I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “I didn’t have a choice”. It seems we love to use that as an excuse. “I stayed at my crummy job for 20 years; I didn’t have a choice.” “I gave the robber my wallet; I didn’t have a choice.” “I became addicted to <insert addiction here>; I didn’t have a choice.” But that’s a lie. The truth is: we ALWAYS have at least two choices; usually a lot more than two.
Let’s look at the examples I’ve listed.
“I stayed at my crummy job for 20 years; I didn’t have a choice.” First of all, the obvious choice would be to quit your crummy job. It might not be a pleasant thought, but it is a choice. It might be hard to find another job, and sometimes we would rather just stay in our comfort zone and say we have no choice, than to step out and try something risky.
You might think you have no choice because you have a family to feed. While that is a strong motivation, it doesn’t negate your option to do otherwise. You still choose. Leaving the crummy job could possibly cause (worst case) your family to starve. So you say “no choice”.
Letting your family starve is also a choice, though a bad one. My experience is that even making a choice like that, it doesn’t usually come to worst case. You do something else to avoid that outcome. You make another choice.
But quitting your crummy job isn’t the only other choice, and that’s where most of us get stuck. We can only see the yes or no choice. Most of us don’t even look for the other options. We may believe there are no other options.
There are (almost) always other options.
You could ask your boss to let you do something else that you might like more. Most people avoid this choice out of fear. Whether it’s fear of their boss, or fear of the unknown, that fear can make them think there is no choice, when there actually is.
You could change your attitude toward your job. Even the worst job in the world has a positive side. At the very least, you are getting paid. But odds are, if you look, you can find some other benefits to staying at your job, that you could use to change your attitude. Maybe your labor job is keeping you in shape. Maybe dealing with the jerks around you is teaching you people skills (or patience).
Without even trying, I’ve found at least 4 choices when dealing with a crummy job.
“I gave the robber my wallet; I didn’t have a choice.” This one’s a little more tricky. Again, the obvious choice is not to give the robber your wallet, and risk getting hurt. Maybe the robber has a gun to your head. It’s still a choice to let the robber shoot you. Again, not a pleasant choice, but a choice none-the-less.
And just as in the previous example, those are not your only choices. You could choose to run a way. You could choose to talk the robber out of taking your wallet. You could attack the robber. You could drop to the ground and pretend to have a seizure. Those are just the choices I came up with off the top of my head. There are a multitude more.
“I became addicted to <insert addiction here>; I didn’t have a choice.” This one’s a little bit different and may just make you mad at me. I have some experience in this area, so I know what I’m talking about. I am a recovering cocaine and amphetamine addict (35 years), and some could say I have a food addiction now (but that’s another story for another time, and definitely another blog post). I am also an ex-smoker (30 years).
I completely understand the feeling of having no choice when struggling with an addiction. In fact, it’s that very feeling that keeps us hooked. The pull is strong. I know. Once addicted, the cost of quitting is high. There are a lot of forces against you. I know.
But the fact is… the TRUTH is… every time you use, you’re making a choice. EVERY time. Every. Single. Time.
But even more fundamental than that is this other truth that no one likes to talk about. At some point, you made a choice that using whatever you’re addicted to was more important than all the possible risks, including addiction. Let me explain. I’ll use heroin as an example.
Unless you were literally held down and injected, repeatedly over a course of time (which is different for each person), you made a choice. You looked at that needle and you decided “fuck it, let’s do it!” You may have even weighed the consequences at that point, though most of us don’t.
Then you made the same decision again, because you liked it. The price (not just money) and possible consequences weren’t enough for you to make the choice to stop. Only after repeatedly making this choice, over a course of time, did you actually become addicted.
Some of us even come to a crossroads where we realize if we don’t stop we’ll become addicted. And still cross over into that abyss. Sometimes it’s that very realization that keeps us from becoming addicted, as it was for me with alcohol, just not the others.
Some people will say they didn’t have a choice because of peer pressure. As I hope you’re starting to see by now, even that is still a choice you make. You can go against the crowd and deal with getting teased. You can walk away and/or choose new friends. Or you can even turn it around into your own peer pressure and try to get the others to stop. That almost never works, by the way, but it could still be worth a try.
All of these things are much easier said than done. I understand that.
The point is: you had a choice, and you made one.
So stop saying “I didn’t have a choice.”
What do you think? Am I full of shit? Let me know in the comments below.