A Made Up Mind
I was that person who, when the waitress came back to the table asking if we were ready to order, I would respond by saying we needed a few more minutes. (My dinner companions didn't need more time; it was just me who did.)
And yes, I was the one who placed her order last because I still needed a few more seconds to decide if it was going to be the chicken or the shrimp.
This type of indecisiveness was a major pattern in my life for many years.
My restaurant experiences were indicative of how I made decisions in my life. A restaurant menu has many options, a variety of foods to choose from. And life presents us with a variety of choices as well. Having so many choices was challenging because I would come to the table with the mindset that whatever item I selected, it had to be the "right one."
For me, the issue was not about the food; it was really about a message I learned as a child, that I needed to in every situation "do the right thing." In my mind, there was little room for error at the restaurant or in my life. Because I wanted to make sure I was doing "the right thing" with every decision, it caused me to make some decisions by default. I would often decide not to decide or take a long time to make a choice. This approach left me responding to life and not living life. It also meant that the wrong choices I was trying to avoid actually turned out to be the choices I ended up making.
But the funny thing was my inability to decide wasn't because I did not know what I wanted to do. Most times, I knew what I want to do. No, my problem was that I was consumed with the need to make sure that whatever I did was the "right thing." Whatever the right thing was, which by the way, most times, I did not have a clue what that really meant because choices, just like life, are not always black and white or cut and dry.
A perfect example of this is my writing. I have been writing since I was a young girl. You could always find me with a book, paper, and pencil somewhere off to myself, allowing my mind to roam free with words. I loved to create with words and doodle images. This was something I always knew about myself. While I wrote poems and short stories and kept a journal, I rarely shared my work with anyone. Instead, I was convinced writing for myself was good enough.
This decision not to consistently share my writing created periods in my life where I debated and denied myself what I knew all along to be my truth; I wanted to be a writer. But my inability to decide about the thing I wanted to do was built on a foundation of fear. The reality was I was afraid of what other people, especially those close to me, would say or think about my choices. There was an internal debate going on between the creative person who wanted to take flight and risk pursuing my dreams and the responsible person who was bogged down by the idea that I needed to be smart and make wise choices and "do the right thing."
And so the life of a writer, who earned money from her work, did not seem to be the right thing, and my dreams continued to be put on hold.
But then a shift began to take place. I began to let go of this pressure-filled idea that I had to choose smart and wise all the time. I started to approach my choices and my life differently. Because I had spent so much time trying to figure out what not to do, my indecisiveness had robbed me of some valuable life experiences and of opportunities to learn to live in my choices, whether good or bad, and to grow from the lessons each choice had to teach me.
The mental shift I made allowed me to embrace three truths that I now use as my guide. These truths help me when I am in a position where I need to make difficult decisions or feel stuck and not sure what direction to go in.
*When I remain true to myself, my most authentic self, I can make decisions from a place of love and not fear. My decision-making in the past was solely fear-based. When I am in a place of fear, my mind does crazy things like doubt and creates many negative thoughts and energy. When I decide from a space of love and without holding on so tightly to what I think should happen after making a choice, I feel better, and the decision is made easier. Fear is still present, but I am learning how not to let it be the foundation on which my decisions are built.
*Decisions are not set in stone. Life is always changing, and we are always growing. The thing I decided on two years ago may not be the thing I need any more in my life, and I am learning to be okay with that. I used to think that every decision I made was a permanent one and that once it was made, I could not go back and change it. I now know this is not true. We always have a choice. We can always make a different choice. And we get to choose differently.
*Am I choosing based on love or my needed to be loveable? This is something I learned several months ago when I was meeting with my spiritual director. She asked me if I struggled with decision-making in the past because I was trying to decide from a place of love or from a place of wanting to be loveable? This question goes to the core of my intentions, the why behind my choices. Was I more concerned with making a choice that reflected having love and honor for myself, or was I more concerned about what others would think and whether they would approve? People's expectations and perceptions can cause us to make decisions that go against who we are and want we want for our lives.
Deciding is not always easy because life can sometimes be hard. And the choices we have to make can be even harder. Though there are some easy and automatic decisions, like what show to watch on tv or what tube of toothpaste to buy. But then there are the other decisions, the game-changers. These are the ones we tend to struggle with the most because these decisions can change our lives in ways we could not even begin to imagine.
I don't always get it right; no one does. And yes, the occasional dining out still presents some challenges, but I am happy I have grown tremendously in my ability to have a made-up mind. I am learning to be okay with my choices and cut down all the internal chatter inside me when I have to make a choice.
A made-up mind allowed me to start wordsbytara.com and pursue what I believe is my purpose to write and share words that make a difference in people's lives.
A made-up mind has also allowed me to stay true to my decisions and to stay committed no matter the challenges and obstacles that may come my way.
There is freedom in being open to whatever path my choices lead me to follow.
And there is a freedom that comes with having a made-up mind.
What has been your experience with decision-making? Post a comment or send me an email; I would love to hear from you!
Sharing is a good thing! Share this essay with three people you know.
Sign up for the wordsbytara.com Weekly.
Sign up for the wordsbytara.com Weekly.