Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Power of Choice

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When writing my soon-to-be-released book: Helping Our Daughters Live a Powerful Life, I asked my newsletter subscribers to contribute.

One of my subscribers shared with me:

“For a long, long time I let those societal restrictions influence me to believe that what really mattered was the destination, even though I knew deep down that the quotation I used in my high school year book was what I ought to believe in: ‘Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and becoming.’ My children are also on a journey of being and becoming…change is always happening, always possible.”

What we need to help our children understand is that change comes because of choice.

There is an anonymous quotation I love that reminds us of how important the power of choice is: "It is very important you remember you have choices. It’s so important you simply can’t forget it."

When we think about making choices and then explaining this concept to our children, we need to buy in to what making choices means for them.

As author Shad Helmstetter in The Gift: The 12 Greatest Gifts of Personal Growth reminded us, “it’s usually the smallest choices we make that affect us the most.”

It’s important to remember this as a transition from making all choices for our children to allowing them to make age-appropriate ones. Making choices is a big part of defining self.

Help your children understand that as they grow they need to rely more on themselves. Explain the benefit of getting input from others but also make clear the caveat. Others give you advice based on their own experiences.

Teaching your children to trust their instincts—their gut feelings—is the best ammunition.

There’s more we need to understand and help our children understand. There are no wrong decisions. Decisions have results. Those results can bring us joy, but sometimes they bring us pain and sadness.

In an article about choices written by Jennifer Griffon she said, “Each decision that we make at any point in time is the best decision that we can make at that time and also reflects a lesson that we must learn.” She goes on to tell us, “Judging the wisdom of our choices once we learn their results, thus regretting the past, is like being able to pick the lottery numbers after we know what they will be.”

There are times we know we are not making the best decision. I can recall one as recently as yesterday. This also brings to mind something I repeatedly told my sister Jennifer before she moved to New York. Picking the right path for yourself doesn’t mean you are guaranteed the easy path. Best choices don’t necessarily mean you’ll find a gold-covered road leading to the rainbow minus pitfalls and obstacles.

In Reviving Ophelia Mary Pipher tells us, “Parents can only do so much, and they are not responsible for everything. They are neither all knowing nor all-powerful. Parents can make a difference in the lives of their daughters only if their daughters are willing to allow this. Not all daughters are. Daughters have choices and responsibilities.”

It’s our job to teach what we can and then to move out of the way. We do this by allowing our children to make their choices and accept responsibility. All we can do is the best we can and we must ask our children to do the same. And then maybe one day we and our children can be like Marianne Williamson and “come at last to live in the comfort of our own skin.”

Allyn Evans
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