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The “I Don’t Have a Choice” Lie We Tell Ourselves

“I don’t have a choice.”

Man, if there’s one thing that just gets me, it’s hearing people say this.


Because it’s simply not true. Now, before you start throwing all kinds of examples of situations where you really didn’t have a choice, hear me out.

Let’s take a relatively common situation in which someone would feel they didn’t have a choice:

You and your husband have just been blessed with twins. As your maternity leave dwindles down, you start looking at the realities of daycare costs for two infants. You start crunching numbers. You see that your hourly pay will barely cover the cost of putting the twins in daycare. What’s more, your husband (who is trying to climb the corporate ladder) will have to pick the twins up twice a week which will seriously hamper his chances of promotion. Conclusion: You’ll stay home with the babies instead of going back to work. You really don’t have a choice.

This is a pretty standard life situation and while some of you will agree (Well, the only thing that makes sense is for her to stay home, so you’re right. She didn’t have a choice) other will argue the other side (No, she could have gone back to work, they’d just have to accept that they’d have less money and her husband would have to work some nights and weekends).

Let’s take this a step further to a situation where nearly everyone would agree that there is no choice:

You and your wife are walking to your car after a night out at the movies. Two men push you and your spouse into a dark alley, pull a gun, and say they’ll shoot you if you don’t give them your wallet and car keys.

Most of you will say, “Unless you’re really Captain America in disguise, you have no choice: give them the wallet and keys.”

However, what you’re really saying is this: “I am not willing to accept the consequences of any other choice besides giving them my wallet and keys, so I feel I have no choice.”

The truth is, in every single situation you are faced with, you always have a choice. What we tend to see as no choice, in reality, is our unwillingness to accept the consequences that making another decision could bring. When we feel we are in a ‘no choice’ situation, what’s happened is that our brain has already done the quick calculations of weighing the consequences of each action and has determined that only one choice is acceptable—and it’s probably done so without you even being aware of the process.

What this all comes down to is power. When you feel you have no choice, you feel powerless. You feel weak. You feel that things are happening to you that you have absolutely no control over. However, when you realize that you have a choice in every situation and that it comes down to weighing consequences to make that choice, you suddenly realize that the power still rests in your hands.

Are there certain situations in life where you’ll feel there is only one choice that can reasonably and rationally be made? Absolutely. And, if you’ve got your priorities in order and know what’s truly important to you, you may actually find that these situations become more abundant. However, realizing that you’re choosing based on your internal hierarchy can make all the difference in the world. We all have a choice. Thank you for choosing to read my article.


Trish Cody has over 18 years of experience consulting with some of the world’s top Fortune 500 Companies. Today, as an ICF and iPEC Certified Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, clearly see how they are showing up in their behaviors and impacting their success, and to shift their thinking to naturally attract positivity and success. For more information, visit

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