One of the most common things I coach people on is obligation. It is rarely presented as such, but a few quick questions often reveal this to be the thought which is causing the suffering.
People who feel like they don't have any choice but to after the kids or their parents or people who say that if they don't put in the extra hours at work, they will be putting pressure on the team with the old classic “If I don't do it, no one will”.
When we believe that we don't have a choice, we end up feeling like we don't have any power or control over our lives. We may feel like we are stuck in a particular situation and that there is nothing we can do to change it. This can be incredibly frustrating and disempowering, and it can lead us to make decisions from a place of survival, which frankly never feels fun.
When we make decisions from a place of survival, we are focused on keeping our heads above water and getting through the day-to-day. We may be so focused on just getting by that we need to take the time to think about what we truly want or what would make us happy. We may also be more likely to make decisions that are not in our best interest because we feel like we have no other options.
And there's nothing wrong with that. Only, generally, as a feeling, it sucks.
We respond by rattling the cage bars rather than looking for an exit when we tell ourselves we're. We react from immediacy rather than strategy, and your responses will always be quick fixes rather than checking in to see if you are making it in alignment with your goals.
The easiest hack out of here, I have found, is to list the alternatives which you could do. You don't have to do them, but just naming that there are alternatives creates a little bit of space for you to realise that often you're doing these things because you don't want to have to take the consequences, but not doing them. And that is still a choice: the action (or inaction) or the consequences. Maybe you don’t want to go to the post office, but you don’t want the consequence of your parcel being returned. Maybe you don’t want to go to work, but you don’t want to deal with the consequences of not getting your wages. Maybe you don’t want to visit Aunty Dorris, but you don’t want to feel with your levels of guilt if you don’t.
Just listing possibilities, like “I do not have to go,” may sound like a futile exercise, but it is incredibly effective in breaking the loop of telling ourselves that we do not have any choice.
And the more we step out of that loop, the more likely you are to be able to make decisions which align with your values and the life that you want to create.