Decisions, Decisions, or Embracing your Inner Toddler
When you’re feeling indecisive, instead of agonizing, or making your best guess, what if you choose arbitrarily to see what happens? If there’s no right answer, there’s no wrong answer. If there’s no wrong answer, there’s no way to fail. If there’s no way to fail, there’s no fear of failure.
Okay, say you have a decision in front of you. It can be a big one like which job to take, or a small one like what’s for dinner, doesn’t matter. You’re not sure what to do. It could go either way. What if, instead of trying to choose the RIGHT thing, when it’s really not that clear what the right thing is, you see it as “need more input” and just choose SOMETHING. Maybe the easy thing. Maybe the hard thing. Maybe the thing that you don’t usually choose. Maybe the comforting thing. Just something. You have 2 ounces of energy to spend on the decision making process, ready, go. Okay, have you chosen? Great. If you’d agonized over the decision instead, how much energy would you have spent? 10 ounces? a pound? 6 tons? (You knew the energy in your life was measured as a weight, right?) Is this decision worth that much energy? Would the wrong decision cause permanent damage? Is it really permanent, or is it something you can heal from or apologize and make amends and move on? Is this a safe place to fail? To be uncomfortable?
Now we’ve created a split scenario. In one, you’ve spent 10 pounds of energy making a decision with the intention of it being right; in the other, you’ve spent 2 ounces with the intention of gathering information. Now it’s time to act on your decision. You start to see that it’s not working out quite the way you’d imagined. When the intention is to get it right, and it’s going wrong, there’s pressure for it to be right, there’s energy to correct whatever’s going wrong or save face, there’s probably some beating yourself up for choosing the wrong thing, and maybe a side of anxiety around the next time you need to make a decision or do the thing again. When the intention is information gathering, then you can calmly observe the failure, see that maybe it’s not a failure after all, or maybe it is and you can laugh about it. You understand what’s going on better because now you’ve lived it, and when the time comes to make a decision again, it’s a bit easier because you remember what happened last time. When your intention is information gathering, you might feel a little younger, a little more like a kid, a little less in control. You might need to admit that you have more to learn, and that might feel uncomfortable. Or it might feel freeing, like a weight has been lifted. You’re experimenting in this moment, living in this moment, gathering your set of life data, getting better prepared for next time. You’re admitting that you weren’t prepared this time, and that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact, an observation. And geez, maybe the decision was just what to eat for dinner.
When the intention shifts from making the best choice you can to gathering information, it’s so much easier to laugh at your mistakes, forgive yourself (well, there’s nothing to forgive in the first place) and move on. You’re learning by experience and developing your intuition. Instead of expecting yourself to know it all already and rely on your rational brain to figure it all out, you’re approaching life like a kid again with an air of curiosity and joy of discovery. It means there might be mistakes, and there might be grand ones, but you’re not beating yourself up over them, and life moves on. You can apologize if necessary, make amends if necessary, and try again if necessary.
Where did we get this idea that it wasn’t safe to make mistakes in the first place? Why do we expect such high standards of ourselves? At some point it really was a matter of life and death that we get it right. Is it still? In every situation? At some point, it was society keeping us on the straight and narrow. But now don’t we keep telling our kids that it’s okay to make mistakes? That it’s about the journey? Yet it’s so hard for them, and it’s so hard for us. We’ve gotten stuck in this place of working so hard to do right and thinking we need to know or figure out everything, that it’s blocking our ability to be present in the moment, laugh at our mistakes, and save our energy for the important stuff.