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Moving Mountains/Magical Choices For Empowering Your Life's Journey
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Chapter 4
By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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The Power of Choices -

The way you activate the seeds of
your creation is by making
choices about the results you want to create.
When you make a choice,
you mobilize vast human energies
and resources
which otherwise go untapped.
All too often people fail
to focus their choices upon results
and therefore their choices are ineffective.
If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want,
and all that is left is a compromise.
- Robert Fritz

I know of a man who accepted dinner invitations every time he was asked. If you planned a party and called to invite him, he would immediately say yes.

In spite of his quick words of acceptance, there was a problem. On the day the event was to take place, he would call to back out. Every time. The excuses were wild and extravagant. It was said that most people invited him just to see how creatively he would cancel.

Sadly, he became the butt of many jokes. And yet there must have been amazing forces at work. Behind the scenes, this man’s life was wracked and twisted with conflict and ambivalence.

I don’t know him personally, but you can bet there is a powerful force moving him to want to be with people so badly he accepts every invitation. And something equally powerful is keeping him away from all of those good times.

I think everybody knows someone who is severely limited by forces inside themselves. It is quite often more obvious in extreme examples like this one than in our own lives. However, with few exceptions, each of us has something that limits us. We choose to act or not act based on things deep inside ourselves, for reasons known only to us.

For example, a woman I know loves the color red. She thinks red expresses something wonderful and bold. However, she refuses to wear red because when she was a little girl her mother told her that red made her look cheap. 

I know a man who wants a relationship. He is handsome, smart, and is willing to do almost anything to meet a woman. Anything, that is, except leave his house. Every night he sits in front of the TV hoping to meet the girl of his dreams, wondering where she is.

There are as many illustrations of this kind of behavior as there are people alive today. And all of these specific examples apply to many of us in some way.

The amazing thing is that these kinds of characteristics can manifest themselves in so many ways. We sometimes say people are unique, even eccentric. Often times, we call them characters. The truth is, we often use such words to merely disguise their idiosyncrasies.

For each of us, understanding our own self-imposed limits is necessary before we can clearly see the choices we do have to move beyond those limits. The process begins with looking at ourselves. However, these limits are often so deeply ingrained in our being, it is difficult to see them.

I know a woman who overcame incredible limitations in her life and learned to make new choices every day. She went from being the target of other people’s cruel teasing to being the leader of a large company.

If you ask her to tell you about it, she would say, “What I didn’t understand for a long time is my life doesn’t happen on the big level where corporate decisions are made. My life happens in the tiny realm of my personal choices.

“I don’t need to be concerned about what giant business opportunity is waiting for me around the corner. I need to be looking at the small fears and feelings that percolate through my soul every day.”

I asked her once how she saw the difference in herself today, and she said, “For a long time, I wasn’t sensitive to my inner voice. I didn’t listen to the voice inside of me and follow it to where I deserved to go.”

She continued, “In our house, feelings were unspoken. So I thought no one in my family had them. My dad loved me, but he thought being successful was like winning a war.

“You know,” she clarified, “for him, success or failure was measured by the direct outcome of any one dramatic event in your life. Yet, what I discovered for myself was success was being able to get on top of the  many small battles, fought personally inside myself and my attitudes every day.

“I was afraid,” she told me, “to make the choices that got the results I wanted. Most of the time, I put my own limits on just what those choices could be. Other people ran my life for me and I never felt in control.”

She laughs about it, and says, “I guess taking a long look at myself has worked! I used to clean the offices of a company that I now own!”

A critical aspect of personal empowerment is overcoming our self-imposed limits. By making choices congruent with the little voice inside ourselves, we honor rather than deny the truth of who we are.

I have my own special exercise I use to free myself from self-imposed limits. Every March 21, June 21, September 21, and December 21, I sit down with a notebook and take the following inventory. Its purpose is to clarify for myself whether I am still the creator of my journey or whether I am allowing my life to be shaped by other people and  circumstances. I reflect upon the following in my journal:

How true have I been to my self-created path in the last three months?

How have I allowed people and outside influences to sway me from my path?

How is fear infecting my spirit?

What do I need to learn from the fear as it is appearing in my life today?

How do I allow the paralysis of fear to limit the choices I have in my life?

What choices am I surrendering to my inner fears and my outside influences?

       How can I reclaim my personal power by exercising new choices?

What of my own personal resources are at my disposal which can help liberate me from my fears to continue on my journey?

How well am I using these resources to create a life of empowerment and well-being?

How well am I using the support of others to support me in my personal journey?

Do you see how powerful an exercise this can be for you. For me, it provides a compass to gauge whether I am on my path or whether I have strayed. The exercise allows me to identify why I have strayed and what influences have contributed to straying. As well, I can make a plan of action to correct the direction I am taking.

The points I am always trying to clarify through this exercise are:

Am I the architect of my life?

How has my life gotten to the point it is today?

Is my path created by my own carefully crafted decisions that reflect the unique purpose and direction I want my life to take?

Is my journey being interrupted by random circumstances, other people’s expectations, and victimizing people who keep trying to push me  down?

Do I give away my personal power to the rest of the world or use it as a catalyst in the ongoing creation of my life?

How am I enlisting the support of other like-minded people?

This exercise liberates me from the quicksand of petty and mean-spirited people, my feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, and the often myopic way I view the world. And believe you me, this exercise works everytime.

Try this exercise now and notice the impact this exercise has on you and your life’s journey.

I know only too well how it is for those who don’t do anything about their paralysis created by not pursuing all the choices they can create for themselves.

A friend of mine experienced the very paralysis I’m talking about. She allowed her anger and bitterness to deter her from courageously persevering on the path she chose for herself.

She’s a close friend and she had just finished her masters degree. However, the experience she had with her school left her bitter. She always believed she was mistreated by the administration. She didn’t believe the curriculum properly prepared her for her chosen field. She believed all she received from her two years was a worthless piece of paper--when what she wanted was a marketable set of skills.

My friend was angry with the people responsible for the development of her skills. Each month she went without getting the job she wanted,  her resentment toward the school and its program became more inflamed. 

Finally, after months of listening to these comments, I asked her a question she found puzzling.  One day over coffee, she began college-bashing and I stepped in.

The conversation went something like this, “I never got nearly the attention I needed to better develop my counseling skills,” she said.

“Hold it,” I interrupted and asked, “I understand how you feel, but I have to ask you, when is this going to end?”

“What?”

"This. How much longer are you going to choose to live your life as an accusation? How much longer are you willing to be a monument to the bad treatment you received from your school?”

I continued, “At one point or another in our lives, we have all felt let down by the people and institutions in which we have invested our time, our trust, our money, and our selfs.

“And some of us, who have those kinds of bad experiences become paralyzed by what I call the victim’s rap. It is the never-ending reliving of the facts of our betrayal, and it can leave us short on satisfaction and stuck in a timeless rut.”

I leaned back, just in case she might take a swing at me, as I said, “The victim’s rap is like the frail outer shell of an egg. Within this frail shell is a capable survivor who can overcome any obstacle in the survivor’s path. Once we are able to shatter the outer shell by letting go of the rap, the survivor within all of us can emerge. Once the shell is shattered, we have the chance to emerge healed and whole.

“Until we shatter the victim’s rap, the rap paralyzes us, blinding us to what our choices are. Paralyzed by the rap, our lives become a living accusation, a monument to demonstrate to the world the betrayal we have experienced at the hands of whomever.”

And, for the first time, I think she began to see what she was doing, how she had forsaken her choices by choosing to live in the victim’s rap.

We all do it. We all, at some point, surrender our personal power by limiting our choices. We do it in so many different ways. And one way is the victim’s rap.

Or it may be spending the greater part of our lives pursuing the hopes, dreams, and desires of others. We do it for all the obvious reasons. We desperately want other’s approval. We desperately want the security of other people’s solutions to our life’s challenges.

We may be attempting to avoid a life of isolation and loneliness that seemingly our independence will guarantee us. We desperately want to be loved. We desperately seek to live a life free of criticism.

The choice we seem to always be presented with is the same compromise we make by not rocking the boat, rather than enacting empowering solutions to the obstacles in our path.

I have only three questions to ask of you:

What are the obstacles in your path?

What choices do you need to make about those obstacles?

Are you going to honor yourself by creating those choices?

PATHFINDER’S TOOLBOX -

For those of us who have been sleepwalking through our lives, the idea that we have choices is like being hit with cold water in our face. When we are stuck in apathy, discouragement, or depression, it can be impossible to see the options available to us.

As a result, we mindlessly walk through our journey. Have you ever had the experience of going from one place to another and then not remembering anything about how you got there? That’s the kind of experience I am talking about.

In one way or another, most of us find ourselves in a pattern like this at some point in our lives. Sometimes we get there willingly, sometimes not. Fear and self-doubt trap us and inevitably hold us back. Consequently, we repeat the pattern of sabotaging ourselves repeatedly, until we discover the most amazing secret of all.

We have a choice, and there is a way to stop blindly repeating our patterns of self-sabotage.

Our belief system, as we have originally constructed it, no longer needs to be an inflexible, intractable instrument of sabotage and discontent.

Universal choices pave the bridge to personal empowerment. These choices apply to each one of us. The same cycle of choices repeatedly presents itself every time we confront a situation that challenges us to react in new and different ways rather than our old familiar habits.

UNIVERSAL CHOICE #1
We all have a choice between new ways of thinking and our old ways of thinking. How you think about a situation will determine whether you limit your choices or expand your choices.

This may sound simplistic, but there is a single decision we all have to make. A single decision that begins our journey. Imagine your life as a kingdom, a country filled with cities and hillsides. This kingdom is as complex and intricate as you are. Some areas are prosperous, some stricken with poverty. Some places have many sick people, others are filled with fit, well-toned folks. And just like other kingdoms, your land has room for victims of oppression as well as people who are free. Imagine them all right now so that you can make the single decision that starts to change your life.

With the image firmly planted in your mind,  decide where in this land you want to be. Do you want to be a victim or a survivor? Do you want to live in the land of substance abuse or in the land of recovery? Do you want to be in the land of the pretenders or the land of the achievers? Do you want to be in the land of the cowered or the land of the empowered?

It is that simple. You need to make a choice. Go ahead and take a few minutes and think about your choice now.

UNIVERSAL CHOICE #2
We all have a choice between action and paralysis. Life comes at us whether we believe we are ready for it or not.

The second choice is whether to start or not on the path of personal empowerment. I have found that we do not have the luxury of putting off our journey until we believe we are ready.

When you think about it, we consistently deal with life as life presents itself to us. Some of us do it well, and some of us don’t. I have watched many people deal with life over the years. It’s my business.

I‘ve found two big groups form when we talk about dealing with life. The smaller group accepts the fact they cannot control many of the things that happen. They roll with the punches life brings.

The larger group seems somewhat overwhelmed with life’s adversities. This group has the same attitude as the little man at the circus who follows the elephants around the center ring with a shovel. The question for them is not, “Will the elephant make a mess?” Rather it is, “How big will the next mess be?”

Have you ever heard someone say they will start dating again as soon as they lose 25 pounds? Have you ever heard someone say they will think about starting a business after the economy gets better? Have you ever heard someone say they will ask for that raise after they prove themselves worthy of the raise?

I met a man about three years ago who had overcome a drinking problem. When I asked him what the secret of his success was, he said, “I used to think I was a victim, that my out of control life pushed me around.

“One day, while I was trying to stop drinking, I came across a passage written by an alcoholic in Alcoholics Anonymous.

It said, “When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation, some fact of my life unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.

“Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober--unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world, but on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

UNIVERSAL CHOICE #3
We all have a choice between pursuing someone else's path or being a trailblazer and creating our own path.

The third choice of your journey is choosing a path to follow. In truth, there are an infinite number of paths to follow. The trick is distinguishing between your path and the path others have laid out for you.

How many of you have lived lives of quiet despair because you are in the career your parents picked for you, because you are in the relationship your parents picked for you, because you are in the emotional straight jacket your parents picked for you?  Here is a lesson I learned.

One of my good friends is in his late thirties, he’s   the vice-president of a bank. Today, he makes no pretense about why he began his career in banking.

He once told me, “When I was little, I wanted my dad to notice me. I wanted to do whatever it took to earn his respect. Well, I was too little to be good at sports. In school, I was good in English but really bad at math. The odd thing is when I got out of college, I went to work for a bank. I worked in the mail room, at first, as a part-time job, but I began to rise fast. Dad was always intrigued by high finance so he took an interest in my career. He said I could finally make something of myself.

“At the time, I told myself I liked banking, but I don’t think I did. To give you an example of what kind of skills I had, I helped balance the bank’s accounts every night, but my math skills were so poor, I counted on my fingers.

“Even though I work harder at my job than other people, I don’t like banking. It took me years to understand I really went into banking to impress my dad.”

How many of you are living a life that seems safest to you? The path you’re on is safe, predictable, and has already been done by somebody else. How many of you live a life of discomfort because the choices you’ve made fit you the way a pair of shoes a half-size too small fit you? There is a constant dull ache that never seems to go away.

How many of you live a life of quiet despair because you don't want to risk offending anybody, so you offend your sensibilities? How many of you have bought into the lie that you don’t deserve to be yourself, to have the things and people in your life you deserve to have in your life?

The choice of your journey is discovering within yourself what you need to let go of to get to where you want to be. The secret is to find yourself and become that person whom you discover yourself to be.

PERSONAL EMPOWERMENT EXERCISE-

This exercise is critical to help you to continually identify the choices you can make about who you are and how you honor who you are.

You will be able to identify how much energy you devote to aspects of yourself that honor you, as well as those aspects of yourself that hold you back.

Being able to choose what you want to hold onto and what you want to let go of will liberate your spirit to honor the essence of who you are.

This exercise will require you to use 10 separate sheets of paper. On each sheet of paper please write the following sentence stem:

“I am .................”.

After doing that, read the following scenario and complete the exercise.

Imagine you are all alone stranded in the desert. You have gone weeks without food or water. Your energies are drained as you trudge closer and closer to an oasis.

Imagine 10 separate aspects of your identity, of who you are. Write down one aspect of your identity on each of the ten pieces of blank paper. Imagine how some aspects of your identity are weighing you down in your journey across the desert even more than the rigors of the desert. It is clear that you must shed some aspects of who you are if you are going to make it to the oasis alive.

Now, take those 10 separate sheets of paper and separate them into the following three piles: (1) those aspects of who you are you would let go of first; (2) those aspects of who you are you would hold onto with  your dying breath; (3) those aspects of who you are which you cannot decide whether to let go of or hold onto. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings as you do this. 

After completing this exercise, take the time to talk over the exercise with an important person in your life. Get their feedback. Use this person as someone who you can practice with as you put into action the choices you have made.

Finally, create a plan where you can routinely do this exercise to sustain the growth you begin to enjoy.

G.B.U.

Steve



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.

 


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