The quality and depth of our personal choices has an impact on all of those people around us whether they are family, friends, co-workers, or strangers. This essay is design to support each of us in learning how to make even more powerful choices based on our own unique heart’s wisdom.
The only power any individual truly has is the power of his or her own choice. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are always choosing! The question is, are we conscious, present, and awake when we choose? This article will help each reader remember and reclaim his or her own full power and evolve as a masterful individual by exploring the realm of choice.
What am I thinking or feeling when I choose? Why am I choosing this or that?
What am I trying to get from my choice?
What motivation is hidden beneath my choice?
Am I really choosing or am I simply reacting? Am I seeking quick relief from tension?
The diagrams below, along with this article, are designed to help each of us understand the answers to the questions I have just asked. So lets explore the diagram. I will explain it and then lead you through how to use it. It is quite fantastic!
Our environment here on planet earth is set up entirely on opposites. Just look at the globe; a north pole and a south pole that set up night and day, winter summer, fall and spring. From these basic environmental opposites we have an entire world of opposites! Right – wrong, good – bad, happy – sad, smart – dumb, beautiful – ugly. There are over 4,500 pairs of opposites to choose from! Do you get the idea? You are awash in a bath of opposites and most of us pick one or the other from these pairs of opposites all the time without even thinking. You have just forgotten that you are actually choosing.
When asleep in this tub of opposites it can feel much like life is simply happening to you. You can feel quite disempowered or over run by life – powerless in a way. You give your power of choice over to knee-jerk reactivity choosing something that you believe is better than it’s opposite. Many of us are actually totally out of touch with our choosing. Notice mornings for example. All of a sudden you find yourself in the bathroom going pee. Well how many choices did you make to get there? All of them made half asleep! Notice where else in your life you are making choices only half awake. Have you ever found yourself part way through your day scratching your head wondering where the time went? Have you ever been driving somewhere and suddenly woke up to the fact you are driving? This is what I am talking about.
This lack of attention to all your choices is what takes the juice, the passion, and the power out of your life. So, lets have a look at this tool that has worked for me, the Power of Choice Wheel, and learn how to power up your choices and re-ignite the spark and passion of your life. I will build the wheel piece by piece so you can understand why it is designed this way and from that understanding you will easily be able to master it as a great life tool.
It is built on two poles or axes. The pole running up and down the page describes the primary opposites of creativity and its darker side reactivity. The axis running across the page illustrates another pair of primary opposites, fear and its lighter opposite – freedom. In my work with thousands of people over the years I have recognized that it is these two pairings that motivate most peoples’ choices.
Fear – Freedom
This pair of opposites requires little explanation. In life we are either free to choose or we are not. The “or not” side of the equation is fear-based. It can sound like this: “If I do this, the consequence will be bad.”
“I am afraid of the consequence so I will choose something else.”
“I am afraid of my parents’ anger so I won’t tell the truth.”
“If I were unafraid I would simply choose to tell the truth to my parents.”
Because of our extensive belief patterns many of us find ourselves locked into automatic choices.
Reactive – Creative
This pair is equally simple to grasp. Reactivity is something happens – an event stimulates an automatic response. For example when a person is angry and you have been hurt by anger. Over time you developed an automatic response to anger in order to protect yourself. You leave the room automatically without really choosing. However, from the place of being creative you would notice someone being angry in the moment and using all your senses at this particular time make a choice consciously. You might choose to leave or you might choose to stay. The choice would be made in the present moment with current information as opposed to being made automatically based on history and past pain.
The quadrants resulting from the intersection of these two fundamental pairs of opposites will help you begin to understand why you make these choices. The four compartments also help you notice whether you are making empowered choices or decisions that feel much like auto-responder email messages.
Fear – Reactive
Common in this quadrant are the following qualities. The tense you speak in will be primarily past or future; you will be talking about something that happened historically or worrying out loud about something that will happen – the future. Generally speaking you will be coming from a place of lack and scarcity. Your language will be critical and judgmental. You won’t be thinking much, nor will you be talking at all about yourself; you will be busy blaming the people you think are ‘doing it to you.’
Free – Creative
The polar opposite to the fear-based quadrant above this section carries the following traits and characteristics. You will be talking about yourself in the present tense, the here and now. There will be acceptance of the way things are and of other people in your life. You will come from a place of abundance and opportunities. You will take personal responsibility for your own life.
The two remaining quadrants that flank these two primary sectors are;
Fear – Creative and Reactive – Free.
These last two facets of the wheel are a result of increased personal growth and self-awareness. You have improved your awareness of life and have developed some skills of communication and relationship. You are working towards your goal of living a more empowered life. You will be making more choices from a place of greater freedom and creativity yet still impacted to ever lessening degrees by old habits, patterns and beliefs, and the media that encourages our North American culture to be fear-based.
At the very core of the wheel is your unique, individual, indisputable self. You the one you really are. This self has many names and has been written about endlessly by philosophers, shaman, gurus and poets. Suffice it to say it is YOU: your deepest heart.
The Concentric Circles
Dendrochronology is the study the concentric rings of ancient tree stumps that determine the tree’s age and historical and environmental events. These rings are much like our own and are often referred to as layers of the onion. A dendochronologist can determine what and when an event occurred by studying the rings of a tree stump. In a similar way human researchers can do the same with your energetic rings of growth that I have graphically displayed in the Power of Choice Wheel.
Lodged in your own growth rings are events, beliefs, patterns, and themes that are a direct result of the environment you grew up in. Much like a tree that stores in its rings evidence of drought or fire, your rings reflect trauma, hurt and social or cultural indoctrination. You will notice the predominance of these disturbances in the reactive – fear quadrant, fewer on the shoulder quadrants and none in the free – creative quadrant.
These growth rings of yours occurred at specific times from birth to the present, oftentimes the bulk of them were ingrained between birth and adolescence. These energetic ‘blobs’ carry with them beliefs or attitudes that can sound like this;
I am a looser.
I am not loveable.
I am not good enough.
I don’t matter.
I am invisible.
From these energetic ‘blobs’ all manner of choices are made that validate the inner core belief or attitude they carry. Generally speaking it is these disturbances, these implanted beliefs, or learned habits that you make choices from. It is rare that you make a clear and conscious choice from your core, your deepest heart.
So that is the background of the Power of Choice Wheel and why I designed it this way. Now, how do you use this life tool?
The overarching question to ask yourself is; why did I make that choice? This primary question can be followed by some observations all based on the choice wheel. These simple observations will help you locate yourself and your choice(s) on the wheel. You will be able to discover what quadrant you are living in when you make choices. It will help you understand your choices even more.
Were you being judgmental or critical?
Were your thoughts in the past or future?
Were you talking and thinking about a current situation in the present?
Was your choice designed to bring you relief from a situation?
Did you simply react out of habit?
Were you trying to avoid something or make something go away?
Were you breathing and taking in all that was going on around you?
Was your heart open and were you ‘feeling’ those other people around you?
In order to learn how to better use the wheel, lets look at two examples from my own life so you can see how helpful this tool can be. One of my examples will be based on fear and reactivity, the other will be based on freedom and creativity so you can see and recognize the differences between these two fundamental and uniquely different decision-making environments.
Stay or Go
I recall a time when I was struggling with leaving a job. I was worried about money and what people would think. I was concerned about talking with the company president. I really liked the company and all the fun I had over the years. I was afraid to make waves and jump into an unknown future. I kept playing the same tape over and over in my mind. I felt like I needed to go and was frightened to leave, all at the same time. I was spinning my wheels and doing nothing but talking about the past or worrying about the future.
So where was I in the Power of Choice Wheel? What quadrant was I in primarily? I was either in the past or worrying about the future. I was afraid to talk to the president, I was afraid to leave and I was afraid of the future. I was looking for relief from the situation I was in.
If you guessed fear-reactivity you would be right. My language was all about fear, lack, past or future tense and finding relief from my current situation. My fear paralyzed me. I was powerless to move forward and stayed stuck for several months until I chose to speak up and tell the truth. Once I did that I was free to go, and I did so from a place of choice.
Fishing with the Boys
I remember a time when I needed a rest and so did my father-in-law. I hadn’t seen my son for a while and we wanted some time together. So my father-in-law and I had a brain storming session over a game of cribbage… what could we do? What would work for my son, father-in-law and me? What did we all like to do? Hmmm, a fishing trip… hmmm the trailer… hmmm we had the time… hmm the price was right. We picked the dates, organized the food, handled the logistics and went fishing for a week the three of us. We had nothing but fun the entire week!
Where on the Power of Choice Wheel was I when I created this adventure?
Yes, you are right. I was in the free-creative quadrant! My language was all about creating, we were coming from a place of abundance and we were doing it in the present moment. No lack, no fear, simply creating a good time for all involved. Nothing was getting in the way; no feelings of I can’t do it, or we shouldn’t do that. Green light and all systems go with nothing but yes! It can be very simple indeed.
These two examples demonstrate how simply you can locate yourself on the power of choice wheel by just noticing your own language. Once you have ‘found’ yourself on the wheel you can then make different choices about what you could do now to change any situation to reflect even more of your personal power to choose. Look at this example:
You are having a difficult time dealing with a situation in your life – you are reactive and defensive. Something happened that triggered a bunch of historical stuff and all you want is for the argument to end before it gets even messier. You are right and you know it! You want you partner to agree with you and he or she is not. Your partner has dug her or his heels into their position too!
All these ingredients suggest what quadrant? Yes, fear-reactivity.
In a case such as this, hearts are closed, minds are hyperactive, emotions are engaged and the fight is on. Survival of the rightist! Criticalness and judgment, history, lack and scarcity all join hands with fear. There is no chance for a creative solution, no chance for love to be felt, no chance for the relationship to grow and evolve.
Here is how you can use the Power of Choice Wheel to move from reactive fear-based living to creative and loving choosing:
1) Take a deep breath and feel your heart. Notice where on the wheel you are living in this moment. (This gets you more in touch with your deeper self.)
2) Stop what you are doing and say so. “Hey, I am sure sounding like I am doing fear and reactivity. I feel lousy about the way we are handling the situation. Lets stop what we are doing and try something different.” (This brings you into the present moment.)
3) Take another deep breath and do your best to notice what quadrant your partner is in.
4) Ask an open question. “What can I do differently that will help us create a great solution?” (This sets the intention and opens the acceptance field.)
5) Stay in the present, stay in the creative and move forward towards a creative solution noticing your language and where you are moment to moment in the wheel.
Understand that this is a very simple run through the process and it does take practice and time. However, if you intend to embrace more fully your own power of choice, stay with the practice of using the wheel. Here is the power of this tool:
Once complete with the current issue, have a look at the Power of Choice Wheel and identify what belief, pattern, or habit you were acting out. What were you most afraid of? What was it you really wanted your partner to understand about you? What personal self-belief were you acting out? This step is where you will recover your personal power of choice. You will be able to identify these energetic ‘blobs’ that sap your power and have you choosing in a defensive and disempowered way. You will be able to step outside of your historical habits of making choices and take charge more from your core, your centre of being.
You will find over time that your life becomes more exciting and full of ‘juice’ as you continue to take the driver’s seat of your own choices. You will also notice that your power to influence the world around you increases. The Power of Your Choice is all about your personal leadership being expressed in your family, community, workplace and the world.