We always have a choice


This essay first appeared in my newsletter, The Weekly Pep Talk. If you’d like to subscribe for a big old dose of positivity in your inbox every Sunday, you can sign up here.

Last week I got caught in a bad traffic jam on the motorway. I’d been having the most manic day, rushing around from meeting to meeting, firing off emails and mentally trying to keep up with my growing to do list. By the time I finally got in the car after my last meeting of the day, I was exhausted, both mentally and physically, and all I wanted to do was get home.

About 20 minutes into my 50 minute journey, I realised that something wasn’t quite right. The traffic was slowing down around me, and a few police cars were blue lighting it down the hard shoulder. Before long we’d ground to a halt, and it was clear that I wouldn’t be getting anywhere fast.

I’m not too proud to admit that the Sophie of 5 years ago would have reacted terribly to this situation. She’d have sat in the car huffing and puffing, growing increasingly frustrated with every minute stood still. She’d have spent the entire journey home mentally listing off everything that had gone wrong that day, focussing on all the little criticisms and mishaps. She’d have arrived home in a foul mood, snapping at her husband and spending the rest of the evening in a strop.

But I realised this week how much I’ve changed in the past few years. I realised that committing to practicing positivity and living a joyful life had started to rewire my brain. Because instead of activating toddler tantrum mode, I made a better choice. I accepted that there was nothing I could do about the situation. I felt grateful that I was safe in my car and not in any danger. And then I decided to have as much fun as I possibly could while I was sat in that traffic jam.

I listened to an awesome podcast. I sang along to the Spice Girls at the top of my voice. I put Beyonce’s Lemonade album on and had a little solo dance party all the way home. Sure, the people in the cars either side of me probably thought I was a little bit strange. Sure, I probably got a few funny looks as I did my best Mel C high note impressions. But do you know what? I didn’t care. I didn’t care whatsoever, because I was having fun! By the time I finally got home I had a big old smile on my face, and I was ready to make the most of the rest of my evening.  

A journey that should have taken me 50 mins ended up taking me two and a half hours. And yes, I’d have preferred not to spend that time sitting in my car after a really long day. Yes, I would have rather spent that time hanging out with my husband, or reading my book, or soaking in the bath. But that wasn’t a choice that I had. What I did get a choice over though, was how I was going to react to my circumstances. And instead of spending those minutes in my car complaining, I decided to use them joyfully instead.

That little situation reminded me that we always have a choice. We don’t always have control over an outcome or circumstance, but we always have a choice about how we’re going to react. Life won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but we still get to choose to make the most of everyday regardless. We always have a choice.

And I want to be someone who always chooses to lean into the good. I want to be someone who always chooses to the silver lining. I want to be someone who always chooses to play the hell out of the cards that they’re been given.

So this week, remember that we always have a choice. And before you react or respond, think about what choices you want to make. What sort of person do you want to be? How do you want to spend your minutes here on earth? You get to choose.