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There is Always a Choice

Recently, as I was trotting up the first hill of my usual running route I thought, "I wish I was running on a flat road!" Then, almost immediately, the other side of my brain piped up with the retort, "You could have gone somewhere else!"

And it was true. It was my unforced choice to be on this path. Instead of complaining about where I was, I needed to make a decision to embrace it one step at a time or to turn around and go somewhere else.

Isn't the same true in life?

We complain about the path we're on even though we chose it for the most part. Some may say they didn't choose being married to an alcoholic spouse or having a job they hate, but at some point, they chose the actions that brought them to their present situation.

Even if you are in an unsatisfying marriage, at some point you decided to go on a date, got get engaged to, and marry your significant other. By sticking around when times are challenging, you are deciding to stay married. And whether any of those actions were or are "right" choices or wrong ones, your present relationship status and situation are a result of the collection of the choices you've made.

The same thing is true with a job you may no longer like. Yes, it may seem difficult and impossible to walk away from it due to the responsibilities you have or the income and benefits you receive. However, though every situation is different, a number of your past choices brought you to your current position and employer. You sent in a resume or applied for your job. You went through an interview or screening process. You accepted the position from whoever offered the job. You show up to work and accept the pay offered and the responsibility required. Yes I know, you have expenses and bills to pay - who doesn't - which may make it seem like there is no alternative but to stay. Still, your decision to do so is because of the decisions you've made and actions you've taken along the way.

So what about someone who is feeling burned out, exhausted, or overwhelmed? You may argue that you didn't want to feel like this, but just like the examples of marriage or career, wherever you are now - whether energized and rested or burned out and fried to a crisp - is a product of everything you've done up until now.

  • the way you've handled problems

  • the responsibilities that you've taken on

  • all the giving, giving, giving

  • forgetting to give back to yourself

  • forgetting to rest

  • putting your needs aside

  • saying no to you

  • forgetting to put boundaries in place.

All of these are also choices. The good news is, that even if you are feeling crushed by exhaustion depression, anxiety, and/or overwhelmed, wondering how you're gonna get out of it, you can start on a new path right now. You can decide to keep traveling on the road you're on and continue to do things the same things that brought you to this place. Or you can get in the car and head in a new direction.

Sure in life there are some circumstances that don't seem they are of your choosing - disease, natural disasters, and other crises or losses you can't control. (2020, anyone?!) But even then, there are options in the way you respond to even the difficult moments in life. There's always a choice.

To step away to walk in a new direction can be difficult, to say the least. And as much as I'm challenging you to do it I'm challenging myself to do it in the areas I've been feeling stuck, trapped, or flattened by. And just like my run, we can both get through it one step at a time.

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