In the next several posts I’d like to share with you a few Choice Awareness Training exercises that I’ve been using with my clients  since 1999.   Choice Awareness training is designed to leverage a greater sense of freedom-to-change, to awaken the living zombie, to facilitate change-process.

Choice Awareness Training

Freedom manifests through the awareness of a choice.  But what is a choice?  We say we “have a choice” when we are aware of options to select from.  Thus, the notion of “choice” refers to:

a)      the awareness of the options available, and

b)      the act of selection of one of the options.

Becoming aware of the options restores our sense of freedom, takes us off the auto-pilot, off the zombie mode, and gives us an opportunity to change our patterns, habits, rituals, routines. 

Theoretical Freedom

We are fundamentally free.  And yet, in our everyday life, we do not feel free.  We mindlessly repeat the same patterns over and over, and, as a result, end up feeling caught up in a vicious cycle of sameness, feeling powerless to change.  This kind of mindlessness, this sense of being stuck, is true of all of us, and is particularly true of compulsives (such as perfectionists, substance users, etc.).

Operational Freedom

Operational (or practical, actionable) freedom is proportionate to our mindfulness, i.e. to our presence in the moment, to our awareness of the options available to us at any given moment.  The more options we are aware of at any given moment, the freer we are.

Increasing Operational Freedom

When you are stuck in a “should,” when you are mindless, when you are flying blind on an autopilot of a given habit, you don’t see any options other than the course of action that is expected of you.  Your operational freedom is close to zero.  You are a zombie, a robot, a passenger of what’s been programmed into you.  Acceptable alternatives, of course, exist but you are not in a habit of looking for them.

The goal of Choice Awareness Training is to increase operational freedom by looking for the alternatives and by practicing the psychomechanics of choice.  Ultimately, the goal of Choice Awareness Training is to de-program the zombie so that he/she can consciously re-program oneself, in order to own one’s life rather than to keep living out someone else’s expectations.

Choice Awareness Exercise: Make a Choice When It Doesn’t Matter

If I offer you a $20 bill or a $100 bill and ask you to choose, the choice is more or less predetermined by the pragmatics:  as such, it’s not really a choice.  Now, what would you rather have: a red or a blue, one or one point three, a glass or a cup?  This offer seems meaningless.  And it is.  Meaningless offers, however, represent the opportunity for a pure choice.

So, when someone asks “What do you want to do?” and you have no preference, instead of copping out and saying “I don’t care, you decide,” I recommend that you decide.  Make a choice when the actual choice doesn’t matter to you.  Practice making a choice when it doesn’t matter so that you can make a choice when it does.


Recovery Equation: Motivational Enhancement, Choice Awareness & Use Prevention, an Innovative Clinical Curriculum for Substance Use Treatment (P. Somov, M. Somova, 2004)

Choice Awareness Training: Logotherapy & Mindfulness Training for Addictions Treatment (P. Somov, 2010)