We make dozens of choices every day of our lives, but a large percentage of those choices are invisible to us. We often think that we have no choices, that we are victims of circumstance. This is the single biggest impediment to personal growth, and I don’t give my clients the luxury of using it.
Helping my clients see the difference between “I choose to” and “I have to” allows them to see that they have far more power to shape their lives than they may have thought.
I’ll sometimes start by using the “body compass” as it relates to the client’s upcoming schedule. I ask them to list five things they “have to” do next week and then we look at the response. When they have their lists, I ask them to go through each item, picturing themselves doing each task, and assigning each item a score, from -10 to +10, based on the way their bodies react to the image, either positively or negatively.
Then I ask them if they literally have to do the negative items on their list, paying close attention to their “reasoning” as to why they have to do it. This is where a wealth of information will unfold. I typically smack right into one of their personal religions- their most stubbornly held beliefs that are in direct conflict with their “essential self”.
When I say essential self, I mean the personality we got from our genes: our characteristic desires, preferences, emotional reactions and involuntary physiological responses, bound together by an overall sense of identity. It’s the basic you, unmired by obligation and external influence.
This “body compass” exercise helps clients to identify, name and eventually challenge their most deeply held beliefs about the world: things like, “I must please everyone or I’ll never be loved,” or “I have to dominate people or they’ll dominate me.”
By doing this, we create wiggle room, a space for change to take root, loosening the shackles of personal dogma and limiting beliefs. Do you really have to be present at that meeting, or do you just need to feel in control all the time? Do you really want to attend the birthday party of someone you only casually used to know, or is that a “have to”?
You can try this exercise at home. Jot down some of the upcoming events that you think you have to do. Then go through the list envisioning each one, monitoring your body for signals. Do you feel relaxed? Agitated? Stressed? Angry? Your body compass may be telling you something.
The goal, eventually, is to be acting only from a place of volition. Doing the things you really want to do. In the way that you actively choose to do something, you begin to take back some of your power.]]>