Owning choice is a hugely important concept that applies itself to many parts of our lives. And not least our health.
I first heard about owning your choice when reading the great book, Eating Less by Gillian Riley. Of all the principles in the book, her strongest is her argument that we must own our choices. But what does that mean? I hear you ask.
The thing is, I’ve noticed, I often do things with a sense that I HAVE to do them. “I’d better exercise this morning.” “I guess I can’t eat that if I want to lose weight.” They might seem to be related to choice, but they really aren’t.
In fact, in those situations I’m totally giving up on choosing for myself, and instead making myself feel bad and powerless and the same time by feeling I must do certain actions. Don’t very uplifting.
The thing is, as I’ve written before. You don’t have to do anything.
We do things because we’ve decided that not doing them would be worse, so we choose certain actions because we know they will bring more benefits. Some of these actions are chosen time and time again and become a good habit, like brushing your teeth. Or going to sleep.
But when it comes to actions related to health such as meditation practice, working out, or eating healthily we give away our choice and instead put on a restriction mind-set and feel completely exhausted ‘having’ to do these things that we don’t really want to do.
Yet, if we want to keep our body in health, actively choosing reasons to do so could be vital.
To feel like it’s your choice, and not a restriction placed heavily upon your shoulders, the reasons you make need to be positive, motivating and meaningful to YOU.
Why is exercise important to you? What does eating a certain way give back to you? Why are you meditating? What are you hoping to get, or are getting, out of these types of actions?
If you decide you are exercising for positive reasons – gaining muscle, protecting your bones so they are stronger for your old age, looking after your heart, getting rid of visceral fat or fitting into your clothes – then you can make a choice about what to do based on those motivating reasons.
“I’d better exercise then, sigh.” Becomes: “I want to exercise.”
As soon as you want to do something, a barrier lifts and the path towards that action is so much smoother, happier and all together more pleasant.
If you feel tied down to things that you feel you have to do, see if there’s any part of the process that you can choose. Going to work, day in day out, at a job that’s not great is not exactly something to get you springing out of bed in the morning. But if there’s any part of that action which you can own choice over, see if it changes your feelings and motivates you instead.
Perhaps if you saw that you are actually choosing to go to work because you want money to pay for whatever, or that you get closer to a job that you actually do want, or that it’s allowing you use of a car that you can use for things you DO like, then take note of those choices that you’ve been automatically doing anyways, and bring them up a level into the realm of your awareness. You are still choosing to get out of bed in the morning, so you might as well make the reasons for it more powerful and meaningful to you. It may not always happen, but the more often you do it, the more ingrained the habit of choosing actively becomes and the easier things start becoming.
If you are sick and need to be on a special diet or if you’ve chosen a special way of eating because you are concerned about your health or weight, you may feel completely restricted by the dietary barriers that now exist in your life. “I can’t eat that! I’m not allowed to touch this.” This kind of language can make you feel defeated. However, you are still allowed to eat whatever you want, but you are choosing not to because you have reasoned with yourself that it’s not worth hours on the loo, or terrible abdominal cramps, or the risk to your health. Change the language around and hunt for the choice you are making. “I don’t want cramps” may be a good reason, but try “I want to feel good” instead. This way you avoid using the word ‘cramps’ and putting that feeling in your body, and you replace it with a goal of how you want to feel instead. Much more inspiring!
I’ve realized; I don’t have to exercise, but if I don’t then I’m still making a passive choice for myself. In those moments in which I turn down exercise, I also bring to mind the choice I’m making instead. Not feeling so fit, not feeling the buzz that comes from exercise and choosing to risk forming bad habits instead. If I keep choosing this way over and over again, I need to also own the choice that I’m allowing myself to get fatter and/or sicker. This will sound crazy, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s still a part and parcel of owning choice. That way you can’t say “I don’t know how this happened!” “Why do bad things happen to me!?” Sorry, nope. You actively chose that path. It’s the same with doing any work for yourself. As I’m usually in self-employment, I’ve come to the understanding that owning choice is pretty important in this field too. I choose not to draw, write, phone or e-mail, and instead the choice is that I may be behind in my work and feel more stressed doing it at another time.
So owning choice really does have benefits in all areas of your life. It simply puts you back in the driving seat of your own existence. You decide what to do. Even if you absolutely HAVE to do something, then you can still choose to feel a certain way about it. To me that’s a really refreshing message that brings a feeling of relief. I have some control. This IS MY life!