Autonomy and choice

We all want to have authority over our lives. Our need for self governance is powerful. But, realistically speaking, the need for autonomy doesn’t mean getting the ideal — it means choosing strategies from the realm of our awareness within systems of limitations.

This is how we can speak to our need for autonomy even as we find ourselves in highly non-preferential situations that are not in harmony with our needs. Recognizing that we have choice does not mean that the choices we’re aware of are preferential; it may be choosing between bad and worse. But we can choose how to act. We’re responsible for our choices.

Important note: This does not mean we’re responsible for the actions others. Each of us is responsible for ourselves.

While this is a hard lesson to learn, I believe it is empowering. And when we’re surrounded by stimuli that suck our power and sense of autonomy, I support that which I find empowering.

Here is one strategy to help develop this sense of clarity and control over our own lives. Take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle splitting the page into 2 columns. Title the left column, “I have to ___” and the title the right column, “I choose to _____, because I want/need/value ______.” 

The entire dialogue about autonomy and choice can be a very sensitive topic. I recommend starting your list with items that are not significant triggers for you. 


For example:

I have to _________.I choose to ________ because I want/value/need _________.
I have to cook dinner.I choose to cook dinner because it's much cheaper than going out which speaks to my need for security.
I have to take the dog for a walk. I choose to take the dog for a walk because I value my health and need for movement as well as my dog's health and need for movement. Plus she enjoys it so much and I enjoy contributing to her well-being.
I have to wash laundry.I choose to wash laundry because I want to wear clean clothes.
I have to work. I choose to work because it provides a strategy to speak to my needs of security, sustenance, and shelter. I am also fortunate that my work speaks to my needs of contribution and meaning.