By Frank Conerton
Problems can arise from confusion and blurring between our choices and the consequences of those choices. I have found this confusion in my own life and have heard many other people talk in recovery meetings about problems in their lives which stem from this confusion.
I have been struggling with obesity for years. It had gotten to the point of painful joints as well as medical problems from carrying around almost twice my healthy weight. While working with this issue I had an important insight; unless I have liposuction or surgery, there is simply no other possible choice that results directly in weight reduction. The fact that other people do lose weight led me to question my own thinking. I finally realized that my body weight is a result of choices about food and activity, not about weight loss. I can choose to make weight loss a goal, but I cannot choose to directly lose weight! The choices that I make every day about eating and activity result in my body weight, but I kept trying to make a choice about a body weight (a consequence), while ignoring my choices which actually caused my problem.
12-step programs say that to repeat the same actions but expect different results is insanity. This insanity was at the root of many problems that were talked about in the meetings which I attended. It is simply another way to look at the confusion between choice and consequence.
A radio advertisement for a weight loss drug is another example. The ad promises that you can lose 20 pounds or more without making any change in eating or exercise. This ad relies on people believing that they can continue to make the same choice to overeat, but suddenly lose weight, if only they take the magic pill.
When we see a problem as the effect of forces totally outside ourselves, when we ignore our own contribution to the problem, we again are ignoring the difference between choice and consequence. We come to believe that some problem in our life would go away if those other people would act differently, or if we lived somewhere else, or if we had that special thing. In the language of self-help books, we have given our power away to the problem. We are powerless to change other people. Our power lies in our ability to make a different choice. So as long as we define a problem only in terms of outside issues, we are powerless to eliminate the problem.
A 12-step slogan says to “mind your own business”. One interpretation of this slogan is that the solutions for my problems must come from my life. To find a solution we must ask what we do to contribute to this problem. It is much more emotionally comfortable to see a problem as the result of outside forces in which we play no part. This ignores our choices which help create and support the problem.
For example, if we want to be more abundant, we must look at what we think about money, our choices about making and spending money and our feelings about accepting or refusing available resources. If we want to be physically leaner, we must look at our choices about food, eating and activity. Railing about the government or an employer about money or condemning McDonalds and Papa John’s Pizza and Hershey and Godiva for their food, only covers up our part in creating the problem and hides the real solution.
Through our choices we create our world. We humans can choose what we feel, believe, think, say and do. We can choose to focus on a particular memory or to imagine a future different from our current life. But, our choices have natural, logical, unalterable consequences. If a consequence is creating a problem in our life, we must make different choices. It simply does not work to force different consequences while we repeat the same choices. This realization has helped me to continue losing weight by keeping my focus on my choices about food and activity while accepting that a healthy weight will be the result of healthy choices.