10/16/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Mar 17, 2015

Keys To Life : What If It's Only Up to You?


In order to find the greatest value in the distinction between "Have to" and "Choose to," and "Victim Accountable" that we discussed previously, you will need play the "What if" game as go through these ideas. The "What if" game simply asks you to pretend for a moment or two that each of us is the author of our own life experience, that each and every aspect of our life is a result of our own choice or choices, and that we therefore have unlimited ability to create life just as we want it.

What if everything you experience in life is a result of a choice or choices you have made, consciously or unconsciously? What if everything you experience in your life is a function of choices you have made? What if that were true? If that were true, then you would be an incredibly powerful creator. If it all comes down to you and to choices you make, then it would hold that you could create just about anything you want in life. What if that were true?

What if it is not true? What if your life and your life experiences aren't just up to you and to the choices that you make? What if it's true some of the time, and not others? Well, if it's not true, if life and experience in life simply happen to you, outside of your ability to choose or influence, then that's just the way it is and it probably won't cost you too much to explore the "what if" theory about choice.

But, what if it really is true that your life and your life experiences are a function of your choices, and your choices alone? If that were true, wouldn't it make sense to find out how?

Now, don't get me wrong here. There are holes in this "logic" big enough to cause real angst in a true philosopher, let alone a true pragmatist; however, there are also ideas here that have proven life changing for hundreds of thousands of people.

What if

Now I realize how grandiose, even Looney-Tunes this might seem. However, consider the "What if" side of this idea. If it were true, how much power would that mean that you have over you life? An incredible amount, right? And, just to be intellectually honest, if it's not true, then we are somewhere along the continuum from having no choice at all over to having some, but clearly not all.

If you play the "What if" game for a while, and you discover abilities, choices, or other forms of awareness that were not previously part of your conscious experience, would it be worth learning about these elements so that you could more consciously apply them? If you were to discover a greater role in how you "created" life circumstances where before you felt stuck, trapped, powerless or otherwise without choice, would it be worth learning?

Obviously so for most people!

Again, if it isn't true that you are the one choosing, then it won't really change anything if you can play along with the "What if" game for a while. True, you might lose a little bit of time along the way, but at least you will be able to strike from the list of possible truths in the world, this notion that you are the one who is Response-Able for your life circumstances.

However, What If it is true?

So, let's play along for a while to see where this might lead. There will be two key elements here, "Have to, Choose to" as already noted and the difference between "Victim" and "Accountable." Just so you have an idea of where we are headed, and how Looney-Tunes this might actually be, What If there are no victims? What if you never were victimized in your entire life and, instead, were the one doing the choosing and the one who is both Response-Able and Accountable?

So, for the part of each of us that can blow gaping holes in this apparently insane "logic," all we have to do is focus on things like the abuse of small children, bank-robberies, car accidents, and other, even more tragic and extreme examples of daily life occurrences. If you focus on these kinds of things, you can easily dismiss this "What if" notion before we even get there.

Again, however, if you are willing to suspend judgment, even logic for a moment, there is the possibility that you might discover greater power and ability to create life as you would prefer it, rather than simply accepting (or fighting) what appears to show up out of the blue.

My heartfelt recommendation is that you treat the ideas that will follow in future posts as part of the "What if" continuum. You might also want to re-read previous posts on Symbols vs. Experience, The Power of Awareness, The Jigsaw Puzzle of Life and How to Move from Victim to Accountable.

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

You can buy Workarounds That Work here.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)