• Ever wondered why we respond so differently to choices?
  • How do you respond when there are no choices?
  • Do I have the power of choice?

Here, red10 ’s Sureya Naidoo explores one of the 16 concepts of a healthier mind, as researched in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and weighs in on the concept of “All procedures should be designed to increase choice”; how people with healthy minds seem to hold the concept that choice is important in life.

We are restricted by messages of being without choice

“I have no choice” has become somewhat of a storytelling trope which impedes and limits our thinking skills and thought process. This particularly happens when we are faced with one or more emotionally conflicting options or “equally unappealing choices” and the dilemma of decision, feeling at an impasse – unable to move forward.

Some overused clichés:

  • “Caught between a rock and a hard place”.
  • “The lesser of two evils”
  • “Six of one, half a dozen of the other”

What do we stand to lose when we think we have no choice?

The belief that we are without choice, renders us helpless implying that we have no choice in our decision, its outcome, or its consequences. We stay small and limited in our ability to find a way through the challenge. Believing it is all influenced by external forces to which we cannot respond (a person, a company, the economy, cultural history, etc.) for the “choice-less” situation we find ourselves in. We begin to believe we have no say over our current actions, thoughts, or what happens in our immediate world.

Fortunately, we can alter this state of captive thinking with the use of the NLP presuppositions techniques to expand our thinking in a way that opens us up, to look from a wider lens of ‘own power and self-authority’.


Switching from “I have no choice” mindset – to a more positive narrative “I decided to” or “I chose to”, regardless of the outcome.

Choice happens

Choice is a decision that we make between two or more options. It is a subjective process that involves weighing the pros and cons of different options and selecting the one that is most desirable or appropriate.

Factors that are likely to influence our choices:

  • Cognitive distortions (Polarised thinking – all or nothing; always being right; jumping to conclusions; overgeneralisation ; magnification (catastrophising); minimisation; labelling and mislabelling; personalisation; mental filter; disqualifying the positive)
  • Patterns & beliefs (the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs)
  • Social norms and cultural expectations can influence our choices, as we may feel pressure to conform to the expectations of others.

Every action you take is a choice of one thing, over others.

Choice is available all the time, and lots of it

We all have choice — all the time — at every decision we come to — large or small, what to do, what to say, what to believe, how to respond.

  • I must decide when to let go of (John) a key, but disruptive employee; despite the team being in the middle of a crucial and narrow delivery timeline – you have choice!
  • Creating a “new” product roadmap with many tasks in need of prioritisation; I have limited team resources and a team of overextended individuals – you have choice!
  • I want to stop contributing to fear and anger in the world – you have choice!
  • What should I eat for breakfast – you have choice!

Notice how every option in these explorations begins with “I,” which is the starting point of our personal power and choice.

So, if I actively make my own decisions, no one can take that power away?

Being intentional about choosing enables us to skillfully tap into our inner resources, ‘creating new options and possibilities’ to galvanise our direction of thought, discussion, and intervention to increase our choices.

  1. What would happen if you approached every decision from the viewpoint that there are several, if not infinite, options available?
  2. What new ways of thinking would this kind of unrestricted mindset create?
  3. What greater personal strength could you build, if faced with equally unappealing choices – “You choose one and take a stand for that choice”?
  • Aware that ‘All options seem to be unpleasant and difficult, and this is the choice I make’?

By recognising the range of options available, we can make a choice that aligns better with our ultimate goals, and the conduct we wish to model.