We can find meaning in anything we choose. Seth Godin, Leap First: Creating Work That Matters

F reedom. What a heavy, heavy burden. Freedom means choices. Choices mean mistakes. Mistakes often bring pain and suffering.

Most of you reading this post live in a world of freedom. We have so much freedom that we can be overwhelmed by our options.  Sometimes, we have so many choices that we are in fact blinded by them. This condition has the effect of making us feel that we have no choices; that our options are limited and we can only see the narrow steps in front of us.

For many of us, the first signs of this occur when we begin to consider college. The U.S. Department of Education says there are 2,968 4-year colleges in the United States. Talk about choices! We work to narrow our options by choosing what is important us: location, size, degree, campus, cost, etc. Some have an idea of what path they want to pursue, most plan to figure it out along the way. Many choose something else after they’ve started.  Nearly all discover that freedom of choice can be quite challenging.

From our choice of college to that first job outside of the university’s protective cocoon, we take quantum leaps in choice.  Words like career, work, vocation, and job assault us with a new wave of choices. This is often where we feel our options narrow. We begin to lose sight of our choices in the vast expanse of freedom. What do I do with a Communications degree? I’m having trouble getting my clinicals, and the small hospital near my college isn’t hiring new grads. I don’t want to move home when I graduate, but I’m not sure if I’ll find a job in this tight market. I’ve applied to everything I see on Monster.com, but no one is calling me back.

As our options explode, our choices seem to narrow and we grasp for a clear path, a defined road ahead. Sometimes this means we continue to grad school. Sometimes this means we choose another educational road that appears to give us more choices by limiting our options.

The options only seem to narrow more completely as we choose a spouse. We choose a family. We choose a life and a path and all of the apparent limiters that come with them. Getting older, we feel that we have so few choices. Part of this revolves around the blinders we place on ourselves but most of it comes from fear. Fear of making the wrong choice. Guess what?  You WILL make wrong choices; make them anyway. The good news is that we tend to get better at it over time.

You will make wrong choices; make them anyway.

The ironic thing about this process is that our approach and our attitude toward jobs, family, and life are also choices. We choose to limit our options so we can make sense of them and limit our risk. How many times have you felt relief when a decision was made for you because an option was taken off the table? That is your survival instinct rewarding you for the comfort of not making a choice. We tend to gravitate to easy answers when possible and that does not change with age. Many of us secretly welcome the opportunity to let someone else make the choice for us; a point at which we begin to give our freedom away.

The reality is that you always have a choice. In fact, if you are reading this post, you likely have such a volume of choices that you have to block out most of them so your mind can process your options. This doesn’t mean that all choices are desirable or equal. It simply means that you have them. You can choose to see them or not but they will always be there. Always.

Career and love are wonderful examples because we over-complicate them incessantly. This is where choice becomes really tricky. They become over-complicated because of feelings. Feelings come and go. You may not feel like working today or you may not feel like talking to your loved one. But that might change tomorrow. In both cases, you can to choose to behave differently than you feel. Quite often, our feelings will follow the choices we make. That is true power. That is true freedom.

Quite often, our feelings will follow the choices we make.

This post was opened with a Seth Godin quotation: “We can finding meaning in anything we choose.”  That is an incredibly liberating statement. It frees us of the burden of waiting for meaning to find us and reminds us that the choice is ours. When you realize that you have the choice to find meaning in a relationship, a job, a moment, a hope, or something else, then you seize control of your life and your happiness. You can choose what you believe, how much effort you invest, with whom you spend time, how you spend your money and where you share yourself. That overwhelming freedom is an incredible gift and you get to make those choices every day.

What will you choose today?