The Power of Choice

If life is the sum of all your choices, how are you doing today? One of the most amazing faculties we have in this world is the power of choice. If we decide to be happy no matter what, our attention automatically begins to shift toward the source of happiness within – even in the midst of intense circumstances. Yes, happiness is a choice!

The most basic choice we have is where we place our attention. Wherever we place our attention determines what we consciously align with. THAT is the power of choice-making. Whatever you choose to focus on is what you are saying “yes” to. In that moment you are agreeing to identify with and to experience that thing. How we use the power of choice and what we focus on is determined by what we value. In any moment we can choose whether to expand or contract; whether to bring our creative and expressive energies out into the world in positive or negative ways. No matter our circumstances, we have the power to choose our directions.

Depending on our situation, we may experience many choices or few choices. Mental illness, ignorance, or other incapacity may distort or limit our power of choice, while clarity of mind enhances it. We make conscious choices by recognising that every choice has consequences. We can each choose an easier path or a more difficult one. All choice is with us. We rarely choose to take the more painful path unless we believe it will bring us more pleasure in the long run, or get us to our goals more quickly The fewer distorted or limiting beliefs we have, the greater our power of choice.

“I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.”
― Steve Maraboli

Creative Energy Finds Expression

Everything that exists is made of energy, and energy can manifest itself along a spectrum from positive to negative. For example, electricity can light a city or take a life. Creative energy has a surging, dynamic quality; it exists to flow toward some purpose. This energy acts as a double-edged sword. If it is not used for constructive purposes, it is discharged in destructive ways. If our creative energy gets blocked altogether, like water surging against a wall, it turns back on us and creates pressures that we experience as painful symptoms at physical, emotional, and mental levels. We create in constructive ways, or we create in destructive ways; either way, creative energy finds expression.

From an energetic perspective, the world of today is fascinating. Employee stress levels are reported to be at an all-time high and mental health issues are rife. Current global trauma has forever changed the way we work and live. As with all major global events, one of the most difficult aspects to reconcile is the loss of control we have endured. This is tough pill for everyone to swallow, including leaders and organisations. When people aren’t at their best, wellbeing and performance suffer and so do company outcomes.

“Nothing can disturb your peace of mind unless you allow it to.”
― Roy T. Bennett

Certainty and Safety

Neuroscience shows us that humans crave certainty and safety. We want control so we can create (as much as possible) conditions that reduce ambiguity. The pandemic triggered many of us because we were suddenly not able to make the usual choices about when to go out, what to do, how to spend our time, and how and where to work. In some cases, we had already made choices, which had to be suddenly changed. This raises our stress levels because we crave a level of autonomy and control over our lives. 

This is where leaders can make a huge difference. Leaders have significant influence over creating the conditions for people to thrive and companies to prosper. One of the most impactful things a leader can do is provide more choice and control for employees. This shift was always going to matter, especially as we consider the future of work, hybrid work, work from home and how much control people will have over how, when and where they work. It is critical to strike the right balance of providing choice for employees and ensuring business results.

“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.”
― Dallin H. Oaks

How Choice and Control Matter

The science behind choice and control is in. Choice and control make a massive difference for people and performance.

  • In Nickel and DimedBarbara Ehrenreich points out the significant difficulties employees face when they have little control over their schedules. From childcare and transportation to budgeting and food preparation, lack of control is disempowering and disabling.
  • Classic studies on work-life demonstrated happiness and wellbeing weren’t correlated with whether women worked full-time, part-time or didn’t work outside the home. Instead, positive outcomes were correlated with whether people were able to make their preferred choice about how – and how much – they worked.   
  • study by Steelcase found when people have greater control over their experiences in the workplace, they are more engaged.
  • Studies by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2016 and 2020 found when people are in jobs with high stress and have little control over their workflow, they tend to be less healthy and experience higher mortality rates than those with more flexibility or choices about their work. On the other hand, jobs with high stress that afford greater autonomy and decision-making did not result in the same negative health impacts. The ability to make decisions and have some control over their work made all the difference.
  • Another 2020 study by the University of Illinois found that when people have more intrusion of work into their non-working hours, through devices such as phones or laptops, they experience greater levels of stress and negative impact. On the other hand, when they have more control over this boundary and can set their own limits, stress levels are significantly reduced.

This area of science shows how much control matters: When people have greater autonomy in their work, they have less stress and perform better.

“Whatever you decide, don’t let it be because you don’t think you have a choice.”
― Hannah Harrington

The Goldilocks Principle

The Goldilocks principle states that something must fall within certain margins, as opposed to reaching extremes. The best situations have a ‘just right’ amount of alternatives. Experiments described in The Paradox of Choice have demonstrated that if people don’t have enough choice, they will be less satisfied with their (limited) options. While, providing people with too much choice typically results in them feeling overwhelmed, which means people may refuse to choose and walk away from making a decision at all.

In social work the concept of ‘autonomy with abandon’ has long pointed to the need to give the right amount of control, without abandoning people entirely. We all appreciate some boundaries and too much freedom can be paralysing, particularly when people need direction. We want clear expectations for our work and our performance (our preference for greater certainty) so we can gauge our impact and adjust our efforts in order to achieve the best result. The bottom line is that individuals, teams and organisations are most effective when we provide plenty of control and empowerment, balanced with clear expectations and guide rails.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them”
― Denis Waitley

4 Ways to Provide Choice and Control

There are likely more opportunities for leaders to provide choice today than pre-pandemic. It’s key to open a dialogue with employees to better understand their situations and needs. In this way you can clarify expectations and reinforce the contributions you value and require from them.

1. Place and Time

Recent studies by Steelcase demonstrate 87% of leaders expect to provide more flexibility to employees in where, when and how they work. How often people come into the office and the hours they keep are a critical element of control, especially as childcare, schools and partner/spouse workplaces are ramping back up. Each employee may have different preferences for their working schedules, locations and patterns, so it’s wise to provide as much flexibility as possible. Leaders also need to ensure teams have enough face-to-face time so they can work together effectively. Setting core hours (hours when everyone will be in the office together) or establishing sharing protocols so team members know when they’ll find each other in the office are great ways to ensure both flexibility and team performance.

2. Structure and Content

Often, the content of work isn’t something leaders consider as a point of employee control, but it can be especially powerful. Many jobs have a certain set of responsibilities that simply need to get done. After this, consider how you might provide for more variety in the work. When people are challenged, they are more motivated. When they have an opportunity to engage in different kinds of work, they are less likely to suffer from burnout and more likely to stick around. Consider how you can redefine work across a team. Perhaps team members can share responsibilities, passing them back and forth quarterly. Or maybe colleagues can rotate less preferred tasks. Also give thought to how you can create time and space for employees to volunteer for projects beyond their job description. Far from feeling over-burdened, many employees are energised by something outside their norm which provides them with create opportunities to grow their skills.

3. Coworkers and Colleagues

Another element of choice relates to who employees work with. While it may seem small, it is actually the lifeblood of engagement. It’s natural to work better with some people than others. We’ve all felt that ‘click’ that occurs when we get along well. This fit isn’t necessarily the result of similarities, rather it is often associated with diversity. A person who thinks differently can add to your thinking, a colleague may bring strong skills where yours are weak, or a friend can make you laugh and energise the project with unexpected ideas. Wise leaders leverage the engagement, motivation and energy which comes from colleagues working well together. Do your best to give people some latitude in this area.

4. Workplace and Technology

Consider how you can offer employees more options within the office or with their technology. Perhaps you can influence the organisation to supply people with a second monitor or an adjustable-height workstation. Perhaps people would value the opportunity to move around to various parts of the office for different activities. There may also be ways you can give employees more choices about the technology or devices your company provides or allows. These opportunities make a difference in the extent to which employees feel empowered.

“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Conscious Leadership Revolution

Conscious leaders are stepping up their game, in all areas of life. They are being more outspoken than ever when it comes to the creation of change for the better. They are innovating, building networks and combining efforts like never before. There is a difference between making strong, sustainable change versus toppling the infrastructure and starting from scratch. This is the difference between a rebellion and revolution. Real change – enduring, sustainable change – takes time and a deliberate movement towards the vision of what we seek to create.

This means that to make good, solid change that truly innovates and expands upon the potential for our lives, we need to be patient. We need to tend to the “garden” of our lives, plant in rich soil, pluck the weeds, water the plants and give them ample light and warmth. This translates to making sure that our mindset supports our growth, that we are resilient and gentle with ourselves. If we have a “bad” day or a “bad” cycle, we can continue to nourish our creative spark with faith and the power of our imagination to hold the vision of what we truly want for ourselves.

“Good memory skill is the offspring of good focus. If you find yourself becoming a little forgetful, it is probably not because there is something wrong with your brain. Rather, it is simply because your mind is too cluttered to allow things to stick.”
― Ilchi Lee

Understanding Your Brain Waves

It’s important to understand how your brain contributes to the state of your mind. Most of us focus on looking at our emotions in an attempt to become happier, more elevated beings. However, our brain waves and subconscious mind also play a key part in our quest for fulfillment. Mental mastery is exercising your power of choice over thoughts and emotions. You won’t become a conscious leader by listening to the flotsam and jetsam of your mind. Everything is energy and energy is frequency, including your brainwaves, like electrical currents.

“All brains are good brains. However, information can affect the brain in ways that can distort its functioning. When negative information has taken over the natural workings of the brain, you could say that a good brain has become a bad brain. The brain naturally distinguishes positive information from negative, but sometimes we simply lose trust in our brain, allowing outside information to run the show.”
― Ilchi Lee

5 Types of Brain Waves

We easily forget that we are the co-creators of our reality. By learning about the states of consciousness, you can open your subconscious mind and create your reality from a place of awareness. The first step is to understand the different brain frequencies. Each frequency is measured in cycles per second (Hz) and has its own set of characteristics representing a specific level of brain activity and a unique state of consciousness.

1. Beta (14-40Hz) — Waking Consciousness and Reasoning Wave

Beta brain waves are associated with normal waking consciousness and a heightened state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning. While Beta brain waves are important for effective functioning throughout the day, they can also translate into stress, anxiety and restlessness. In fact, the voice of Beta can be described as that nagging inner critic. And with a majority of adults operating at Beta, it’s little surprise that stress is today’s most common health problem.

Too much Beta Waves: Anxiety, Adrenaline, High Arousal, Inability to Relax, Stress

Too little Beta Waves: ADHD, confusion, depression, poor cognition

Optimal Beta Waves: Conscious focus, memory, problem-solving

Beta Waves can be increased: Coffee, Stimulants

2. Alpha (7.5-14Hz) — Deep Relaxation Wave

Alpha brain waves are present in deep relaxation and usually emerge when daydreaming or during light meditation. This is an optimal time to program the mind for success and it also heightens your imagination, visualisation, memory, learning and concentration. Alpha waves are the gateway to your subconscious mind. The voice of Alpha is your intuition, which becomes clearer and more profound the closer you get to 7.5Hz. Interestingly, Earth’s heartbeat (The Schumann Resonance) is 7.83Hz. Alpha is the frequency between our conscious thinking and subconscious mind. This is the Flow State Zone.

Too much Alpha Waves: Daydreaming, inability to focus, too relaxed

Too little Alpha Waves: Anxiety, High Stress, Insomnia, OCD

Optimal Alpha Waves: Relaxation, Flow State

Alpha Waves can be increased: Meditation, Binaural beats, massage, watching sunrise/sunset

3. Theta (4-7.5Hz) — Light Sleep and Deep Meditation Wave

Theta brain waves are present during deep meditation and light sleep, including the all-important REM dream state. It is the realm of your subconsciousness and only experienced momentarily as you drift off to sleep from Alpha and wake from deep sleep (from Delta). It is said that a sense of deep spiritual connection and unity consciousness can be experienced at Theta. Your mind’s most deep-seated programs are also at Theta. It is where you experience vivid images, great inspiration, profound creativity and exceptional insight. And unlike your other brain waves, the elusive voice of Theta is a silent voice. It is at the Alpha-Theta border, from 7Hz to 8Hz, where the optimal range for visualisation, mind programming and using the creative power of your mind is optimised. It’s the mental state in which you consciously create your reality. At this frequency, you are conscious of your surroundings while your body is in deep relaxation.

Too much Theta Waves: ADHD, depression, hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness

Too little Theta Waves: Anxiety, poor emotional awareness, stress

Optimal Theta Waves: Flow State, Creativity, emotional connection, intuition, relaxation

Theta Waves can be increased: Binaural beats, meditation

4. Delta (0.5-4Hz) — Deep Sleep Wave

The Delta frequency is the slowest of the brainwave frequencies. Delta waves occur in both deep, dreamless sleep and during transcendental meditation. Delta is the realm of your unconscious mind and the gateway to the universal and collective unconscious. Information received here is often unavailable at the conscious level. Deep sleep is important for the healing process as it aids with deep healing and regeneration. This is why not having enough deep sleep is detrimental to your health in more ways than one.

Too much Delta Waves: Learning problems, inability to think, severe ADHD

Too little Delta Waves: Inability to rejuvenate body, inability to revitalise the brain, poor sleep

Optimal Delta Waves: Fortify Immune System, natural healing, restorative sleep, deep sleep

Delta Waves can be increased: Binaural beats, sleep

5. Gamma (above 40Hz) – Insight Wave

At 40Hz and above, the Gamma wave is the fastest frequency. While little is known about this state of mind, initial research shows Gamma waves are associated with bursts of insight and high-level information processing.

Too much Gamma Waves: Anxiety, High Arousal, Stress

Too little Gamma Waves: ADHD, Depression, Learning Disabilities

Optimal Gamma Waves: Binding Senses, cognition, information processing, learning, perception, REM sleep

Gamma Waves can be increased: Binaural beats, Meditation

“Researchers proposed that experiencing empathy and compassion through the mirror neuron system is equivalent to having compassion for yourself. Thus, “giving is receiving ” is a brain-based truth. Insensitivity and selfishness are essentially bad for your brain and your mental health. In contrast, compassion and loving relationships are good for your brain and your mental health.”
― John B. Arden

Rewire Your Brain for Greater Productivity

Neuroscientists are also discovering that brainwaves are contagious. If you’re in the room with someone who is “buzzing” at a fast brainwave frequency, in just a few minutes your ECG will show the same brainwave frequency. This is why it’s imperative you surround yourself with healthy thinkers – other people’s brainwaves can literally infect you!

Alpha frequency (flow state) is accessed when we engage in routine tasks, such as showering, brushing our teeth or going for a walk. When our minds move more slowly, we can learn new information, perform challenging tasks and analyse complex situations. This is why we often have an “ah-ha!” moment when we are in the shower. We allow space for bringing new ideas and intuitions to bear.

“Focus allows you to pay attention to what’s happening here and now, and this starts the process of neuroplasticity.”
― John B. Arden

Slowing Down to Get Faster Results

Some of the world’s stickiest problems have been resolved by accessing Alpha frequencies. In the 1860s, Friedrich August Kekule was trying to work out the molecular structure of benzene. He had worked at it for years, doing what chemists do: lab work, painstaking experimentation, following procedural steps. One day, he dozed off and had a dreamlike vision of a snake swallowing its tail. When he woke, he instantly knew what it meant: Benzene is a six-membered ring of carbon atoms with alternating single and double bonds (but of course!). This scientific breakthrough came through an intuitive flash of insight when the mind had quieted down.

Mastering your mind means consciously choosing what to place your attention on, despite the demanding and arbitrary commands of random thoughts. It involves training and discipline. Think of the mind like an untrained puppy. You put the puppy on the paper in the kitchen, and, before you know it, the puppy has wandered off and piddled on the floor. So, you pick the puppy up and put it back on the paper. When you turn your head, it wanders off again. Yelling at the puppy won’t help, and it may even make things worse! You must be patient and repeat the process of putting the puppy back on the paper time and time again until the neural pathway has formed and the puppy has learned what to do.

It is the same in our attempts to gain mental mastery. We sit down to quiet our minds and before we know it, our minds have wandered off to worries about the economy, that task we didn’t finish yesterday or humming a song that you just can’t get out of your head. The puppy has wandered off the paper. Your job: Pick it up gently and put it back. Train your thoughts to follow your command.

“Conformity begins the moment you ignore how you feel for acceptance.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Co-creating Reality

We all experience brainwave frequencies throughout the day, which take us to different levels of consciousness. When you are awake, you are in a different brainwave state as compared to when you are sleeping. You can alter your brainwave pattern in order to reach a desired level of consciousness. For example, if you can’t get sleep at night when you feel stressed, you can synchronise your brainwaves into the frequency that corresponds to sleep simply by using sound.

You may have heard the expression “Thoughts become Things.” While there is some truth to that statement, it is over-simplified because it leaves out a bunch of steps. Thoughts usually create in response to words (Abracadabra means I create as I speak). The words you respond to create storms of energy (electrons) in your brain.  These electron storms cause your brain to produce specific neural pathways.  These pathways create chemicals that produce a specific emotional response and your emotional response calibrates the electromagnetic resonance field of your heart. This causes you to notice opportunities and create experiences that are in alignment with the emotional energy you are experiencing.

“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.”
― Brené Brown

Words Become Things

If you are emotionally wise, you will check that your emotions are creating what you want. Are you taking deliberate action to bring you closer to the reality you want to experience? If you don’t understand how to deliberately use your emotions, you might react to words in a way that causes you to use more even destructive language. This can trigger darker and more despairing, disempowered thoughts and more low-frequency emotions. This spiral often starts with words. Maybe we should say, “Words become things”.

The Hebrew word, d’var, is the word for “word” and also the word for “thing”.  Things don’t become “things” until we name them.  The words we use are very important and more powerful than you can imagine. Pay attention today to the words you use and the words you think.  Are you using language that supports taking your life in the direction you intend?  Are your words adding to the creation of a world of love, acceptance, equity, sustainability, and peace? Or do you need help finding better words? Practice holding space and productive words, no matter what is going on around you.

“Sometimes good choices are really bad ones,

wrapped up in so much fear you can’t even see straight.”

― Deb Caletti

That Four Letter F-Word

The single most debilitating emotion we as humans possess is fear. Whether it be fear of change, fear of failure, fear of what others will say or even fear of success. Fear is undoubtedly the number one thing that holds people back from achieving their goals. Fear often disguises itself as logical thinking. When left unchecked, left-brained thinking will run amuck labeling opportunities as “risky”, lofty goals as “unrealistic” and thinking outside the box as “silly.” At what point did it become unrealistic to go after a life that you love? Have we become so jaded as a society that we actually expect for things in our life to be less than amazing? As a powerful creator of your reality, this notion is simply ridiculous!

If we are expecting things to not be that great then what hope do we have for things to actually be great? If we expect and accept that things will go for us just like they have for our parents, grandparents, friends etc, as a form of logical reasoning (which is erroneous) we are selling ourselves short. When we only use one-side of our brain, we imprison ourselves with limitations. When we reason creatively (use both sides), we open ourselves up to solutions and limitless possibilities. When we approach our life from a creative perspective, we start to see failures as opportunities for growth and redirection. This means we will spend more time pursuing endeavours that make the most of our specific gifts and talents. Creative thinkers feel empowered. They expect to be successful because they are always growing and learning. These expectations and beliefs then manifest as outer reality. Your gifts and talents are completely unique to you alone and when applied properly, they will be your gift to humanity.

“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.”

― Richard Bach

All Choice is With You

Life is a series of continuous choices we make every day, so the power of choice is not something to take lightly. See it as your super-power, because it is creating your life, moment by moment. We are always in the momentum of something, and that’s where our choice lies. You get to choose what momentum you want to be in. What do you want? You have the power of choice to decide where you want to go from here – and then start walking that path to create a new momentum.

It’s all in your hands. You can either stay stuck where you are, focusing on the past and wishing that things would go back to how they were. Or you can choose to stop wasting time, step up and show up for yourself by making a New Choice that propels you forward in life. In every moment, you have a choice. Choose to become the best version of yourself that you can possibly be. Become the YOU that feels good all the time; that has a deep sense of purpose and joy. Choose to be the one who is calm and connected on the inside and with the world around you. Choose to focus your precious energy into incredible motivation and drive to “get shit done” and feel amazing while doing it. In becoming your best self, you are able to serve humanity with your gifts and greatness and assist the entire collective to rise. It’s a CHOICE. Make it, and see your world transform right before your very eyes.

“You are here to make a difference, to either improve the world or worsen it. And whether or not you consciously choose to, you will accomplish one or the other.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich

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