My husband and I watched the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves this weekend (better late than never, right!). The evil Sheriff of Nottingham gave Maid Marian a choice: marry him and he would spare the lives of the children captured during the raid in Sherwood Forest; refuse to marry him and they die. Her response? “I have no choice.” In reality, she did have choice. Granted, both choices were pretty lousy, but she did have choice.
Fortunately, most of us are seldom faced with such dire situations. Unfortunately, many of us fall into the trap of “I have no choice”, leaving us feeling helpless and subject to the whims of fate or decisions made by those around us.
We always have more than one choice. I can’t help but think of all the people who are working in jobs they hate because ‘they have no choice’. They have to stay because there are bills to pay, people to support, etc., etc. It’s a common situation. It’s one I’ve been in. But, there are choices.
Choice 1: Stay and be miserable, focusing on all the things and people you don’t like.
Choice 2: Stay and focus on the things and people you do like.
Choice 3: Stay … for now … and actively look for a new job, either in another department or a new company. Look for opportunities to expand personal / professional skills and networks.
Choice 4: Leave and move back into parent’s basement.
Choice 5: Leave and find work within a field or company that provides meaning beyond the size of a paycheque.
Choice 6: Leave and go back to school, take a mini-sabbatical, go on a vacation, refresh and regroup.
I stayed in a job for years that I knew within a week of being there was not right for me. I chose to stay for a number of reasons, all valid at the time, but eventually the personal cost seriously outweighed the professional and financial benefits. And I admit it; I slipped into choice 1 for a while. It was a miserable time for me and those around me.
After I got out of ‘helpless, choice-less me’ mode, I started looking at my options. I discussed the various paths with those around me and together, we made changes. It didn’t happen overnight. Magic wands only exist in fairy tales, but the simple act of recognizing I had choice, created the positive energy needed to move forward.
The next time you feel trapped, stop and identify all your choices. Don’t throw any out before evaluating the pros and cons of each choice. What are the consequences or repercussions of each choice? What are you willing and able to give up? What must you keep? What resources do you need in order to move forward? Can you make change immediately or is it incremental steps? Who will be impacted by your choice?
You may find yourself in a situation where you don’t much like any of your choices. Fair enough. Recognize your ability to choose, make a choice and then identify what you need to do in order to widen the scope of options.
There is no Robin Hood in the wings, ready to swoop in and save us. It’s up to us evaluate, select and act. Three simple, but not necessarily easy, steps to taking control of your personal and professional life.