A friend asked, “If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be?” I instinctively answered that it’d be my mantra, “Options are Power.” Options give us the right, not the obligation, to make a change.  

Humans have a psychological and biological need to feel in control, to have options.  Behavioral studies and neuroimaging work across pigeons, monkeys, rats…and humans..show signs of stress reduction, reward and motivation when we have options.  

I’m not talking about options in the cereal aisle or on Netflix.  I’m talking about life options that increase our sense of control and keep us from feeling trapped. To build life options, we need discipline in 4 areas:

  • people
  • skills
  • health
  • finances    

People— choose to bring into your life people who are supportive of your core values and goals.  Shed those who are toxic.   This may mean shedding some family members, and I’m so sorry if it does.  I’ve been there.

Skills—the more literally you think about your skills, the narrower your options.  For example, If you’re an accountant, you are likely also good at solving problems, making order out of chaos and paying attention to detail.  If my acting skills can prove fungible to a strategy consulting career, you’ve got this.  Don’t be so literal.  Your skills are more fungible that you’re likely appreciating.

Health— the poorer your health, the poorer your options.  I’m talking about blood work and vital signs, not clothing sizes.  I’m talking about a healthy mind and body.  Prioritize your health. And remember the People we talked about earlier.  Bring in the ones who will support your goals.   I thank Jason, Julie and running buddies for their support.

Finances—we vote with our wallets, so be knowledgeable of the decisions you’re making.  Understand taxation.  Know the full cost of owning a home before you buy.  Have a budget and stick to it.  Suze Orman says it best: what you choose to do with your money shows whether you are truly powerful or powerless.

“Options are Power” is foundational to my mindset and coaching practice. Ironically, this mantra may be the very reason I don’t yet have a tattoo, but I’m thinking about exercising my right, not my obligation, to get some permanent ink.

Share what “Options are Power” means to you.

Read Leotti, Yengar and Oschner for more on the important work around our psychological and biological need for options.