It’s easy to make a choice when it seems as if there is no choice. When we believe that there is simply no way we can make something happen, it’s very easy to just say, “I can’t” and be done with it.

“I can’t wake up that early.”

“I don’t have time to ______ after a full day of work.”

“I can’t afford to eat like that/dress like that/look like that.”

“I don’t have the luxury of free time to do ______ like you.”

(I’ve actually heard this last one said to me before, and I felt like the person was right and that I was a semi-loser for having “free time,” then realized ain’t no time free — it’s about the choices I made and the things I prioritized.)

What’s hard, then, is to realize how and when we’re relinquishing control by saying “I can’t” and switch to saying, “I’m choosing not to,” which is the more accurate and honest answer. It stings, and it’s hard to say, but it’s true, and that’s all too often how the truth is.

Rather than assuming this position of helplessness, what if we assumed responsibility and owned up to the circumstances we created for ourselves? What if we stopped acting like we had no control over our situations and started acting like we had the power to make some choices?

I think everything would be much, much harder, honestly. Because when we accept responsibility, when we admit we have a choice, we come face to face with the possibility of having made a poor choice, a small but potent dose of what we perceive to be a possible failure, because the flip side of those statements is:

“I choose to sleep later than that.”

“That’s not how I want to spend my time after a full day of work.”

“I am not willing to spend my money on those foods/clothes in order to look like that.”

“I have not created any ‘free time’ to do that.”

And so we stick with things like “I can’t afford that,” “I don’t have time,” and “I can’t do it,” in order to protect ourselves. This works nicely when our circumstances are less than satisfactory, because we are able remove all blame from ourselves. However, in protecting ourselves from blame, we are also protecting ourselves from a deep sense of pride we could feel if our circumstances were magnificent. If things are wonderful, can we take responsibility for those circumstances, or do we relinquish control there, too?

You know what, though?

It’s all a choice, even if we don’t admit it.

But choices are hard, so we make it easy by just eliminating them before we have to make them. It’s worth our time, however, to be honest and sit down and think about what we really mean when we say things like “I can’t” and “I don’t have time.”

Besides relinquishing control of our power to choose when we think like this, we’re also victimizing ourselves and thinking we are unique in how much money we earn or time we have.

And I think that, sometimes, that feels good, too. It feels good to believe we’re “special” in our circumstances, and that’s why we “can’t” do certain things. Our time is more limited that others’. Our income is less flexible than someone else’s.

The truth is though, there are so many choices to make — every day, every hour, every minute — but admitting there’s a choice also opens up the possibility for many different things to choose from, and it’s hard to choose when there’s a lot to choose from. We all know this, so why not just make the options limited — better yet, pretend there are no other options — and say “I can’t.”

It’s not the truth, but it’s a bit easier to swallow than the truth.

However, changing our thinking from “I can’t” to “I can, I’m just not willing to,” changes so much. It changes how we spend our time and our money, how we invest our feelings, and it also changes how we see others.

Most importantly, what changes when we begin to choose our lives instead of letting our circumstances make choices for us, is ourselves.

We become intentional beings instead of a collection of circumstances perceived to be beyond our control. We begin to live on purpose, and though it may be harder, it is worthier. It may be a life with more opportunity for swinging and missing, but it is also a life with more opportunity for freedom and a joy that only comes from making choices.

Up to you.

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