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Jul 21

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No one’s holding a gun to your head

Earlier this month, I spent a fascinating afternoon in conversation with mental toughness coach Phil Pearl. To let you picture the scene, I was chatting about existential philosophy with a friendly, articulate and highly perceptive version of Phil Mitchell.

We were talking about the notion of choice when coaching clients report they have lost control of events, activities, relationships or life.

The warning signs go like this:

“I must….”

“I have no choice….”

“I should….”

“I have to….”

All accompanied by a pained expression of resignation.

Whenever my clients start displaying these warning signals, I ask them “Who wrote the rule book that you are choosing to follow?” and “How is that serving you?”

Phil takes the approach “You do have a choice. You don’t have to do anything. You always have a choice. You always have the option of shooting yourself in the head.”

As for the maths formulae? They are saying the same thing:

E ≠ O

The Event (whatever’s “happening to us”) doesn’t determine the Outcome (wherever we end up).

E+R = O

What determines the Outcome is the Event, plus our Response.

~~~~~~~End of maths~~~~~~~

Of course Phil is using an extreme example to illustrate the point. Our beliefs, other people’s expectations, and social norms, fox us into behaving according to these ‘shoulds, musts, and oughts’.

We can either choose to follow them, or choose not to. Choosing to flout the rules may be uncomfortable. However, following the rules is also a choice which (although it may feel easier at the time) may cause more discomfort in the long run.

The key is recognising the word ‘choice’. It’s always up to us. There are very few circumstances in which we do not have a choice.

Next time you sense things are out of control:

  1. Write down your options (if you’re stuck, start with the ridiculous ‘shoot myself’, ‘rob a bank’, ‘change my identity’, and work your way down)
  2. Work out the consequences of each option.
  3. Make your choice.
  4. Do it. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD8vwxhxKpA&feature=related)

Even if you end up doing what you’ve always done, if you do it in the knowledge that this is a conscious decision, it’s a more empowering place to be.

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