Stop Stressing - Finding Choices

It's hard to make a good choice instead of a bad one. It can be even harder to go back and undo a bad choice that we made some time ago. Instead, many times we stubbornly reinforce it again and again, letting it build up over time to continue burying us in worry, regret and stress.

Now is the time to think differently about all that and allow ourselves to re-evaluate everything we had understood as fact. This is not an easy process, but if we genuinely want to build lifelong habits that will benefit us and reduce the amount of stress in our lives, we have to look seriously at every aspect of those lives and improve them. Nothing can be left unexamined, because everything we are and everything we do affects us.

Step 1 - Question Everything

Nothing is off limits when considering how we want things to improve. Every decision we've made has affected our lives in some way.

We have gotten used to assuming that some things are beyond questioning. Perhaps we feel we made the decision so long ago that it's silly to dig it back up now. They might be too ingrained; we're so used to living this way and making this choice that we don't know how we'd do things differently. They might seem too big; how can we ever go about even getting started approaching something like that, let alone changing it?

This attitude is poisonous to good habit making. It allows us to defer mental responsibility, trapping us in a cycle that has left us miserable and stressed out. It is time to break that cycle wide open. Accept that nothing is off-limits to fair consideration, and you'll have found the first step on the right path.

As the first part of building this habit, every time you find yourself trying to mentally change the subject from something you think is off limits, use the STOP technique and halt your thoughts, then make yourself consider the matter at hand.

Step 2 - Accept Responsibility

Often, we feel powerless about the things that have happened. Yet, every step is a decision. Perhaps you are stuck in a job you don't like. When was the last time you applied for another one? When was the last time you updated your resume or CV and shopped it around for offers?

Well, you might say, that isn't my choice. If I could choose, I'd have another job, naturally. But the economy is uncertain and the company's been loyal, and I don't feel that it'd be prudent...

These are all understandable reasons, but they are reasons you're using to make a choice. Regardless of how it might seem, there is no one with a gun forcing you to stay at the job. You can quit if you feel like it. The consequences might seem undesirable, but that's just information, not something forcing you or taking your choice away.

Every time you feel yourself starting to say you don't have a choice, use the STOP method again. Take a few breaths, and then make yourself consider the choices you made, and accept that you have brought yourself to where you are. It isn't an indictment, it's not a criticism, it's accepting the truth. The truth is always the best foundation to end bad habits and build good ones.

Step 3 - Consider Choices

It can be frightening thinking about the alternatives to where we are. Regardless of what might be out there for us to seek, what we have now might be attractive all the same. Perhaps it's not the best, but maybe it works. Sure, we might not make as much money as we could elsewhere, but we make enough, right?

Again, this kind of thinking is trying to put off the matter that needs serious attention. Yes, our circumstances might work in some way now, but then why are we always so stressed? Why do we find ourselves filled with worry and regret all the time? Is the situation really so good if it's making us miserable?

Once you stop the mental deferment, it is time to consider your choices in life. Start with the most outrageous, just as an exercise tool. Sticking with the notion of a bad job, accept that you can quit. If you want, you can write a letter giving the required notice right this second. Don't think about the implications or consequences; just accept the fact that you do have the final choice in the matter, if you wish it.

Step 4 - Contextualize Choices

Now that you've reached the point of being able to accept your responsibility for things and consider the possible choices you have, it's time to refine the matter.

Perhaps quitting the job isn't the best idea right out of the gate. It's nice to know you have the option, but does that create a practical reality? Perhaps not. Instead, consider what else you can do. Maybe instead of quitting, you want to volunteer for extra training that will get you a manager bump. Or you could update your resume after all and put it on a resume website, just to see what responses you get. Or perhaps you could ask for a bonus or raise, based on your performance.

Either way, you have a choice in the matter. Choose to confront your situation honestly, and you will see the choices open up wide before you. Only then can you begin making those choices that will make your life better, one small and serious step at a time.

Larry Tobin is a co-creator of, offering effective and empowering solutions for stopping stress. Try our 42-day program that will help you learn proactive habits to beat stress and keep you moving forward in the right direction.

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