“What people have the capacity to choose, they have the ability to change.”― Madeleine Albright
My experience of how I choose things has always been positive. I wasn't happy with what I was doing at work, I chose to return to school. I wasn't passionate about the practice of law, so I chose to seek out other options. Not surprisingly, I had a similar relationship with most things. I was empowered, and I had it all handled.
It wasn't until I started working with a coach that I was able to gain some insight into my blindspots. And it wasn't until I'd begun to do some work into my blindspots that I became aware of what I was actually choosing.
For example, last year, I really started noticing, and outing myself, when I was bored in conversation. I didn't really want to do that, but actually being authentic is often the first step in creating change. If we can't be with how we are showing up, it makes it pretty damn hard to take an honest look at it and see how it's serving us (which in turn helps us to understand what we actually need in that moment).
This all began because I shared with my coach how I was often bored when talking to people - and that I noticed I would check out once that happened. My coach asked me this simple question:
What has you choosing boredom?
I fought with this concept a lot. "I'm not choosing it - the other person is just being boring!" That statement has victim written all over it. There's no room for me to create anything different, no place for anything else to show up. The other person is boring, therefore I have to checkout, and it's business as usual.
With a little bit of time and practice, I've started to realize that the choice I was making was to stay bored. By checking out, I would either daydream about other things, or make a joke in a way that let them know I was bored (and generally left them feeling a little wounded). What I really wanted in those moments was connection with these people. Instead, I was choosing to remain bored (by checking out) or to push them further away (by hurting them).
Even after all of the work I've done, choice in the areas of my blindspots is a challenge. Even after noticing this pattern, there was still some fear to overcome. The choice was simple: stay disconnected, or get connected. I'm not bored when I'm connecting with someone - I'm excited; I'm present.
Getting present and connected, though, would mean actually letting the person know that I wasn't interested in what they were talking about. I was managing the fact that they would think I was an asshole.
"Screw you, I listened to your boring joke about goats and actors, now you have to listen to my story!", I imagined people would say to me.
Sometimes people did take it personally. It's taken practice to be able to speak honestly from love and heart, rather than snidely or passive-aggressively from judgment and fear.
Judgement and fear look like: "Boy, you are boring me right now". Notice also that there's no ownership in that sentence. You're the problem. Not me. If only you'd change, then we could be connected!
Love and heart look like: "Hey, I notice that I'm starting to check out - this topic just isn't super interesting to me - and I really want to connect with you right now. So maybe you could tell me what has you so passionate about it?". That's owning how I'm showing up. The other person gets to be how they are. I get to choose to own how I am being.
When I word it this way, people are generally kind of refreshed by it. They might be taken aback by the authenticity at first, but we quickly resume and get connected, and that kind of authenticity is really nice to be with. It creates a space for you to be authentic as well ("Oh god, not another goat/actor joke!").
Here's how the cycle goes for me (and probably yourself as well) when I'm confronted with a new blindspot/choice I am not making:
- I get frustrated with how someone else is showing up.
"Why can't they be different?", I think to myself. This is the part where my blindspot is completely hidden from me. I can't even see that I'm making any kind of choice. It's all on the other person.
- My very brave coach reflects to me how I'm coming from a place of victimhood, and am actually making a choice that I just can't see
At this point, I usually react. I often have a pretty hard time seeing it, even after it's been reflected to me. Of course I would - me not being empowered and actively creating the life I want is my blindspot.
- I start getting clear on what I'm choosing, but still cannot what else is available
At this point, I'm aware that I'm making a choice, and am present to when I am, but I can't see anything else available.
The default is to simply choose the opposite. Normally I don't share when I'm bored - so this time I'll share that their boring! (it's really just more of the same - either I check out, or I speak, but do it in a way that is hurtful). Connection is available to me throughout this process - I just can't see that that is what I actually want and can choose in the moment.
- I work with my coach and practice choosing something different
With some help and work, I become present to what I really want in these moments, and start to practice choosing it. This is rocky, because it's a practice, not a perfection. I won't get it right at first. It will take time, mistakes, and confronting some of my fears.
This cycle can take a couple of days to months to complete. Frustratingly (or perhaps excitingly), there are always new things that are there for me to confront. You don't have to choose something new every day, or tackle a new part of your blindspot, but it's what the way forward looks like, and your only real choice is the velocity that you take it on (and surprise surprise, you're making a choice about that right now too, whether you know it or not).
Where do you notice you're at the effect of other people? What are you choosing (or not choosing) that is having it go that way?