From “Owning By Choice” To “Owning A Choice”
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From “Owning By Choice” To “Owning A Choice”

If you follow the world news closely, you will notice many controversial discussions about freedom of choice happening on all around the internet. Rest assured I am not trying to tap into politics in this blog. I believe everyone is entitled to express their views and fight for what they think is right. Going through threads of intense comments and opinions, I am surprised at how few people bring up the simple but fundamental issue – what constitutes to a good choice?

It would be a terrible mistake to assume having choices automatically makes our lives better. In fact, a lot of tragedies result from a tiny mistaken decision. From a historical perspective, we can see that people sometimes give up their freedom in exchange for a sense of comfort, which comes from escaping the responsibility of making their own decisions. It makes sense because thinking thoroughly involve understanding oneself, fully exploring the reality, and evaluating all the options you have. It takes great effort!

But why do we still want the right to make and act on our own decisions? According to Erich Fromm, in his classic publication “The Fear of Freedom”, “the right to express our thoughts…means something only if we are able to have thoughts of our own”. In other words, making an informed and conscious choice is the only way freedom of choice can bring us happiness.

It is certainly not an easy task. Let say there is a roadmap for life and there are many different branches. Each decision will lead you down a corresponding path. There are some easier, more comfortable paths. And of course, some tougher paths. As a coach, I too often see wonderful people choosing the tougher path in hope of getting a better outcome. “No pain, no gain”. It is very natural for us to believe that I MUST keep trying and trying so hard to be successful one day. However, nothing can be farther away from the truth. No pain, no pain!

During our internal coaching training session for our interns (yes, we train EVERYONE in our company to be great coaches. (If you share the aspiration to unleash human potential, join our internship programme.) We had an intriguing conversation about the Be-Do-Have model. Steven Covey introduced this model as formula to achieve any goals and is then extended it to answer more difficult questions in life. The model encourages us to think about who we need to BE, then it will be clear to us what we need to DO and what we will HAVE as a result. The steps might sound very simple, yet I have observed many people falling into the DO-HAVE-BE or HAVE-DO-BE trap. Let me explain.

The DO-HAVE-BE Trap: If I do this, then I will have that. If I have this, then I will be that.


“If I respect my father, he will love me and then I will be happy”

People stuck in the DO-HAVE-BE loop are constantly trying to do more and more, or like I mentioned above, choose the tougher path again and again…in the hope of getting something they want. They believe the more effort they put into doing more, the more likely they will have what they want. The problem is, when is it going to be enough? Or, what if you can already have what you want right now? The fact is, very often, the more you do, the more you are going to do. If you have ever experienced being in a toxic relationship, you will know that sucking it all up will not make you happy or fulfilled. Instead, you are feeding the monster with your own flesh. You cannot escape by running faster on a treadmill, you are only going to exhaust yourself eventually while not getting anywhere or not achieving anything of value.

The HAVE-DO-BE Trap: If I have this, then I will do that. If I do this, then I will be that.


“If I have financial independence, I will do what I really want, then I will be happy.”

For anyone who has experienced coaching young leaders in Hong Kong, you may have had the same experience in some of your career aspiration coaching session. Often when I ask coachees, “what would you like to achieve in your career?”, the first answer is always “financial independence”. But when I follow up by asking them what they are going to do after they have achieved financial independence, they react with shock and realise they have never truly thought it through. The belief that you will spontaneously start doing what you value or want when you have something is nothing but passive wishful thinking.

Hold on, how is this related to making a good choice? As I said before, freedom of choice is only valuable when the individual is making a conscious and informed choice. Unlike the two traps, the Be-Do-Have pattern asserts the importance of the state of mind (BE) before you start doing anything or achieving any goals. That is, you first need to think as if you are happy and once you are in the state of mind, what you need to do and have become very clear to you. Only when your choice is based on an understanding of yourself rather than assumptions, one can claim to have made a good choice.

Let me share a real example. As a young coach, I used to struggle a lot in convincing my clients that my ability is not restricted/limited by my age. To give a better first impression (a more mature look basically), I started dressing up and wearing glasses. I believed that if I work on my appearance (DO), I will gain the respect from others (HAVE), then I will become a credible professional coach (BE). As you can tell, this is not how things work. In a Be-Do-Have coaching session, I realised that if I AM a credible professional coach (BE), I would be focusing on delivering high quality coaching work (DO), and I will earn the respect from my client (HAVE). Voilà! It is fascinating to see how simply rearranging our thinking pattern can lead us to such profound insights, and hence better decisions. Instead of spending loads of money on clothing, I am now aware of what is important, and I can focus on being the best coach I can be instead. Insights like this allow us to make conscious and informed choices, focusing our efforts on doing things that actually matter.

The question is not whether we should give people a choice, but HOW we help people to access their BE before making a decision. If you notice your friends, colleagues, or family members are trapped in the DO-HAVE-BE or HAVE-DO-BE pattern, step up and help them articulate what they want to BE. Simply listen to what is being said and what is not, clarify, bounce it back and you will be surprised how impactful this can be. They might start doing something differently, they might stop doing something, and they will for sure start owning their decision once it is connected to their BE.

If you would like to hear more interesting coaching stories and learn how to apply it in your daily life, leave a like and comment down below! These will be very motivating for us to continue creating high quality content.

From “Owning By Choice” To “Owning A Choice”
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