The Year is 2006
Janie sat with her counselor feeling frustrated. “I lost my job.” She had replayed the scenario in her mind multiple times and she had found no way out.
It seemed Janie had no choice …
… The day before Janie’s meeting with the counselor, Janie was checking her work schedule. The human resources person had numerous employees, so Janie did not feel surprised when she realized the correct changes had not been applied to her schedule.
Janie needed a special schedule because it was imperative that she pick her daughters up from school by 2:15 p.m. on particular days. She told herself this mistake could be easily remedied.
Janie knocked on the door to the HR office. She explained the situation. She was told the mistake could not be fixed because there was no one to cover the shift. Janie told the HR person that she could not possibly work those hours because she could not leave her children at school. The HR person told Janie that Janie would work the shift. Janie stated, “When the day comes, I won’t be here.” The HR person told Janie that she would be fired.
Janie promptly quit her job.
Sitting with her counselor, Janie felt defeated. She was worried as to how she would take care of her family. “I had no choice,” Janie explained. “I couldn’t leave my daughters alone at school.”
The counselor was quiet a moment and then he said, “You did have a choice. You didn’t have to pick your children up. You could have kept your job.”
Janie was unbelieving. What the counselor was saying made no sense. How could she put a job before the well-being of her children?
“What I am saying is that you always have a choice,” said the counselor. “You could have left them at school and the consequences of your actions might have been severe. If you had not picked them up that would have been considered abandonment, which might have resulted in the intervention of child protective services. You could have put your employer’s needs first. You decided your children were more important than the needs of your employer or your financial needs.”
This conversation with Janie’s counselor was Janie’s first experience in contemplating the meaning of choices. It was the first time she realized that she was at all times responsible for her actions. Since then, Janie has come to realize that her life is in her hands. Of course, there are some instances that she has no control over, such as other people and situations. For example, as much as Janie would like the ideal career, she can’t force an employer to hire her. What she ‘can’ do is prepare herself so that she attracts prospective employers. Janie can educate herself. She can network to find more resources. She can consult professionals who can help her understand qualities appreciated by employers. Above all, Janie can persevere. Janie can choose not to give up.
The Choice to be Miserable
William Glasser — who developed Choice Theory — states that misery does not happen; instead, misery is the easy choice. Many people find comfort in misery, because it is an easy feeling to assimilate. For example, I may not be able to get the job I want but I can sure feel miserable about it if I choose to think in terms of unpleasant circumstances.
At times, I have felt the misery of failure more than I have the joy of success, because I chose to think of my failures as indicators of my self-worth instead of realizing that every day all people experience degrees of success and degrees of failure — Every day. So if you are thinking you are unique in your ability to make mistakes, you are sadly mistaken.
Glasser states that misery accomplishes three things:
- It keeps anger under control
- It gets other people to help us
- It excuses one’s unwillingness to do something more effective
Anger can be motivating, because anger does not give us the opportunity to depress ourselves. The sheer recklessness of anger can compel us to achieve our goals in spite of obstacles. Anger helped me complete a miserable 13-mile run.
On the greenway and due to heavy rain, I encountered a portion of the path that was underwater. I was angry. I was cold. I couldn’t feel my legs, mostly. My hands were numb. My right knee had been screaming in pain since mile two and now my most feasible option was to tread through water since I am directionally challenged and I did not know how to retrace the route I had taken. My anger — and a *string of cuss words — got me through the deep, muddy water, and through the last mile. Although I had not yet mastered the art of positive thinking, I persevered. I finished my run and high-tailed it to the heater located in my car.
In hindsight, I’m glad I completed my run and now I know to avoid the greenway on rainy days.
*If you’re going to be angry make sure you expend the energy in a healthy, non-harmful way.
Everyone needs help sometimes, but learning to lean on no one but “me” trains us to be mentally strong, to take control of our lives, and to find solutions. The end result is the satisfaction of success through one’s own accord.
About Giving Up
To give up is to lack confidence in one’s ability — do not choose that insecurity. Also, know that misery and insecurity are a pair. There is nothing good about giving up and there is no such thing as satisfactorily feeling miserable. Persevering is tiring at times, but the end result is worth the discomfort.
“The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants in life is often merely the will to try and the faith to believe that it is possible.”
You Have A Choice
Every emotion we feel is a choice, although we like to attribute our emotions to other people, such as “He hurt me.” This is not so. No one can make you feel. You choose to feel, so using Glasser’s choice theory it can be said that “He did not anger me. I angered myself. I allowed his behavior to influence my own.” It’s a fact that people and situations don’t depress us. We depress ourselves. We aren’t emotionally stressed by external stimuli; we allow ourselves to feel emotionally stressed.
What am I saying? I’m saying, take responsibility for who you are, how you feel, and what you do. The next time you feel stressed over something ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do or could have done to prevent the stress?” If there is nothing you could have done then take comfort in that and let it go. If there was another solution, if you could have done better, then use the experience and practice making better choices. Remind yourself that whatever is bothering you is over — or it can be over — if you choose it. Let your next step be to find a solution.
Ways to Encourage Better Choices
- Seek guidance from positive social influences (e.g. friends, family, counselors).
- Look for networking opportunities.
- Join a group of interest that reminds you that you possess untapped potential.
- Don’t wallow; pick yourself up and move forward.
- Remember that tomorrow is a new day and full of potential for success.
- Surround yourself with motivating influences.
- Give yourself a break. No one is perfect.
- Leave the past in the past.
- Do the best you can and feel proud of your effort.
- Never give up.
- Stop comparing yourself to others; you are unique and possess equal worth.
- Consider the possibilities and make a list of them.
- Ask yourself if what happened will kill you. If the difficulty is not life-threatening, let it go.
People fail. All people fail. No one is immune; however, if we are failing, we are trying and I would rather continue to fail then not try.
FYI: The following is a list of prominent failed people who eventually succeeded:
Henry Ford, R.H. Macy, Bill Gates, Colonel Sanders, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Socrates, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Harrison Ford, Marilyn Monroe, Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickenson, Stephen King, Charles Schultz, Steven Spielberg, The Beatles, Beethoven, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and the list continues.
Brickell, J., D. C. & Wubbolding, R. E., EdD. (2013). Resources for teaching and learning choice theory and reality therapy, part III. International Journal of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, 33(1), 51-57.