The Choose You™ project is not about changing you, but is about supporting you to know yourself better and accept yourself just as you are so that you can choose how you use who you are.
The model rests on one fundamental: to Choose You™ needs you to have a sense of choice. And for many of us that doesn’t seem like our reality. We live lives that meet our day to day needs and we do stuff that keeps us and those we love safe, fed and warm. And to meet those requirements, how much of a choice about what we actually do do we really have?
A huge moment of realisation for me was many years ago when I was exploring the work of Will Schutz, an influential American psychologist who proposed the simple idea that we choose everything we do: how we live and how we die.
I choose my whole life, and I always have. I choose my behaviour, my feelings, my thoughts, my illnesses, my body, my reactions, my spontaneity! (Schutz The Truth Option p18)
So, when you read this statement, how does it sit with you? Is it empowering, overwhelming or just a down right lie?
When I read it I recognised the truth of it, but only up to a point, and that is where I still sit with it. But even so it has been a hugely helpful revelation and one that forms the underlying principle of the Choose You™ project.
So my version of Will Schutz’s statement is that:
Even if you don’t choose everything that happens to you, you choose how you react to it.
I absolutely believe that I have a choice about almost everything that I do and experience. Where I get off the ideas bus that Will Schutz was driving is the “choosing my own illnesses” bit. So yes, there are some of us who choose how we become ill or die: if I work 20 hours a day with no sleep then I am placing myself in the way of exhaustion. If I choose to live on fast food, to smoke and not exercise then I am choosing a life style that will make me prone to heart disease. But for me there are things that happen to people that they have not chosen at any level that I can recognise: friends who have had miscarriages, kidney failure, arthritis at an early age. We all have people in our lives to whom bad things happen without any apparent rhyme or reason, and sometimes the bad things happen to us too: my diagnosis of cancer four years ago sent me scurrying off to explore “why me?” How had I chosen this? I’ve never smoked, don’t drink too much, I exercise regularly, have never been overweight. All those things that may have helped people think “oh she has never looked after herself so it’s no surprise” just didn’t apply to me. But as my cancer nurse Mary said to me one day “why not you?” So for me, whilst I love Mr Schutz’s principle, there is stuff that happens to us that we don’t choose, but we do choose how we deal with it.
The world is full of stories about people who, in the face of adversity, do great things, run marathons, trek the Sahara, raise millions for orphans. What we don’t read about of course are those who face similar adversity and choose to stay in bed, hide indoors or just get on with their lives. Neither of these options is right or wrong. Both are choices that the individual makes and those choices get very different outcomes. Whatever choice we make will have a consequence. The threat of the consequence doesn’t mean we don’t have a choice.
My own choice when diagnosed with my own bit of adversity was unremarkable, but it was a choice. I kept my head down, carried on working, got through the surgery, chemo and radiotherapy one day at a time. I chose to tell very few people so that outside the home no one knew and I could carry on as normal, fronting it out in my wig and false eye-lashes. There were pros and cons to the choices I made, but what I had to learn was that choices are not about right or wrong: they are about knowing that you are making them, knowing why you are making them and understanding the consequences they create.
This kind of choice is of course at the extreme of life’s experience. Most of the things we do are much more day to day and ordinary, and yet the reality is we are constantly choosing.
It can be hard to acknowledge that at times. But once we do we are in a much better place to take control of our lives, understand the choices we are making and choose differently if we want to. That is the purpose of the Choose You™ project: to support you as you choose the you that you want to be.
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