When a situation feels hopeless, there are usually 3 choices

Last week during a training session with Jennifer Liston-Smith, a work-and-family expert from the UK, we got talking about choices. She reminded us that when a situation feels hopeless, it's easy to feel trapped. Sometimes we're unhappy at work. Sometimes we're unhappy in a relationship, or dissatisfied with our heath. Sometimes we're in conflict with a family member. Sometimes we have big, true, deep problems that seem insurmountable.

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In almost every one of these situations, we still have three choices.

We can change the situation

We can look for a part we can control and do something about it. Even the smallest action can unlock some momentum that shifts a situation for the better. A conversation. An apology. The first workout. One tidy corner in a chaotic room. We often have more 'agency' in a situation than we imagine, and it's easy to fall into a passive pattern where we play victim.

If we can't change the situation, we can learn to live with it

Acceptance may not (and often doesn't) happen overnight, but working towards accepting an "unfixable" or irreversible situation is another choice that we have. Stacey Copas, who we interviewed in our "15 Minutes That Changed My Life" series a couple of years ago, chose this option after suffering an injury that meant she permanently lost the ability to walk. Her life isn't the one she imagined, yet it's full of other opportunities and now she's a published author, motivational speaker and athlete. These are paths she was only able to take once she accepted her situation.

If we can't change or accept a situation, we can walk away

We're told from a young age that quitting is a bad thing. Sometimes conducting an elegant retreat is a good choice. If you're stuck in a job or a relationship that you can't change and can't live with, there's a temptation to think that the only option left is to "stay miserable". That certainly is an option but, in many cases, a better one is walking away. It's not easy. It's not something we tend to do without thoroughly thinking the situation through, but there it is.

Next time you're feeling backed into a corner in your life, take a deep breath and remember there is more flexibility than you think. Life is complicated sometimes, but there's a way through if you're open to finding it.