How many times have you heard yourself saying things like “I have to do this” or “I have no choice”? If you’re like most people, those are phrases you probably use fairly regularly.

The truth, though, is that we almost always have a choice. We were created as beings with free will and the power to choose. We might not always *like* the options that are in front of us, but most of the time, if not every time, there are options.

For those of us who have lived in abusive or traumatic situations, that belief in the absence of choice may be particularly entrenched. After all, abuse, by its very nature, is the taking away of power. We don’t have a choice about how we’re treated by our abusers, and we certainly aren’t choosing to be abused. Those things are genuinely beyond our control. But having that power taken away can lead us to believe that we have no power in any aspect of our lives.

One of the most important steps in our healing journeys is to recognize the power we have to make our own choices. That doesn’t mean that we’ll always have options we want to choose! Sometimes when we say we have no choice, what we really mean is “That choice isn’t viable for me because of this reason,” or “Only one of those options comes without consequences.” But that doesn’t mean the other options don’t exist, only that they aren’t something that would work for us.

Freedom to choose doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, which is something people sometimes forget. You might, for example, choose to drive 100 miles per hour on Main Street; you’re free to make that choice. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get pulled over and ticketed or arrested!

Sometimes we confuse the existence of consequences with the absence of choice. As we learn to recognize and embrace our personal power, we need to learn that choice does exist, and to consciously make choices rather than falling back to a default because “there is no choice.”

This is something it’s taken me time to learn, and sometimes I still catch myself saying I don’t have a choice. But at those times, I stop myself and say, “Okay, wait a minute. What are my choices here? Why are choices A and B not valid for me right now?” Going through that process enables me to *consciously* choose option C, rather than just going with it because I’ve forgotten that I have the power to make a choice. I have free will, and I can use it.

The next time you’re faced with a situation in which you believe you don’t have a choice, I invite you to go through the process I just described. Ask yourself what choices exist in the situation. Not what choices you like, or which ones have no or fewest consequences, but just which ones *exist*. Once you’ve done that, look at the possible outcomes of each option, and consciously decide on the option that has the outcome you want.

Embrace and exercise your power of free will, and see how it can help you create the life you want to live.

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