Three Timeless Choices for Any Challenging Situation
September 11, 2017
Forrest Gump so wisely said, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”
And we don’t.
Life is filled with joy, sorrow, and everything in between.
And just as cocoa powder is to chocolate, challenges are to life.
Let’s face it— at one point or another, we’ve all felt stuck. Although it's part of life, feeling stuck sucks! "Stuckness" often triggers a mix of emotions including fear, anxiety, negativity, frustration, helplessness, and depression, to name a few.
Talk about a potent cocktail of unawesomeness!
There's a host of different reasons why we might feel stuck. Perhaps it's financial stressors, a career or lack of one, a relationship or ticking biological clock, or feeling trapped by unhelpful patterns such as emotional eating or procrastination.
Whatever the challenge or sticky situation is, we've got three choices.
Just three choices?
According to Dr. Russ Harris (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy expert)— we have three choices in any given challenge, that have the power and ability to perpetuate the "stuckness" or set us free.
What are these choices?
Let’s explore this further.
Please note client's names and identifying information have been changed to protect confidentiality.
You have the choice to continue to stay in any situation. To continue to do what you’re doing, continue feeling stuck, and ultimately become more miserable.
One of my clients (let's call her Mary) was unhappy being “just a mom.” Although Mary loved her kids, having a career identity that was separate from her children was very important to her. She wanted to go back to school, upgrade her skills, and work part-time.
Although the kiddos were in school and her finances were in order, Mary wasn't sure where to begin. When we first started working together, Mary was feeling very stuck. Often when the kids were at school she felt sad, frustrated, and negative. For years, Mary sat in this cycle, which only perpetuated her secret "stuckness".
You have the choice to leave. Yes, we can choose to leave a toxic relationship, unsatisfying job, or situation, as uncomfortable and scary as it may be.
Please note, most of us are blessed with this choice, but not all of us. For example, Viktor Frankyl— a Nazi concentration camp survivor—didn’t have a choice whether he could leave the horrors of the concentration camp.
Although many of us can sometimes feel chained by our minds, most of us do have the choice to leave.
One of my clients (let's call her Jill) was not feeling fulfilled in her job. She worked in a bank and was bound by golden handcuffs. However, Jill had big dreams to help people and be of service in her community. For Jill, this is what made life meaningful. She eventually began night school and through a lot of determination, completed a Master's in Social Work. Jill mustered up the courage and left her banking job to pursue her dreams. She now works in a field that both fulfills her and aligns with her values of service.
If leaving doesn’t feel right or we aren't ready, we can change our situation. Just like the Serenity Prayer— we can accept the things that we cannot change, and change the things we can.
Jenny was both overwhelmed with life and heavily focused on her career as a lawyer. As a result, she forgot to take care of herself— she slept late, skipped meals, didn't exercise, and stressful deadlines fractured her sleep. Jenny loved her career and intended to stay in this field for decades.
As we worked together, Jenny accepted that although her work was demanding, she wasn't making her most important asset— herself— a priority. Jenny came up with a realistic action plan (to encourage change).
She started making small self-care goals (such as one 20 minute walk 3 times a week). Her dedication to herself and accumulation of self-care goals, resulted in a healthier and happier version of herself.
Life is like a box of chocolates, and we don't know what we're going to get.
But, when you bite into something challenging or you feel stuck in a sticky situation, remember you've got three choices.