It’s also worth pointing out that the reality of life is sometimes we just will disappoint others, even when we don’t know we are. Not by choice. Not intentionally. But just by the things we do or the way we show up (or how we don’t). There’s no getting around it and you can make yourself crazy trying to make all the people happy all the time. It can’t be done… so, let go of that. And this is why we come back to the notion of being true to ourselves as a guiding light.
I have a strong hunch when we are true to the best version of ourselves (which is really what I’m talking about), you are not going to go out and ruthlessly hurt other people. If you have any concern that this will lead to reckless narcissism or deep selfishness, you can probably let that go!
And, when you are not living true to your best self, when you are being what you think other people want or need you to be, the best version of yourself cannot show up to the world. It has been relegated to the basement or some back dark room… its hunkered down longing to come alive.
Often, we stay stuck and don’t follow our hearts or our dreams because we are so afraid we’re going to let someone else down. Sometimes we don’t follow a dream because it’s scary to see it come to life (this is a weird one but I have experienced it a couple of times when life-long dreams were about to come true… glad I persisted through the discomfort and allowed them to unfold anyway).
Sooooo… let’s look at when it might be risky to make a decision because you’re not clear on whether this decision will honor you or is simply an attempt to try to please someone else.
When NOT to make a decision:
- When you’re feeling exhausted, depleted, drained, or overwhelmed. It’s highly unlikely that you’re able to access your true guidance in these states and you’re much more likely to default to what feels easiest, least controversial or bothersome. It will be easy to collapse and defer to what others are telling you or to just do what you’ve always done.
- When you’re doing it solely for someone else (with a boatload of resentment or ickiness brewing beneath the surface, even if you have the best intentions). Unless you can get to a place where you know that you are consciously choosing, it’s better to hold off if you can.
I’ve had very dear friends almost spend a lot of money and time to take a retreat or program I’m offering “to support me.” No! Please don’t do that! I appreciate the thought, but quite honestly, I don’t want you there unless you’re there for yourself! Leave the spot open for someone who truly feels called to be there.
- When your choice is based on what others will think of you. You’re not in their heads – you have no idea what they will think! And, more often than not, the people you are giving a vote to aren’t even people you care that much about! So, let that shit go! Who cares what someone else thinks about whether you add one more pet to your family, where you go on vacation, how you spend your days, that you don’t want to have a child or get married, or that you want to date after all these years?
- When you can’t think clearly. When you’re in the thick of something, especially something upsetting, you might feel constricted, forced, or limited. You may see no option or way out. This is a time to step back and find some breathing room before moving forward. Sometimes there is a true urgency that requires action anyway – I still recommend at least a few minutes of deep breathing just to slow down, pause, and interrupt that spinning cycle that could lead to impulsive reactive choices.
Sometimes the “urgency” is not real or something that someone else is trying to impose upon you (pushy sales people and disreputable businesses trying to make you “buy now! Time is running out!” BS). For me, that’s a red flag. If someone can’t give me time to think something through, then my answer will be “No!” I used to tell my kids, “If you make me answer you now, the answer is no. If you give me some time to think about it, it might be yes. I don’t know yet…” Amazing how patient they became when I didn’t cave in to fabricated pressure.
Good news! There are things that can help take you from a place of confusion into making a solid decision that you can stand behind and feel good about!
Some things that help to make a hard choice that feels good (in alignment with your heart and soul):
- Time and space to breathe! BREATHE. PAUSE. If you know me at all, you’ve likely heard this a thousand times… because it bears repeating. Because it’s something I need to continue to remember. The less time you feel you have, the more important it is to take time.
- Get quiet. Get grounded. See #1… and also maybe put your bare feet on the grass, take a breath of fresh outdoor air, gaze at the clouds, into a pond, or the flame of a fire. Find something that works for you to bring you back to you. Listen within. Step away from outside voices and opinions.
- Move from your head into your heart. It helps to place your hands on your heart, close your eyes, and imagine breathing into this space. Ask for guidance from this heart space. You’ll know if the response you get is from your mind or your heart – the mind will try to convince, justify, rationalize, or defend a position. The heart knows. You will sense your answer rather than think it. It may not make sense to the mind, even if you get the heart buzz that says, “this is the choice to make.”
- Feel into each possibility you’re considering. From a quiet, heart-centered place, where you’ve given yourself space to listen within, play out the scenario of “yes” or “no” or option A or option B, C, D…in your imagination and notice how your body feels, how your breathing responds. Is there a sense of openness, expansion, softening? Or do you feel tight, constricted, restricted? What do you make of that? Your body is a great GPS or North Star when you learn to tune into it in this way. I’ve recorded this guided meditation to support you with this exploration.
- Free write about each possibility – allow your hand to move across the page as you handwrite, “If I do/choose ____...” for each one – write for a few minutes without stopping to think. When you think you’ve written all there is to say, ask yourself, “And what else?” and see what comes through. The key is to keep the pen moving so that you can tap in beneath the surface – allow yourself to be surprised. You may or may not get the answer you expected.
- MAYBE talk it through with someone you trust who can help you to reflect – someone who can listen not only to what you’re saying, but for what’s not being said, for changes in your energy, changes in your voice. A good sounding board is someone who helps you arrive at your own answers. The people closest to you are not always good sounding boards, particularly if your decision might upset their life in some way. A counselor, coach, or trusted friend might be.
- Listen for and notice any deeply ingrained conditioning, patterns or vows that may be coming into play and influencing you one way or the other. Things like, “I’m not someone who…” or “I swore I could never…” “things aren’t supposed to come easily – this must be too good to be true” are signs that an unconscious program is running the show. This is a great time to get curious – ask yourself, “Is that still true? Does this serve me now? What if…?”
- Notice if you’re holding onto one thing while reaching for the next. Sometimes we have to let go of one bank of the river to reach the other side but we hold on, straddling both shores, being stretched thin, for fear of what we might lose if we let go. Fear of stepping into the unknown can keep us stuck even if staying with what’s known is no longer healthy, fun, or beneficial. Knowing what you’re moving toward can help make it easier to release the past. Sometimes the energy that comes from releasing and letting go can open the doors to what’s next. Sometimes we have to be willing to move forward and step into uncertainty because we don’t know how it’s going to turn out (truth bomb, you will never know how it’s going to turn out until it does… and it will never turn out at all if you don’t take a chance).
Invitations come that seem like they are leading us down a particular path, when in reality they may only be there to open us up to something within us or to help us clarify a definite “no.” Just because you get invited to something does not mean it’s a sign from the Universe. The Universe will put many things in your path – you still get to choose whether to pick them up, move around them, or avoid them completely.
Also, please remember, very few decisions are forever. We can keep ourselves stuck thinking “this is the only shot I’ll get at this” or “I have to get this right because this is the last job, relationship, pet, car…” I will ever have. Relax...
Allow yourself permission to play with the next move that feels right in this moment. Might you lose some money or time on a decision if you change your mind later? Sure… but is that the end of the world? I have walked away from years of education and training, thousands of dollars invested in a path that isn’t right for me anymore. I have walked away from jobs I have put years of dedication into. I have left friendships that are no longer supportive. I have supported many others to do the same – to set themselves free in service of their soul. We grow. We evolve. We become the next iteration of ourselves. Every experience, every bit of life along the way has served in some way. Nothing is a waste. It’s all led to this moment in time which is leading to the next.
What choices are you facing that you’re having a hard time making? What opportunities are waiting?
Give yourself permission to play. To try, experiment, give it a chance if it’s calling you now. Give yourself permission to change your mind down the road if that’s what’s right then. None of us can see into the future. We can only do the best we can with what we have right here and now.
The “We Can Do Hard Things” podcast (with Glennon Doyle who got me started on this whole exploration of disappointing ourselves or others) just had a great episode on Quitting! Check it out. Fascinating the narratives we run about this word that can be used positively (as in quit smoking) or negatively (as in “You’re a quitter!”)! What stories do you tell yourself about quitting? Who would you be if you did?
Get curious about how gentle or harsh you are being with yourself as you consider these choices that keep you up at night and choose the gentler path. You deserve your own compassion as you navigate these uncharted waters.
What helps you to make a tough decision?