Taking Charge of Your Life: You DO Have Choices

Who is in charge of your life? Who makes the decisions that determine how you experience your life? Regardless of who you are, the true answer to both questions is, “You are.”

Often we feel as though others are controlling our lives: if we work for someone else, for example, we have to meet or exceed specified job requirements. We usually have to complete the designated tasks or achieve the results within a given time frame, and sometimes we have to do them a certain way. If we have a family, we often feel we have to do the things that they want or need even when we don’t want to do them. We may have church or community obligations. Given scenarios like these that make us feel as though we’re being pulled in way too many directions, is it any wonder we feel that life is out of control? The truth is, each of us gets to decide how we experience our life. Our decisions have to do with how we view our lives and frame our choices.

Being in charge of your life means that you are making choices about how you view your situation at any given time. Because your decisions frame how you experience your circumstances, they determine your quality of life. For example, people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own have a choice: they can see themselves as victims, or as being presented with an opportunity to find a job or career they love. While the perspective they choose does not change the circumstances, it does determine how people experience them. Those who choose to be victims will see misery and find it everywhere; those who choose to see opportunity will discover it all around them.

Here’s a quick and insightful exercise that illustrates the powerful impact that can result from a change in mindset from one of “victim” to one of being in control.

  1. Think about a specific situation in which you felt like a victim. Recall how being a victim made you feel. Write down five or six adjectives or phrases that describe how you felt.
  2. Think about a specific situation in which you felt like you were in control of your life and opportunities were all around you. Recall how being in control made you feel. Write down five or six adjectives or phrases that describe how you felt.
  3. Compare and contrast your two lists, then ask yourself this question: “Through which of these states of mind would I prefer to experience my life?”

You are the only person who can choose how you view the world and your specific situation. Making that choice is the first step to taking charge of your life. I invite you to do yourself a favor and learn to see your life as a series of choices for which you are the decision maker.

To learn some specific tools that managers can use to help employees take charge of their lives, please see our article How to Help Your Employees Take Charge of Their Lives. For tips on how to take control of your personal life, please see our article Thriving Personally in Challenging Times Redux.

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.

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