Freedom of Choice: Exchanging “Should” and “Have To” with “Want”

New normal concept: Woman standing between climate worsened with good atmosphere and birds flying and broken chain

This week, the U.S. celebrated Independence Day, aka the 4th of July, so of course, I’m thinking about freedom, specifically freedom of choice.

For many women leaders, freedom seems like an elusive thing. Our lives get so bogged down in what we perceive are obligations and requirements. We have our families, who “need” lots of physical and emotional support. We have our work, where we have a long list of things that “have to be done”. We have our own self-care. The workouts we must do. The healthy meals we should consume, not to mention prepare for our families. We have the friendships we have to maintain. There are obligations to other organizations to which we belong.

Sometimes, the list seems endless and overwhelming.

And, we get so caught up in meeting all these demands that life feels like a grind rather than a joy.

Does any of that sound familiar?

If it does, let me remind you that you really do have choices. There’s very little that you actually HAVE TO DO, and whatever you’re thinking, it’s less than that.


I challenge you to take a look at your “to-do list” for the day. How many of those things absolutely have to get done? Be honest. Would the world stop turning? Would someone die? Is there anything that is vital to your safety?

There may be one or two things that fall into those categories but probably not as many as you initially thought.

And that means that you have a lot more choices than you often allow yourself to believe.

But there’s another choice that’s even more important than what you choose to do, and that’s choosing how you do the things.

When I work with clients, Awareness is one of the pillars of our coaching partnership. One aspect of that Awareness process is learning about Positive Intelligence®. Positive Intelligence helps to reframe the way we approach our lives and the things we choose to do.

The biggest impediment to truly exercising your freedom of choice is the Judge. We are so conditioned to judge everything in our lives, including ourselves, others, and our circumstances. It’s that judgment that limits our freedom because judgment usually comes with that long list of musts, have-tos, and shoulds.

The key to true freedom of choice is to stop judging, especially circumstances.

When you look at your list and see things that you “have to do”, you automatically put yourself in a negative mindset. You fill yourself with energy that weighs you down rather than propels you forward. Yes, I’m sure you power through and get the things done. That’s what we do as women, as leaders. But how do you feel at the end of the day?

Tired? Exhausted? Unmotivated? Wishing your life was different? Your work was different?

What would happen if you looked at your list from a different perspective? What could change if instead of judging the list as obligatory, you saw it all as optional? What if you looked at the list and decided what things you wanted to do? What if you focused on the benefits of getting those things done rather than the drag of having to do them?

It might take a little while to wrap your head around this concept. I know it took me a little time, and I’ve seen the same adjustment period in my clients.

But when it clicks? Magic. Pure magic.

Suddenly, the “to-do” list becomes the “I want” list.

Suddenly, even the most mundane chores are infused with purpose and pleasure.

Because you exercise the freedom of choice. Choosing what you do. Choosing how you do it. Choosing how you think about it.

How do you approach your “to-do” list? With pleasure and joy? Or with drudgery and resentment?

My challenge for the week: take a shot at revisiting your “to-do” list today… and see how it goes. And, if you want to learn more, contact me.

Plus, check out my YouTube video about this topic!

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