Life is full of choices. We make them every day. Here, Austin-based holographic repatterning and self improvement expert Mary Schneider helps define how our lives can be enhanced instantly by making a choice, especially during the holidays as we all want to end the year on a high note.

What does choice really mean? It means freedom. What happens when we don’t have choice? Oppression. What happens when we don’t think we have a choice? Resentment. Anger. Hopelessness. These feelings are all integrally involved with the concept of choice.

What does not definechoicedefine choice? Shoulds, i.e., I should go to this event; I should have this dinner party. I once had a spiritual teacher who had three basic tenets:

1. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.

2. Never should on yourself.

3. Use everything to your advantage.

This is a very complex issue with a lot of different paths that can be pursued. . There is the issue of being able to set boundaries with your time and your resources. There is the issue of self-esteem; knowing yourself and your value so that if you say no to something then you can – and will still be loved. And, of course the whole concept of should.

It is a plain and simple fact that healthy people do not should on themselves. Healthy people do what they want. This is not just referring to mental and emotional health. Doing what you want is good for you physically. A friend of mine related a story recently that was such a wonderful illustration of this point. He had recently been to a family event and saw one of his favorite uncles who had experienced a death in his family in the past few years. And, he looked wonderful. My friend asked him what his secret was and his uncle replied, “It’s simple. I am doing what I want.”

Our lives are basically governed by the choices that we make each and every day – big and smasmall, ll; momentous and minute. All along the way one choice leads to the next and we end up on a particular path… ,sometimes without any conscious knowledge of how we got there. And, wnd we are constantly dealing with the consequences of these choices we make. At times we are completely unaware that we even actually made a choice. Plus, again, notot making a decision is a decision in itself.

In the still-impactful 1971 novel, Grendel by John Gardner, which is a re-telling of the epic Beowulf, the novel deals with finding meaning in the world, the power of literature and myth, and the nature of good and evil from the perspective of the antagonist, Grendel. He writes, “Things fade; alternatives exclude.” It is clear that choosing one alternative necessarily eliminates others. Again, this may have escaped our awareness at the time we made the choice. What is clear is that although we may not see it at times, we always have a choice. So, in essence, when we think we have not made any choice whatsoever, then the non-choice is actually thea choice.

Many of my clients over the years have come to me with problems that are the direct result of not having been aware of the fact that in many different circumstances, where it was perceived that they had no choice, they actually did have one. Much of the time this issue is intricately interwoven in their issues of self-esteem. If a person was abused or neglected in some way as a child, many times their value is integrally tied in to what they can and will do for others. So, it’s perceived that no is not an answer. When you never say no then people catch on to this and come to view you as someone who they can always count on to come through in any situation. And they ask and ask and ask.

So you are loved. Or, so you think. This pattern is perpetuated and I have seen people who have been so ensconced in this way of being that eventually the only way they can stop doing for everyone else is by becoming ill. And, then they are forced to say no. When that happens they begin to realize that they are still OK, even when they say no. Then they begin to see that they could have said no along time ago. So that the anger and resentment they were harboring on a very subtle sub-conscious level was generally from never taking the time to do what they wanted becomes very obvious and present. Never saying no or doing what you want is a recipe for resentment.

If you truly love someone and don’t want to harbor subtle sub-conscious resentment toward him or her, say no when you want to say it. There is a concept called “systemic guilt.” Systemic guilt is the feeling you feel when you begin to pull away from your family or a group you’ve historically identified yourself with, such as a church or religion. Systemic guilt usually appears when you decide to do or say something that is not generally accepted by your family or group, such as a lifestyle choice. In many circles this is an unacceptable alternative.

Choosing to do the thing that is outside of your social norm may cause a feeling that something is wrong or that something bad is going to happen because of the action. It is as if there is an invisible web that connects to all the family or group members that’s being stretched and is going to break. It’s a very disconcerting feeling and sometimes it is so strong that an individual will decide not to do the thing they wanted to do because this is so uncomfortable for them. However, systemic guilt is the price that we pay for liberation. When you do the thing that you want to do that is not accepted by your family or group and it is really what you want then that systemic guilt fades away. Almost immediately. Then you are free in a way you have never experienced before.

Remember, we always have a choice. Sometimes we just cannot see it. If you are in a quandary and confusion is setting in remember that acclaimed self-help expert Byron Katie says, “confusion is the only suffering. Confusion sets in when think you want two different things at once.” In this situation, you always have the choice to get some help with the action – because you are most definitely worth it. And, almost anything is possible to achieve to create your most liberated life.

For more information on Mary Schneider and The Holographic Repatterning Institute at Austin, visit