We are all faced with a series of great opportunities
brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.
— Charles R. Swindoll, American writer and clergyman
In a very general way, you could say that there are four levels of awareness from which we engage with our daily experiences: drama, situation, choice, and opportunity. Understanding these four levels is a first step towards creating a world that works.
Drama lives at the surface. The drama level of engagement is the “he said, she said, then this happened, and then she said, and then he said . . .” level. It is so easy to get caught up in that level and start reacting to the emotions of a situation or story before pausing to consider how we want to respond. Reacting can be a significant trap when we want to be sensitive to others’ needs, feelings, and circumstances. Some people and situations can easily pull you in, especially if you have an emotional stake in what is going on.
Drama Level: Who’s To Blame?
At the Drama level, the focus is usually on finding someone to blame. Typical questions are, “Whose fault is this? How did this happen? Can you believe he did that? What were they thinking?” Bring to mind a time when you have gotten caught in the Drama level in your personal or professional life. How did that feel? What happened to your focus and energy?
Going to the Drama level can happen to any of us; you are not alone! Yet with heightened awareness and practice, you can learn to quickly drop beneath the drama and begin to perceive and understand more clearly. As you keep practicing, you get caught in the Drama level much less frequently.
Situation Level: How Do We Fix It?
As we drop below Drama, we come to the Situation level. Because we’ve looked beyond the drama, we are able to see what is going on much more clearly — what really happened or is happening. The typical question here is, “How do we fix it?”
The main focus at the level is usually damage control. How quickly can we fix the problem and get things back to “normal”? We move on and put the situation behind us, usually without learning from what has happened. As a result, a similar situation or challenge is likely to come up again, because the real underlying issues were never addressed.
Choice Level: What Is My Role In This Situation?
The third level, Choice, invites us into a shift in consciousness. Here we are not speaking of choices about how to fix a situation, but choice about who we will be within the situation — our relationship to what is happening. At this level, the questions are, “What is my role in how the situation came to be? What is my role in what is happening now? How do choose to engage going forward?”
This third level invites us to recognize that although we may not be able to change the circumstances or situation right away, we can at least choose who we will be within them. And that’s a huge step. Now we are claiming responsibility and choice in the matter, and we can start to create something new. The door is now open for transformation and sustainable change.
Opportunity Level: What Wants to Happen Here?
Finally, there is the fourth level, the deepest level: Opportunity. When we move to Opportunity, our first question becomes, “What’s the opportunity here?” or “What wants to happen?” This level is where the true power lies.
This situation has happened for a reason. It wants to tell us something — to help us clearly recognize what is not working or what wants to change or heal. In fact, there is usually a direct correlation between the Drama and the Opportunity levels: the bigger the drama, the greater the opportunity. The drama is a wake-up call, alerting that something wants to shift or transform.
Once we have identified the opportunity, we continue to move back and forth between the Choice and Opportunity levels. Each choice reveals more about the opportunity, and the deeper we go into the opportunity, the clearer our choices become. As a result, our perception of the situation starts to change, and we are able to move forward with new levels of insight and clarity.
Four Levels of Engagement
When we live in Drama and Situation, life tends to be about struggle and problem solving. We give the power to something outside of us. However, when we move to Choice and Opportunity, we take the power back. Consciously choosing who we will be in relationship to the situation empowers us to break free from struggle and create new circumstances and realities.
Learning to live and work from the Choice and Opportunity levels starts with being focused and disciplined enough to step beyond the drama, and then means being courageous enough to name the opportunity rather than just solve a problem. It starts with being bold enough to choose who you will be, what relationship you will have to circumstances you meet, and to make a habit of asking, “What’s the opportunity here?” In this way, you take the first step toward creating a world that works.
Exploration: What Is Your Default Level?
Of the four levels — Drama, Situation, Choice, and Opportunity — at which one do you live most of the time? What is your default level?