By Kay Newton
Every day we make thousands of choices. No matter what our age, circumstances or location, making choices is part of being human. If we have nothing else in life, we always have a choice.
As Viktor Frankl stated in his famous Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Here are three different viewpoints of how to make the best choices you can.
Loubna Zarrou, The Netherlands
Loubna Zarrou’s energy always appears before she actually enters the room. She has worked in the corporate world of information technology (IT) for two decades. When she started her first job, she made a sacred agreement with herself, “No matter what, every day I must have fun.” As soon as she felt that spark diminish, it would be time to leave. In those 20 years, Loubna only left her work three times.
“I made the choice to do whatever it takes to have fun. It was never the responsibility of others. Not the boss, employees, or clients, it was always my responsibility,” says the Netherlands-based author and corporate coach who specialises in appreciative inquiry, strength-based management and happiness.
When her first boss stopped filling her IT knowledge gap, she resigned, and took up a job that included going back to university for two years. The job filled Loubna’s IT gap and she had fun for 11 years until it was time to move on.
Many people that Loubna met throughout her career were amazed at how she was always happy, enjoyed her work and how her energy lit up the room. She was surprised that people felt she was different and they could not be like that.
“I was not born this way. I was a very shy child growing up. Now I show other entrepreneurs how to change their belief so that they can authentically do what they love. If you are not having fun, you cannot positively impact the world as your energies are not truly aligned.”
Loubna runs her own consultancy ‘The Exponential Hero’ and conducts workshops around the world. Her past clients include the municipality of the Hague and the Dutch Police. Her top tips are:
1. Have a sacred agreement with yourself at all times.
2. Challenge yourself daily.
3. Give yourself six months to find out if you truly don’t want to do something.
Susan Matyas, USA
Susan Matyas, the US-based founder of The Ageless Woman programme, had a long and diverse career as an entrepreneur, engineer, corporate consultant, university professor, and nonprofit leader.
“Life is about making choices,” Susan explains. “Every juncture presents a choice; by choosing one path, we give up another.”
If some area of your life is not what you want, rather than thinking about a major change, which often feels overwhelming, Susan recommends to just think about the next small step you can take.
“I recently made a choice that changed my perspective and softened me,” she shares. “I use the twilight time between sleep and awakening as the time for my gratitude practice. I lay still and, after five or 10 minutes of meditation, I focus on three things I’m grateful for at that moment. I also use this time to set my intentions for the day, seeing vividly what I want to accomplish.”
At 65, instead of retiring, Susan made the conscious choice to support women in the second half of life who want to leverage their own gifts and potential.
“All my past choices have led me to where I am now, and it’s my deep passion to share my knowledge and experiences with others,” she says. Here’s her advice.
1. It is never too late to be who you were meant to be.
2. Your choices become your toolbox of experiences as you age.
3. Be grateful every day.
Susan’s quotes Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Pat Duckworth, UK
UK-based hypnotherapist and menopause counsellor Pat Duckworth has a great storytelling ability. As she puts it, “Every day, we make tiny and mega choices. I use the technique of the 4 A’s (Alter, Adapt, Avoid, Accept) whether at work or with family situations.”
She illustrates how the 4 A’s work: “I often travel on the train to London. You can view a group of people at the end of a day standing in front of the departure board when it shows the dreaded ‘all the trains are cancelled’ notification.”
Now, these people cannot get home as expected, and the different choices come into play:
1. Alter: These people choose to alter the situation. They may ask others to share a taxi home with them. Or, they search for an alternative route using other transport.
2. Adapt: These people decide that there is nothing that they can do about the train cancellation so they go out for dinner. They adapt to the situation and see it as an opportunity to do something different.
3. Avoid: These people either avoid bits of the situation or the whole situation. They may head back to the office and carry on working until the trains are running again.
4. Accept: These people keep looking at the noticeboard hoping change will take place. They seem passive yet you can also use acceptance to make a positive decision, stay calm and go with the flow.
“Now that you know the 4 A’s you will be able to choose which one fits your circumstances. Yet, at the end of the day, it is still a choice,” says Pat.
Kay Newton is an award-winning speaker, writer and midlife strategist. Follow her on KayNewton.com.