How do we choose what we choose?

Today’s Breathe London blog is contributed by Charlotte Style, author of “Brilliant Positive Psychology” and member of the Breathe London wellbeing team

 “Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin

What are you choosing? More importantly how and why are choosing how you choose to think and act?
This sounds either mindless or confusing but whenever I get my clients to start to think about the reasons and motivation behind their actions it is always challenging.

We choose differently in different areas of our lives and as we go through life the choices that suited us in our youth are different to those as we get older and at every life change.

In my last blog I touched on the accumulated affect of all the little things. We change and our circumstances change in some ways so gradually and surreptitiously that perhaps we don’t notice and if we don’t notice we can get ‘out of date’ with our own life. Sometimes we can even forget to choose fun!

One of the ways we choose is our time perspective.

The psychologist Philip Zimbardo writes and talks about the importance of choosing our time perspective and how our happiness and well being is affected by how much (and in what way) we choose to focus on the past, present and future. You can see him talking about this at

Zimbardo’s conclusion is that he used to be too future orientated (choosing how he lived only in respect to future outcomes) and that he is now much more present focused and consequently much happier. He is making an important point that to betoo future orientated is not good for your health and wellbeing. His professional achievements, that he now enjoys, came directly as a result of his choice to be single mindedly future focused but he woke up to the cost of his choice (which I believe has much more to do with his age than his research) and wishes he had done so sooner now he has discovered the joy of choosing to live in the present. -Zimbardo’s message is that just choosing one focus and perspective, however successful, can come at a price.

Our choices are often in competition and can be affected by hidden – or at least unacknowledged, motivations. When this happens we can feel out of control.

In my book Brilliant Positive Psychology I have started with the power of choice because we are actually choosing everything- not just our time perspective. We are making many many choices -much more that we realise- in fact happiness itself is a choice. By taking a moment to examine what we are choosing (and why) we can begin to evaluate and change our perspective in all areas of life. How we choose to see other people and events, how we choose to see ourselves, and how and what we choose to do what we do. Choosing to choose can be very empowering.

The choices I am talking about are not what to buy, eat or get, but how we choose to think and what we choose to value. In fact one of the best choices you can make for your happiness and wellbeing is to do and have less! Research has told us that having too much choice and always trying to get the most from everything doesn’t make us feel good.

In order to change how you think you first have to choose to think!

This is an extract from Brilliant Positive Psychology p.11

Below are some of the ways you are choosing your experience
and well-being; these are some of the factors that govern how
and why you make choices, and, in effect, how you choose to
think and feel. All these influences are part of your complexity
and only you can change or increase what influences your

1 What you need and value. You choose what you need.
Your basic needs are as individual as you are and what
you need are the things that matter most to you, what you

2 As a response. You choose your response to how others
behave and act, and to outside circumstances. Someone
else’s actions affect your choices. This is often an emotional response

3 To conform as part of a group. You choose because it
is socially appropriate. You choose to do things you feel
you should do because it is considered by others to be the
choice you should make. You choose cultural and social

4 With autonomy. You choose completely freely and
unrestrained. You choose novelty, excitement and
uncertainty, for your immediate pleasure.

5 With your mind. You choose to do something logically
because it makes sense to you.

6 As a habit. You choose out of habit. You choose
mindlessly, doing what you have always done without
thinking about it.

7 With understanding. You choose what you understand
and is meaningful to you. When you understand why you
want to do something, you have a reason to choose it.

What are you choosing right now?
Are you awake and open to change?
Are you content and grateful for how much you have or do you
want more?
Are you living ‘your’ life or for someone else and have you chosen this?
Are you choosing to see problems or solutions?
Are you learning from your mistakes or do you feel a failure?
Are you looking forward to the future or does the past hold you in
its grip?
Are you choosing safety or adventure?
Are you choosing to be generous with your gifts or do you hold the
best of you only for those who deserve it?
Are you choosing to judge yourself and others or are you choosing
to see the best in yourself and others?

Why not choose to become more aware of the choices you are making today, especially in respect to time.
Look at different areas of your life in the list below and put each area in the middle of the mind map and play with some of the perspectives. Note down which perspective you are choosing and then note down what you might choose from a different perspective.

  1. How or what are you choosing in your career, at work, professionally.
  1. How or what are you choosing to spend your time recreationally, for fun, in your social life.
  1. How or what are you choosing in respect to your romantic life, significant other.
  1. What are you choosing in respect to where you live, your environment.
  1. What or how are you choosing financially, to keep yourself and others.
  1. How or what are you choosing for yourself, your soul.
  1. How or what are you choosing for others, the wider world.

Posted on August 16, 2011, in Coaching, Meditation etc. and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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