Thursday, August 12, 2010

Assigned and Consigned

"You are only as free as your options. You are only as free as your well-developed alternatives to whatever you are doing today. If you have only one choice, or one course of action you can take, you will start to feel trapped. You will feel locked in and out of control of your life or your situation. You will begin to experience what Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania calls 'learned helplessness'. You will feel unable to change or improve your condition. This feeling causes inordinate stress and anxiety." - Brian Tracy, Victory

The quote above resonated with me this morning as I thought over yesterday; surely as night follows day, the minute I say I am almost enjoying my life, I get whacked upside the head.

I can't say I didn't try. I went to work buoyed up with the thought that "Life is really okay". I went through most of the day thinking the same thing, or at least trying to think it. And then, around 4:00, I got double blindsided: on the one hand, I found out that yet another project has suddenly become my responsibility; on the other, I found out that someone unexpected was leaving.

And how does this equate into the quote above, you ask? Simple: in one case, the individual has options which they are going to exercise because they can; on the other hand, I received another (thankless) task because the fact of the matter is I have no other options based on my personal situation than to accept the work with a smile (real or feigned, it matters not).

It's a terrible thing, this concept of "learned helplessness". It drains energy and optimism and leaves in its wake cynicism and the dull roar of depression. It's one thing to say it is better to try and fail than to never try; it is another to live with the fact of having tried and failed and feeling as if you have just been assigned somewhere, but consigned somewhere.

"Always have options" the saying runs. However, actually having and maintaining those options is something which can be a full time job on top of the full time life one already has. But is that truly any less energy that fighting the daily battle of feeling that life cannot change and will not change?

If freedom is measured in options, how free are you? What are your options? How can you get more?

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