In 1995 the movie, Dangerous Minds starring Michelle Pfeiffer, was released. It’s based on a true story of an ex-marine teacher struggling to teach a hodge podge of teenagers from various ethnic and low-income backgrounds in an inner city school. I love good mentor movies and this is one of my favorites. Picture a bunch of bored, unruly teenagers in a classroom while Michelle’s character, Louanne, is trying to teach poetry. One irate student mumbles under his breath that he has no choice being stuck in class.
Louanne: Nobody’s forcing you to be here. You have a choice. You can stay, or you can leave.
Student: Lady, why are you playin’ this game? We don’t have a choice.
Louanne: You don’t have a choice? You don’t have a choice on whether or not you’re here?
Student: No. lf we leave, we don’t get to graduate. lf we stay, we gotta put up with you.
Louanne: Well, that’s a choice, isn’t it? You have a choice. You either don’t graduate or you have to put up with me. lt may not be a choice you like, but it is a choice.
What a great illustration on choice. In fact, it was this movie scene that changed my views on using the power of choice. How many times have we been in situations and thought “I had to do this, I had no choice!” “He gave me no choice but to…” Let’s take this a little further.
Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice. — Wayne Dyer
To be angry. Someone betrayed your trust. They cut you off in traffic. He embarrassed you in the meeting. She insulted your goldfish. No matter what someone did to you, you have full control of your reaction. They didn’t make you do anything. Your kids didn’t make you scream at them. Your friend didn’t force you to hang up the phone angrily. Humans are wired for various emotions including anger, but it’s our choice to control it. Let’s say you’re in the heat of the moment, really upset, maybe even shouting and your phone rings. Do you answer HELLO$$##@%!?!??! or, do you compose yourself first and then answer? In that moment, you executed the power of choice and quelled your anger for a brief moment. It can be done.
To be offended. This is a tough one. You know the old adage about the school bully? If you don’t let the bully’s words and actions bother you, pretty soon he moves on because you’re not reacting. Being offended is somewhat similar. Whether it’s through media or another person, you have the choice to turn away from it. If it’s music, change the channel. If it’s a book, don’t buy it. If it’s a person, nod, smile and remember they’re human too and make mistakes. You have excellent qualities and the offensive person has yet to recognize them. Being offended is based on culture as well, which further proves it’s a choice. The typical two finger “V” sign in the United States means ‘peace’ and is a welcoming gesture. Use that same gesture in England and you’ve appalled someone. Words, gestures and actions are what we make of it. If we choose to take offense to everything, it’s going to be a tough go at life. Especially when many people inadvertently offend others. If we let many things fall to the side and learn for next time, it’s going to be a rewarding experience.
To be happy. Depending on your current state of mind, this may not come easy. There were times in my past where I thought this wasn’t an option. I felt I had no choice but to have negative feelings. When opened up to the power of choice, everything changes including your life perspective. On the flip side of anger, no one can make you happy. Not your spouse, not your kids, not your best friend. Do you know someone who “has it all” yet still feels empty? What about the friend with the nice house, fast car and perfect kids? Are they truly happy? I know people who have all these things and more and they have a great deal of joy in life. That’s because they chose to. They chose to grow personally, work on their relationships and live their passion in life. I also know people of meager surroundings who are full of happiness thanking their higher power for every blessing they have. Whether you have riches in your bank account or not, outside forces do not choose your happiness. You do. It’s an inside job that only you were hired to take care of.
Choice is a powerful force to be reckoned with. You have that power. With one choice you can change how your day will be. With one change of mind, that person will never offend you again. One tweak to a perspective and you start living a joyful life again. One choice means you display compassion rather than anger toward your kids. The opportunities are endless. If you have nothing else, you always have choice. Use it wisely.
P.S. Yes, I referenced a peanut butter commercial in my title. 🙂
(Photo by: freedigitalphotos.net)