If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise. – Robert Fritz
One of my primary jobs as a therapist and spiritual counselor is to be that objective person who can see what I call the “third option.”
What is the third option?
The third option is that other possibility for moving through a tough situation. Perhaps there are several “third options,” but when we are feeling stuck, we tend to see our situation in rigid, black or white terms.
For example, someone who feels stuck in his or her career may only be able to see two limiting options: “Stay here and suffer, but at least I’m getting paid,” or, “Quit my job and be unemployed because the economy is so bad.”
Isn’t that sad?
This is a good time to look for those third options!
Why is the third option so hard to see?
You may be able to quickly see in this example that there are certainly other possibilities than those mentioned. But, when we are in the middle of our own stuck place, it can be hard to see third options!
Our own circumstances trigger our emotions, which keep us from being able to see other possibilities.
Can you guess which emotion is most prominent in our example above? You are correct if you guessed fear. Fear is one of the biggest blind spots we have as human beings.
It keeps us from seeing beyond the two walls that feel like they are caving in on us! Fortunately, our fears are seldom accurate; so having an objective viewpoint can help us see other choices that are there, closer than we may be able to perceive initially.
A close second to fear is: Inertia.
Often other possibilities are wrapped up in things we may not want to do—and those might just be the action steps that would support us the most! Let’s face it: Our problems are here to stretch us, and stretching pulls us beyond our current state of flexibility…and comfort.
That means that 99 percent of the time, we will have to do something we’d rather not. The plus side is that it often feels great to do just that!
Let’s say that looking for a job may require us to move, and moving is the thing we hate the most (who loves moving?). If we always let our personal self have its way, we would stay home and watch Netflix all night to recoup from that miserable day job!
Sometimes those options we wouldn’t choose first are the best moves we could ever make for ourselves.
How can we learn to open ourselves to the third option?
When we find ourselves feeling stuck, the first thing we must do is step away from the disaster! Take a breath and one step back.
Recognize the potential (and need!) for growth. We can say to ourselves one of my husband’s favorite affirmations, “This can only bless me.” This will help relieve the worry and fear, and allow us to begin to see the bigger picture.
Next, brainstorm possible solutions. Remember how we learned to brainstorm in elementary school? Everything goes!
Write down all those potential solutions, even—and especially–the silly ones! Have fun trying to think of ways to resolve the situation. Pull a trusted friend into the project. You may get an outrageous idea or two that just might work!
Make sure that list includes those options that you think you would never do. You might just come up with something you would do after all!
Try asking yourself these questions:
• If I were my best friend, what would I tell him/her to do?
• Since I can’t control the other person(s) involved, what can I change about what I am doing?
• Am I waiting for something to magically motivate me to change?
• If I were run by my soul instead of by my ego, what would my soul tell me to do?
After your brainstorm has subsided, try on a few of the ideas. What would be the worst that could happen? What would be the benefits? And, most importantly, what is the first step needed to move toward your new possibility?
Remember: You are greater than what you have let yourself express as of yet! Otherwise, there wouldn’t be this opportunity for change before you.
You would just be happy where you are—and what fun is that? Where is the challenge, the chance to learn something new, to see what you are truly made of?
There is always a solution. Our personal responsibility to ourselves is to step back and look at the bigger picture. Then we can find our perfect solution.