Let’s Talk About… Choices

By Jeremy Godwin

What are healthy choices and how do you make smarter choices for the sake of your wellbeing? That’s what I’m talking about this week on… Let’s Talk About Mental Health — the weekly podcast about looking after your mental health, with simple ideas you can put into practice immediately.

So, get comfortable, and Let’s Talk About Mental Health…

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This podcast episode was originally released on 12 June, 2022.

Hello and welcome to Episode 135, and thanks so much for joining me!

I’m Jeremy Godwin and I talk about looking after your mental health. I spent most of the 2010’s dealing with severe anxiety and depression, after a breakdown in late 2011, and that led me to want to learn more about my mental health… so I went back to school and studied psychology and sociology, and now I share simple tips for how to improve your mental wellbeing, from someone who actually understands what it’s like to go through mental health challenges. Each episode I look at how to improve one specific aspect of your wellbeing.

This episode is all about choices and I’ll be talking about what choices are, why your choices matter and how to make healthy choices for the sake of your wellbeing. So, let’s talk!

Before we go any further I have a huge announcement to make: I have a book coming out on July 7 and pre-orders are open now! The book is called Let’s Talk About Mental Health (Volume One) and it’s a collection of some of my past episodes with new and additional material added, and I’ve presented the book in a way that is much more focused on helping you to navigate through different aspects of your mental health and wellbeing in a thoughtful and reflective way. You can find a link in the episode description to pre-order it now (or head to my website at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au) and I’d really appreciate your support by pre-ordering my book; plus once it’s released, I’d love it if you jumped onto whatever platform you purchased it on and give it a five star review. I have lots of new stuff coming up over the next 12 months and beyond, so if you want to stay up to date then join my mailing list at my website (and, again, that’s linked in the episode description). OK, so now on with this week’s discussion about choices…

Introduction

We make hundreds — probably thousands — of choices every single day, and each choice determines what happens next in some sense, even the smallest choices we make… it’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but just on a much bigger scale (and with much less frustration; if you’ve ever read any of those books then you’ll know how annoying some of the endings can be!). The choices we make can shape our lives in ways that we might never fully understand, and quite often it’s not until months or even years later that we can see the bigger picture and understand how a single choice can change the course of our entire life. 

Like many of you, I have made a lot of choices in my life: some of them good, some of them average, and some of them downright terrible. Don’t even get me started on some of the past hair and fashion choices that I’ve made… I’m sure we all have photos from our deep past that we would prefer to pretend just do not exist. Maybe someday I’ll share mine, but today is most certainly not that day!

When it comes to the choices we make, there’s a huge difference between being able to recognise when something perhaps wasn’t the best choice so that we can learn from it versus regretting the choices we make; regrets keep you stuck in negative feelings, whereas acceptance and choosing to learn from our actions allows us to grow and evolve.

Now, before we go any further I have to acknowledge that this whole ‘choices’ thing is something I talk about a lot on this show and I’ve even covered it in other episodes twice (I talked about choice in Episode 50 and then difficult choices in Episode 89) so I want to say upfront that I’m not planning on repeating the same things I said in those episodes, however there are some key messages that I think will lay the foundation for what I’m covering today which are these four points:

  1. In all things we have choice,
  2. In fact, everything in life is a choice,
  3. How we choose to respond shapes what happens next, and…
  4. Be thoughtful about your choices.

So then, how is this episode different? That previous one about choice was focused on helping you to embrace the fact that you are always the one who can choose to do or not do something; this one is about exploring how you can ensure those choices you make are healthy ones. 

OK, so let’s get into some definitions and let’s talk about…

What are choices?

And the simplest definition is making a selection between two or more possible options, like choosing whether to stay or go or whether to write your podcast episode or watch YouTube (thankfully I chose to do the writing so I didn’t wind up making life more difficult for myself!). 

Beyond that basic definition of choices I want to explore what healthy choices means. Generally when we think about healthy choices the things that spring to mind are eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise, drinking plenty of water etc. — and those are all great, however they’re very much focused on the physical side (which is important, since your physical health has a direct effect on your mental health and vice versa) however if we take a broader view of ‘healthy’ choices in terms of your overall wellbeing then I think that we can consider it from the perspective of the three foundations of wellbeing that I talk about a lot on this show: healthy choices are ones that do no harm to you, that are kind to you, and that serve to give more than you take from yourself. That might sound very philosophical (and that’s probably because it is a bit) but let me say it this way: healthy choices are ones that set you up for success and help you to work towards achieving the best possible outcomes in life. 

Think of it this way: given a choice between doing something that will benefit you in the short term but possibly damage you in the long term, versus making a choice that will be better for your long term wellbeing, I hope it’s fairly obvious that only one of those is a healthy choice (and it’s not the first one). It reminds me of that old saying, “burning the furniture to stay warm” — if you make choices that only focus on how you satisfy your needs in this present moment without any thought for the consequences, then you’re going to make life a lot more difficult for yourself in the future (plus if you burn all of your furniture then you’ll have nothing to sit on, so that’s going to be an interesting conversation when people come over and you have to sit on the floor because you’re a pyromaniac who can’t think ahead…!).

When I talk about choices and your wellbeing, I’m talking about all six areas of wellbeing: physical, mental, spiritual, social, emotional and financial. Plus I’d also add work on as a seventh aspect of your life to consider (although it’s connected to a few of those different areas) and I say that mainly because we spend so much of our life involved in our work that I think it needs its own thought process around how you make healthy choices for yourself at work.

Before I get into how to do that, let’s dig a little bit deeper and let’s talk about…

Why your choices matter

And this is the part of the episode where I usually say something fairly obvious in a very blunt way, and today is no exception: your choices matter because unhealthy choices will lead to unhealthy outcomes whereas healthy choices lead to healthy outcomes over time. Or, to say it another way, if you want things to change for the better then it’s completely up to you and the choices you make. 

Want better physical health? Choose to eat better and move your body more. Want better mental health? Work on improving it a little at a time, be mindful of what you allow into your life, remove negative influences and remove yourself from negative situations, and get support for the stuff you can’t manage on your own. Want better spiritual health? Make time to connect with something bigger than just yourself and your day-to-day existence; even just looking up at the night sky helps you to see that you’re part of something much bigger than just this material world that we’re all caught up in. Want better social health? Build quality relationships with people who are kind, positive and supportive, and let go of negative relationships. Want better emotional health? Learn how to understand your emotions and where they’re coming from, and learn how to observe them so you can respond more thoughtfully instead of just reacting to them. And if you want better financial health, then sort your finances out — know where your money is going, know the difference between a genuine need versus a want, go back to basics and focus on what really matters most, and most of all sort your stuff out so you can have a positive relationship with money. And then the other thing I will say here is that if you want to have a better work life then it’s up to you to make choices that (a) prioritise what really matters to you in life and (b) which put peace of mind at the front and centre of everything you do, both at work and at home. 

All of that stuff matters because it will guide the choices that you make, and your choices shape what happens next. It’s your life and you get to make your own choices; nobody else can tell you what to do and you can decide what you will and will not do… which is great, because that means you’re the one in control, but it’s also challenging because it means that the responsibility begins and ends with you. I know that might sound a bit confronting, but personally I actually find that quite empowering because it serves to remind me that I’m the one who gets to decide what I do or do not do, and that is true power. It’s why I’m not a particularly big fan of people saying things like, “You made me do this!” because (a) umm, haven’t you heard of personal responsibility, and (b) nobody can make you do anything; you’re not a puppet, which means you’re the one pulling your own strings!  

The piece here is about making smart choices in life. Smart choices are ones you make today that set you up for success tomorrow, and it’s actually a lot of little choices that can add up over time to create a particular outcome (for example, having the odd bit of junk food every now and then won’t have much of an impact but if you eat rubbish every day then over a few weeks you’ll definitely notice the impact it has; trust me, I know this one from far too much personal experience!). And now I’m going to get all meta and philosophical again: making smarter choices is a choice, and it’s a choice that you can consciously make. Let me say two things about that: first, just because you make a choice once that doesn’t mean that it’s done and dusted for good; very often we need to make and remake our choices a thousand times over before they stick (and I quite often suggest to people that you think about what those choices are and consciously revisit them at least once a day in order to remind yourself of what you’re focusing on and, more importantly, why you’re doing it). And then the second bit I want to say on making your choices is that you are most definitely going to make mistakes from time to time; instead of beating yourself up if and when you do, make the choice to treat them as learning opportunities and then recommit to making healthy choices again every day moving forward. 

So how do you do that? Well, that sounds like a great excuse to get into the how-to part of today’s episode so let’s talk about…

How to make healthy choices for the sake of your wellbeing

Alright so let’s begin with my biggest piece of advice and that is look at the big picture — because you need to understand where you’re heading, broadly speaking, so that you can make choices that are in line with your goals and aspirations. Why? Because otherwise your choices aren’t going to be anchored in anything and when you don’t consider the bigger picture then you can very easily make decisions that might have unintended consequences. And speaking of that kind of thought process, my next point is… 

Consider your priorities and goals — and no prizes for guessing I would say this one, because I tend to say some variation of it in most of my episodes. This is an extension of the previous point in the sense that your choices should be aligned to what matters most to you in life. I like to take a moment to consider my choices and then if it matters, in terms of my priorities and goals, then I make it matter, whereas if it doesn’t matter then it just doesn’t matter. Also, while I’m on this topic, it’s really helpful to write down your priorities and goals and to review them on a regular basis (you can keep it simple by capturing your main 3-5 priorities and then considering your biggest few goals for the next year, two years and five years). My view on all of that is to keep it as simple as possible, because the more complicated you make things the more complicated things tend to be (so it’s probably no surprise that ‘peace of mind’ is one of my top five priorities!). OK, speaking of timeframes and priorities and choices, my next point is… 

Imagine the future — because when you’re faced with a choice that needs to be made, it can be very helpful to visualise what you’re working towards in order to understand where this particular choice fits in. For example, I like to remain open to opportunities however I balance that with ensuring that I focus on the things I want to do and achieve; there’s no point in me agreeing to an opportunity that comes my way if it has nothing at all to do with the direction I’m heading in. It’s the reason why I limit my one-on-one client work to just a handful of people, because I want to make sure I keep plenty of time for writing and creating which is a big part of what I’m working towards in the future (I mean, hey, these books aren’t going to write themselves and it turns out that writing 70,000 words takes a lot of time and effort… who knew?!). Again, think about your future in terms of the next year, two years, and five years, and let that inform your choices. Alright, next…

Consider all of your options — because it might seem like you only have one or two possible choices to make, but it’s quite likely that there are lots of different approaches you can take… so, brainstorm at least four different options that you can consider (and remember that when given a choice between doing one thing or doing another, you also always have a third choice: not to do anything!). OK, next…

Consider the consequences — because every action has a ripple effect, so you need to think through what the consequences are of each possible course of action. For example, if you decide to stay up late every night for a week then the consequences are that you’re not going to get enough sleep, which will impact on your ability to be productive during the day, which could lead to mistakes and will probably also make you look rough (I don’t know about you but one sleepless night and I end up with the worst dark circles under my eyes — or maybe that’s just because I have an advanced case of ‘old’). Take some time to consider what will or will not happen for each possible option so that you can then consider your choices more thoughtfully. Another way to do that is with my next tip…

Create a pros and cons list — and this is as simple as grabbing a piece of paper, dividing it down the middle and then jotting down all the potential positives of each particular choice versus all of the possible negatives. If the cons outweigh the pros then, I mean, I’m not going to say that there’s your answer however I will say that that’s a fairly large warning flag waving about in the wind and trying to get your attention, so be mindful. One other thing you need to be mindful of when it comes to your choices is my next point…

Balance your head and your heart — because if you make a choice that is too driven by emotions, without considering the facts, then it’s pretty likely you’re going to create a big old mess that future-you is going to have to clean up (and I guarantee you that future-you is really not going to be happy with past-you!), while at the same time if your choices are too cold and logical then you’re probably not going to be terribly passionate about them or excited, which means they’re going to be much harder to get enthusiastic about. All of our choices need a balance of head and heart so that you can have a good ratio of emotion and logic. Trust your gut and listen to your feelings, but back it up with facts so you can make a balanced choice. OK, next…

Know the difference between a ‘healthy’ choice versus an ‘unhealthy’ one — which is something I just explored in Episode 133, about self control, and I like to think of it like this: healthy choices are ones that don’t do any harm to you or to others. End of sentence. Oh, and this feels like an appropriate place for me to also say one of my many, many mantras that seem to pop up in most episodes: all things in moderation (and I talked about moderation in Episode 128). OK, next…

Do some research — when I write these episodes I don’t just sit down and blurt out a whole bunch of words based on my opinions; instead, I take the time to do my research. I think about what the broad messages are I want to convey and then I go looking for quality resources that help me to explore things more deeply (and by ‘quality resources’ I mean peer-reviewed articles on reputable websites, rather than just that random thing your Aunt Susan posted on Facebook about the secret lizard government which has absolutely zero evidence to back it up). Research helps you to look at things from different perspectives and I can guarantee you that every single episode, without fail, I come away from the research exercise with a whole bunch of new thoughts and ideas that I never would have considered if I had skipped that step, and it makes for a much more well-rounded way of approaching whatever I’m working on. So, do a bit of research to help you find different ideas (but please make sure you’re using quality sources!). OK, next… 

Consider what advice you might give a close friend — look, I don’t know about you but I know I’m fairly good at being able to look at things objectively when it comes to other people (and even when I write this podcast and my YouTube videos!), but then half the time I forget to take my own advice. Instead of beating yourself up if you’re like that as well (which a lot of us are!), challenge yourself to think about what kind of advice or support you might give if someone you care about came and spoke to you about whatever choice it is that you need to make, and then consider your own advice objectively. And speaking of advice, my next point is… 

Ask for advice from someone who you trust (and whose opinion actually counts) — because there are a lot of people in this world with a lot of opinions (I mean, that’s the entire operating model of Twitter), but frankly unless you are someone I look up to and respect, and unless you generally have your own shit together (as much as anyone can, given we’re all a work in progress) then I’m not really interested in taking advice from people who aren’t the type of people I want to be. Find people you trust and respect, and ask them for their objective advice about different options that might be available to you. OK, next…

Give yourself permission to make mistakes — because if you spend all of your time worried about trying to make the ‘perfect’ choice then you’ll never do anything, because perfect just doesn’t exist! Mistakes and failures can actually help you in the long term; I wouldn’t be doing this podcast and the work I do without having made a whole bunch of mistakes in the past. I’ve covered a few topics about this in the past: mistakes in Episode 2, failure in Episode 84, and perfectionism in Episode 98. And that leads to my next point which is… 

Focus on continuous improvement — and now my past life working in the corporate sector appears to be coming out, because ‘continuous improvement’ plays a massive role in operations management and just generally doing business. Why? Because if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you always got… so you need to be willing to try new things in order to constantly evolve, and that helps you to adapt to the changing world around you (which is going to keep on changing no matter what you do or don’t do!). Think of it this way: when you challenge yourself to improve a little each day by making smart and thoughtful choices, you help yourself take small steps towards becoming the best version of yourself possible. Which is a much nicer option than being stuck and never evolving!

Summary and Close-Out

Because when it comes to choices and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: What you choose to do or not do directly shapes what happens next. That can be a bit overwhelming to think about, because there’s a sense of responsibility that goes with that in terms of making thoughtful, considered and healthy choices, but I like to see it more as something to be excited about; after all, the fact that your choices shape your future means that whatever you decide to do or not do next is completely within your control, and that allows you to take greater control of your destiny… and I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be the one in control of steering my life rather than just letting myself be randomly dragged along for the ride! Creating a life that feels meaningful and fulfilling begins and ends with you and the choices you make, and by making healthy choices you can shape your life in ways that you might not even be able to imagine yet.

The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today? 

Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by an unknown author, and it is:

“You can be whatever type of person you choose to be. Your habits, your behaviours, your responses, are all your choice.”

Unknown

Alright… that’s nearly it for this week.

Next week I’ll be talking about body image. Sometimes I like to really challenge myself and push myself way out of my comfort zone, and talking about body image is definitely one that comes with a whole bunch of discomfort for me and which has done for many years. But, hey, I figure I’m this far down the rabbit hole now in terms of baring my soul to the world so we may as well go a bit deeper and look at how your body image can have either a positive or a negative effect on your mental health and wellbeing. So next time I’ll be talking about what body image is, why confronting body image issues matters, and how to build a healthier body image for yourself.

I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday the 19th of June, 2022. 

If this episode helped you then I’d love it if you left a five-star review on the platform you’re listening to me on, or head over to my Instagram @ltamentalhealth and let me know. And if you’d like to support me and my work then I have a Patreon where I offer exclusive benefits for my supporters; you’ll find the link in the episode description, plus it’s linked on my website at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au (where you can also sign up for my free newsletter, where I share a quick dose of mental health inspiration every Thursday).

And I also have a YouTube channel where I publish new videos every Wednesday… so, if you’d like even more content about looking after your mental health, join me over there (and that’s linked in the episode description as well)!

And a quick reminder that pre-orders for my book are open now, ahead of the book’s release on July 7 (2022); check the episode description for links.

Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time!

Jeremy 🙂

Let’s Talk About Mental Health is proudly produced by Reconnaissance Media, helping you find gratitude and meaning. For more information visit reconnaissancemedia.com

Special thanks to my wonderful supporters on Patreon for helping to keep my work free of ads (in alphabetical order): Amanda K., Bill R., Brandalynn A., Carol B., Charlie C., Chris E., Christina, Conrad F., Doc A., Iain G., Isabel, Janis & Steve A., Jaslyn N., Karl, Laila L., M., Madina T., Maya H., Monique T., Monte W., Rachel D., Rhonda P., Robin N., Roxanne L., S. L., Sonia K., Susan S., Tatiana A., Terry L., Valerie, Vanessa P., Wilfriede K., William S. — your support is greatly appreciated and it helps me to keep my content ad-free.

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Find more content at www.letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au

Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Simple ideas for better mental health.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2022 Jeremy Godwin.

The information provided in this episode is for general awareness on the topic and does not constitute advice. You should consult a doctor and/or a mental health professional if you are struggling with your mental health and wellbeing. You’ll find additional information on the Resources page of this website.

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