Most people have a lot of choices that they don’t recognize. Especially if you are a middle-class-ish person living in North America at this point in time.
Now, I understand that there are choices people don’t have, due to real physical or mental limitations, environment, or other personal situation. Someone with no legs probably doesn’t have the option of becoming a long distance runner. A person in dire poverty with limited education and kids to feed can’t very well quit her job to pursue her dreams.
However, I would argue that most of us have options. Lots and lots of them. Most of us don’t recognize most of the choices most of the time, but they do still exist.
I was chatting with some colleagues in the lunchroom at work a few days ago, and this kind of came up. Someone asked the group:
“If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?”
The usual answers followed: Spain, Mexico, Paris, etc.
I said “on an acreage in Saskatchewan”.
Of course, nobody believed me.
The thing is, I have lived in other places, including a few months in London, UK. I have traveled quite a bit, and spent weeks or months is various other countries…long enough to get a feel for how life goes in those places. I have honestly and truly concluded that this is where I want to be. I like the space, the price, the quality of life, the clean environment, the medical care, and the low crime rate. I don’t like every minute of winter, but I do appreciate the lack of malaria, dengue fever, hand-sized bugs, and such, which is really a result of the climate.
I recognize that I have other choices. I have been through the application process for jobs and permanent residence in other countries, and know I could earn a living in a lot of different places. Knowing that living here is really a choice makes me a lot happier about it than some of my colleagues, who ‘wish’ they could live in Mexico, but don’t recognize that they could sell their big fancy house and live there off the proceeds for a couple of decades. Or open a hostel in some nice little Spanish coastal town, like a friend’s parents did as a retirement project. Or buy a little farm in France. These are high-earning people, with good educations, strong work ethics, and a lot of motivation…people who truly do have a lot of choices in the world, and are not constrained by poverty, illiteracy, or disability. They just don’t see what their choices are, and they are unhappy with their perception that they are ‘stuck’ where they are.
This applies to so many things. I can’t count how many times people have told me they were jealous of things I was doing, whether it was travel, buying an acreage, or having my husband stay home to raise our son. I shake my head…these are people with as many resources as I have, or often more. They could choose to do any of the things that I have done, but don’t. They are scared, maybe. Some of them only want the results, with none of the sacrifices, so they won’t pursue these things, either. A lot of the time, I get the impression that it’s never occurred to them that they could really do something different from what they’ve always done.
When I start feeling ‘stuck’, I try to brainstorm my options. All of them, no matter how outrageous. I could quit my job and become a stripper. I could go back to school and become an architect. I could run away and join the circus. I could go to Mexico and start a business giving trail rides on horseback to tourists. I could sell my house and farm, buy an RV, and become a traveling salesman. Will I really do these things? No. But remembering that I am living in this place, working this job, and spending my time as I do by choice helps me feel less stuck and more grateful (and therefore happy) for my situation.
If you’re unhappy with your life right now, it is worth some thought: What are your choices?