“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball
Sometimes I avoid making decisions. I wait until things become so extreme that the decision is basically made for me. It mostly takes the guesswork out, but it can also be pretty exhausting. One of my best friends is terrible at letting go of relationships. She will let people walk all over her until having them around is just not an option anymore.
Both my friend and I could be more assertive, but what can I say? Sometimes we don’t always do what is best for ourselves.
The similarity in these two situations is that we both knew what we had to do from the beginning. We just hoped the answer would change somewhere along the way. We hoped to somehow avoid the hard thing – the thing we knew was the answer. The tension we feel when we avoid decisions doesn’t come from being in the dark about what to do. It comes from knowing the answer and wanting it to be different than what it is. The stress comes from seeing how long I can live in this tension. The doubt isn’t a fear of not being able to figure it out because in reality you already have it figured out. You might not like the answer, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know it.
The hesitation comes when you see that you will need to make changes and take risks. You will need to put time, energy, and money into something and not necessarily know how it’s going to work out. Yes, you will need to find a new job. Or start your own company. Or go back to school. Yes, you will have to move. Yes, you will have to spend a lot of money on something that might not work out exactly how you want it to. This is the part that causes us stress. The stress is not spending the money or applying to school; the stress is, how can I avoid taking this next step? How can I go back to the time when the status quo was enough? When I didn’t see there was a road ahead of me that might be scary or weird or humbling? A road with no guarantees? A road where the only guarantee is that it gets me out of where I am? And then where I was might look better. Maybe it will look safer, more predictable. It’s then easier to see how you mastered success in the place you’re about to leave.
Knowing this, of course, a temptation to gather more information would be born. As a life coach, I love to read everything. I read tons of articles, books, listen to podcasts – it’s a lot of information coming in. And, while it’s mostly good information, the effects aren’t always positive. Reading about what people want me to do and think and feel, and learning methods for me to do and think and feel ironically makes me less tuned into what I’m actually doing and thinking and feeling. The desire to consult more friends or listen to another podcast is a stalling tactic. You already have more than enough information. You already know yourself better than your mother or best friend or yoga teacher ever will.
There comes a time when you need to step away and check in with yourself. It can be really exciting to read about what people are teaching and apply what you’ve learned in your own life. But before you listen to me or your friend or Oprah, check in with yourself first. Does it feel like something the highest, wisest version of yourself would do? Or are you hedging your bets or doing what’s familiar? Is this decision you’re making coming from a place of love or a place of fear? Is it the same thing you would do if you already knew in advance that everything would work out?
Having the answer requires nothing. Putting the answer into practice is everything. Knowing you want to be an artist is easy. Doing the work to be an artist is very different. The myth of upleveling your life (making it better than it currently is) is that it will be easy. And, this where we start to doubt our instincts and assume we must have gotten it wrong somewhere along the way. Change is change. Breaking through to new ground means something still has to break. Even your dreams are work. Especially your dreams are work. You might have all the DNA to fly, but you might fall out of the nest a few times. You might be the last chick to learn to fly. When people say you can have anything you want, but you have to make it happen, it’s by turns soothing and threatening. Trying to do and get things you want is harder and weirder and scarier than maybe it should be. But, when did bliss become synonymous with ease?
You can also decide to do things for reasons that have nothing to do with bliss. You can decide to do things for ease, money, bragging rights, experience – these are all totally fair reasons to do anything. Because ultimately you are the only person you have to explain these things too. Maybe your friends get it. Maybe your family supports it. But maybe they don’t. So then what? Will that change your mind?
What if bliss is really just a general direction to head in? And then the grind is what makes bliss into reality? And then, along the way, “bliss” presents another clue, which in turn requires more grinding? What if we just knew and accepted this as the cycle, and stopped being surprised when hard work and risk follow our dreaming every time?
What if we just accepted that you might work very hard towards something you want and have it turn out differently than you expected? Back when your life was easy and it didn’t really matter what happened, not getting something might have been less painful because you weren’t trying. You couldn’t really be disappointed because you hadn’t really wanted it in the first place. But after taking a risk to make a change failure or disappointed will be harder and sadder. You worked so hard on this thing and it didn’t happen. And now you have to start over. Of course that sounds terrible.
But you do it anyway.
Because what’s the alternative? A year from now, will you still be in this place? Knowing the answer, but looking at how daunting it might be, and pretending you don’t know? Waiting for a better answer to come along? One that might be more agreeable? Or easier? Or just different than the one that’s right in front of you? In a year, there might be even more angst because now the next decision you make has to be PERFECT because you HAVE NO TIME TO WASTE.
Ugh. That sounds like a lot.
SO. Your to-do list is now everything you’re scared to do. Everything you’re hoping isn’t really the answer. The things you’re doubting because you hope they’ll get easier or disappear once you “figure out” the real answer.
Because you already know the answer. Now you just need to go out and do it.
SARA KRAVITZ helps people who aren’t sure what they want but know it’s not this figure out if they should quit their job, so they can stop dreading Sunday nights. As a life and career coach, she loves helping people understand (but, like, really understand) that this doesn’t have to be life. You can climb out of every hole. It might be awkward and uncomfortable at times (in fact, you can probably guarantee it will be), but there’s always a solution. (Even for you.)
She is also the author of the international, bestselling book Just Tell Me What I Want. You can download her book for free here. Or, if you’d like to talk more with her about your current situation, you can always email her, or schedule a time to talk. She totally understands that sometimes you need to talk about these things out loud with another person.