The simple idea that we have a choice is very powerful, no matter what we choose. On the flip side, the feeling alone that we have no choice can have an enormously negative effect on the outcome of any situation. Too often I hear people say they have no choice or that there is nothing they can do about a situation. This is never true; we always have a choice. Granted, there are situations in our lives sometimes where there are no ideal choices, but we do still have a choice. The choice alone is what matters, because with that choice we are given power and control. We are not helpless to outside forces, but have a say in our lives and what we want to make of them. Even the realization of this ideal and taking charge of it is a choice. It is a choice to take control of your life or to just let life happen to you.

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This power of choice is not new to me. It has been rolling around in my head for most of my life. I do admit I never fully realized it or understood its depth until recently. I did not understand the full scope of it. Then as I began to really understand that scope, I began to see some more strange ironies of my life. One of the biggest was that I was already using this concept in my life and it just so happened to be in all the areas I was successful. Of course this was not fully intentional but more so that I used parts of it or focused on parts that I did understand, which without my knowing led me to deeper parts. Our mind, being, spirit, heart, soul, and everything that we are is in an enormous web where everything is connected and intertwined. Everything affects everything else, and it’s the understanding of this as a whole that is becoming just a bit clearer to me. The power of choice is merely more strands running through this web, but I am finding these are very key, important strands.

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We all have a choice in every aspect of our lives. We choose how we want to feel. We choose the perspective we see. We choose the direction of our lives. We choose to be negative or positive. There is nothing in our lives we do not have a choice in. Even if our choice was to not make a choice but let life happen to us, it was still a choice. I know there are many people who are reading this and already working up arguments. I know this, because for years I did the same thing. Maybe there is a part of us as humans that makes us not want the responsibility of being in control, because if we fail or screw up then it is our fault and we have no one to blame.

With choice comes a great deal of responsibility. It is funny to me that most people claim to want choice when it is small. People want to choose what to eat, what car to buy, what movie to see, who to date, etc. They want choice and control over these minute things. They act like it is so important and such a big deal, yet at the same time they do not want to take control over the bigger things. They very easily convince themselves they have no control over other aspects of their lives — the ones that really matter.

I hate this place but I am stuck living here.

I can’t stand my job but I have no choice.

I am so tried of being angry and pissed off. I wish I were happy like other people.

Everything bad happens to me, why can’t something good happen to me?

The list goes on and on and on. We want control when the decisions are easy and have no real consequences. If we make a bad choice it doesn’t really matter. Pick a different restaurant next time or see a different movie, who really cares? More irony is that even though people may say or think they did not make the choice, they did. In the end we are all responsible, because ignoring the ability to choose is a choice.

MORE: Why I Need to Make a Change — The Plan

“What the f@#$ is Chad talking about now and what does this have to do with lifting?”

It has a lot do with lifting, as well as life. I have known so many athletes that are amazing on the field or platform but their lives are shit. I am realizing a major part of this is because of choice. They used their power of choice in athletics and became successful but did not use it in life. I am realizing I also fall into this category. Not that my life is a complete mess, because it is not, but there are major parts of it where I did not take control or use my power of choice like I could have. I felt like I had no choice and, at best, I could only deal with things. I only saw part of the whole picture.

In my case, I always saw sports as something I had control over. For some reason—and I am not sure why—I felt like I could work harder, learn more, and just keep getting better. I never felt like it was out of my hands or that I had no control. I had a completely different perspective towards sports, specifically lifting. It was this perspective that I chose that allowed me to become so strong and successful. Why did I naturally see that in sports but not in life? I am not sure, but I know it was a choice, even if an unconscious one.

From the very beginning of my powerlifting career I used my power of choice, and specifically my power, to choose my own perspective. I knew I was not the most gifted athlete, with average genetics at best. I knew I was not some naturally strong freak. I had lifted long enough to realize my recovery was shit. I chose to look past those things and to focus on more positive traits and the things I had control over. I saw the negative things as just shit I had to work around. I ignored the people around me that did not believe or who chose to not see my perspective. My shit sleep, injuries, lack of financing, or whatever happened, I always chose my perspective. Nothing was going to stop me or get in my way.

I look back now at my prime years and I am amazed at how much I controlled. When things got stressful in my life I would remember a clip from Pumping Iron where Arnold talked about how he could not let things in his life affect his recovery and training. I chose to not let that stress get to me. It became an unconscious thing for me. I remember how so many lifters would get nervous and sleep like shit the night before a meet. The morning of the meet they would be bouncing off the walls, just wasting energy. I could completely control these emotions, although I never thought about it as controlling them. For me it was something I had to do in order to not waste energy.

Those nights and mornings were great for me. Even in my warm-ups I would see guys going crazy, but I was still conserving energy, doing just enough to warm-up. I would control all these emotions through the whole meet, turning them on and off as needed. During my worst years of depression I would be at home with a gun to my head, in tears. Then it was time to train, so I went to the gym and got it done. I controlled depression for my training, so why was I not controlling it the rest of the time?

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It is very difficult to step up to a squat bar loaded with over 1100 pounds when you just tore the shit out of your hamstring. There are a lot of negative emotions in you, but I controlled those to get that squat done. To compete in a meet after being awake for 10 days is tough, but again I controlled all my emotions. I even fought all the feelings that I needed to train more and harder to finally be able to spread my training sessions out, which in turn shot my strength way up. It was this choice to control these feelings and see all of it with the perspective I did.

Today with all the changes I am making and working on all aspects of my life, I look back on those days. I see these things I did and ask myself why I never used those techniques in my real life. Yes, I used some of them, but not to the level I was in lifting. Although I went about my choices and perspectives the right way with lifting, I still got kind of lucky because I did not fully understand.

For example, I was discussing this issue with a new friend recently, and somewhat arguing that we do not always have a choice, specifically with mental disorders. I talked about my issues with suicide. I have always seen it as the thought of my niece and the effect it would have on her life as the reason that kept me from doing it. He was able to make me see it was still a choice that I made not to do it. Yes, that thought helped me get there, but I made the choice to not do it and to never do it right then. I then made myself snap out of it and sat down to write my first article about it.

It was a choice no matter what chemical stuff was going on in my brain. With my sleep issues, I always thought of it in terms of being something I had to deal with. Now I know I am going to control this and achieve realistic goals. I have made more progress in the last few months then in the last few years in terms of my issues with sleep and depression. This is because I made the choice to finally draw a hard line, and that led me to this realization of choice and perspective.

EVEN MORE: Why I Need to Make a Change — The Mental Challenge

I think too often we forget that we are in control of ourselves. We do choose what perspective we wish to see and how we want to feel. Yes, we all have some things we just have to deal with, but we are at the mercy of no one and no thing.

I have sleep problems and there is no cure; it is something faulty in my brain. This does not mean I do not have control, because I do. I suffer from depression and there are chemical issues in my head related to this, probably because of my sleep. Still, I am not at the mercy of depression. I am in control of how I feel; I choose how I want to feel. I am proving this with all the progress I am making, and both issues are improving greatly.

We have more control than most of us ever give ourselves credit for. It does not matter if you are on the platform, in the gym, at work, or with your significant other. You have control over how you want to act and feel. The situation does not control you — you control the situation. Learn to do this and you will find success in sports, work, relationships, and life. The main principles are the same in all areas. Realize you have control, take that control, and see how far it can take you.