There’s no choice.  I’ve only one or two options.  I can’t see a way out of this!

Common words of despair when we feel we have no choice about a difficult situation or dealing with a difficult person.  But do we really have no choice?  As part of World Mental  Health Day we are reminded that it’s OK not to be OK and to not be alone when we are struggling with difficult situations.

When we are faced with difficult situations or even people at work, we often believe we are stuck and have no choice in what we do.  We can’t control the cutbacks that are happening at work, or who has been promoted above us, we can feel that these changes are being done to us with our hands tied behind our backs.

Like most things in life, there is always an element of positive potential in something we don’t like, and whilst we can’t change 90% of it, there is always a glimmer of hope that there is 10% that we can actively shape and control. Viktor Frankl a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist said: “Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies growth and our freedom”.

The space Viktor refers to is our choice and we have at least three options:

  1. Choosing to ‘accept the situation’ with an open mind, open heart, and open will.
  2. To convert the situation into a ‘gift or opportunity’.
  3. Seek out the 10% that, hand on heart, you ‘agree with’.

How to accept graciously.
When you consider the definition of the word acceptance, it suggests a willingness as an active participant, rather than a passive receiver of what is being given to us.  This is a full-body approach to the situation connecting not only your mind but your heart and your will in a positive and powerful way.  When we accept a difficult situation in this way, it’s as if we soften ourselves rather than be rigid, we look for the positive rather than the negative, and our thinking is led by a compassionate belief rather than a critical objection.

How to convert.
Shirzad Chamain, the renowned author of Positive Intelligence, explains that whilst we are hard-wired to seek out danger and threats, we can learn to move from a negative to a positive response by noticing, interrupting, and changing how we view a situation.  Have you noticed that in hindsight, from just about every disaster there is something amazing that is released and realised? So rather than wait for hindsight to kick-in, you can consider what is the personal or global gift from this situation or the opportunity that is now available to you.

Seek to agree.
Robert Evans, actor and producer, is purported to have said: “There are three sides to every story; my side, your side, and the truth.” When we are faced with a difficult situation or even a difficult person, it’s as if we are looking at our hand in front of our face – we can only see one side.  And the person or situation only gets to see the other side of our hand.  But we know we have wrists, an arm that leads to our shoulders, in other words, there is more than we immediately see in front of us.  So sometimes we need to look beyond what is visible and find the hidden 10% that we can agree with as being true, fair, acceptable, or that we can simply live with.  This subtle agreement will help to shift your thinking from rejection to acceptance and will influence the rest of your thinking in a more positive way.

So, you can see, that even when we fundamentally disagree or passionately detest what is going on, we always have a choice as to how we think, feel, and react to the situation. What we need to remind ourselves is that it takes noticing the ‘space’ that Viktor referred to, and then when we can actively choose whether to ‘accept,’ or ‘convert’, or even ‘agree’ in order to personally grow and to free ourselves from the negative chatter in our mind.

Three simple steps to shift your thinking. 
Why not give it a go, and let me know how you get on.  And if you are still feeling stuck, then reach out to me and book your free one-hour sample coaching session, and together we’ll move your thinking with one of the three thought processes.