’, “I assert my right to ignore you!” I cried (silently.)

It occurred to me as I lay there in a blissful moment of silence and sunshine that our lives can so easily be taken over by these little voices demanding our attention. I know that all adults have things that they need to get done. Hopefully some us have made choices in our lives that we are happy with that also have consequences; things like kids and jobs. However, we do have much more freedom that we normally tend to exercise, and I would contend that it is in these little ‘clearings’ that we really live.

So I formally declare today World Mustless Day, and I offer you its freedom to step into and enjoy…