Do we always have a choice?

One of the tricks your mind will play on you is convincing you that you have no other option than to stop. Don’t fall for it—Ever. You have a choice. You always have a choice. It may not be readily apparent. It may show up as a pivot that requires you to shift course. But, even if you shift course, your direction is still forward progress. Do not be fooled into thinking that you have no choice. Of course, the whiners out there want to shift your focus to the “obvious” option: stop–quit–give up. Why? Because the whining comments will say, “it’s not possible” or “it’s not for you” or “you’re too ________”—fill in the blank from “old” to “out of shape” to “not enough experience” to “not smart enough.” Don’t fall for any of it.

What determines our choices?

Choices determine your outcomes and choices abound for you. What makes matters difficult is when you make a series of choices that slow your progress. Choices like deciding not to work hard enough, or thinking that you’ve done enough work. Here are three common categories of choices to help you understand how choices determine your outcomes and decisions:

  1. Thoughts
  2. Feelings
  3. Actions

How you choose to respond to each of these categories will determine your course. The challenge is that they are not sequential—meaning it’s not one or the other—but they are cascading. For instance, let’s say you decide that you’ve done enough work for the day. At that moment, you physically stop working. Your emotions support your thoughts, and you shut down for the day. On the flip side, you feel in your gut, “I can do more,” which sets your brain in motion to figure out what more you can do, and your body follows suit. Or this one: the SEAL instructors constantly tried to shift our focus to how badly our bodies hurt. What do you think happens when you focus on how much you hurt? Your body screams to your brain, “STOP! I’m tired l—I hurt l—I’m at my limit!” It’s been said that when you reach that point, you’re only at about 40% of your capacity (fellow Navy SEAL David Goggins talks about this all the time). Whether it’s 40% or some other percent, the point is that you always have more in the tank than your body leads you to believe. Your choice is to push through the pain or stop, but it is still your call—NOT your body’s. A SEAL saying when confronted with this choice is, “the body obeys the brain.”

How do choices affect decision making?

Let’s dive deeper into the three basic choices that will decide your goal-achieving fate, by category:


You have two basic sets of voices to deal with—those that bounce around in your head, which I call internal voices; and external voices, which come from other people. First, let’s deal with external voices—these can be the most dangerous, because they can make you think your only choice is to listen to them. External voices with the most influence come from two areas—those people you trust and those with authority (either from experience or position or both). In both cases, your choice is to decide if you want to listen to their voices. In many cases, those whom I trust or love want what’s best for me—as in, keeping me safe from disappointment, embarrassment, or harm. In many cases, these folks have never attempted to do what I was doing. It’s your choice to accept their inputs. The same goes for the voices of authority—a boss, teacher, doctor, etc. Obviously, there are consequences for not choosing to follow some of these authorities (not always good to blow off your boss unless you know something she doesn’t know). Again, it’s your choice to accept their points of view—their influence. These external voices can set the tone for your internal voices. See my other article on theSelf Talk: 5 Star Rule on how damaging negative voices can be to your confidence while trying to make progress toward your goal. Your internal voice choice is a positive one or negative one. You decide if your limit is defined by others or by you. You pick if you want events that are out of your control to determine what you can or can’t do.


What you believe, how you behave, and the tone of your feelings are under your control. Your focus determines how you will feel. If it’s raining outside, then you’ll decide if it’s a miserable day or a day of opportunity. Your feelings are up to you. (There’s an asterisk to that comment—some folks suffer from severe depression, which is, in part, caused by hormone imbalances; and in many cases, doctors can help). For the large majority of us, our feelings are ours to choose, if we make those choices by deciding on what we want to focus on. If you want a failure to result in your feeling miserable, then focus on everything you did wrong and how much time and effort was wasted. On the flip side, if you want a failure to make you feel good, then take a lesson from Thomas Edison and any other inventor out there and say to yourself, “I just discovered a way that my idea won’t work; okay, I’m making progress.” One emotional door closes and another opens—it’s your call—your choice.


Your thoughts and feelings compete to give orders to your body to do work. The literal definition of work is, “Mass multiplied by Acceleration multiplied by Distance.” Work means your ability to take action. The challenge is not letting your body dictate what you can or can’t do, as well as not letting negative thoughts or feelings sabotage your body’s ability to press on. Again, are you feeling tired?—It’s your choice to push on or pull back. Now, regarding your ability to keep working, you do need to make a choice to strengthen your body. You do have physical limits, and it does take time to raise the bar of your ability to take persistent action. Your biggest choice here is—you guessed it—exercise your body, get in shape, and stay in shape. A funny thing happens when you do this—chemicals (hormones) are produced that make you think AND feel better, which can positively snowball into taking more actions toward your goal. Again, it’s your choice to exercise your body; you choose what you put in your mouth; you choose how much sleep you get. The three biggest factors in your body’s performance are sleep, nutrition and exercise. It’s not complicated—it’s just hard to be consistent when you are distracted by all kinds of other thoughts and feelings!

What is the outcome of choice, and how do choices affect our lives?

Your choices determine your outcomes. You have no one to blame but yourself. You’re making a choice to read this article, and you will make a choice to decide whether you want to accept my “external” voice. I’ve been on the journey, and I’ve suffered many defeats by choosing poorly, by thinking “I can’t” versus “I can.” Succeeding is a battle of trial and error. Some days are better than others. There are very few things that we can control in life, but the few that we can—how we think, how we feel, and how we act—are enough to make the difference in any course we choose. Time is NOT on our side. It’s your life, and it is up to you. You Always Have a Choice. The best choice you can make is to go All-in and Move forward every day!

Related Post: Optimize Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions. It’s hard, but it’s not complicated, to optimize your thoughts, slow down, and reverse the flow from negative to positive, but it gets easier with practice. Check out our Resources and Courses to develop the mindset and actions required to thrive and accomplish more than you originally thought possible.