Decision-making discomfort

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Sometimes, people put off acting on a difficult decision because they suspect it will involve uncomfortable emotions or circumstances. They can feel deep down that staying on their current path is violating their values or prompting them to not be true to themselves or is in some way unhealthy for themselves or others, but choosing a different path seems too painful or daunting. They end up avoiding the long-term benefits of making a good decision to avoid the short-term discomfort of sadness or uncertainty.

It can be easy to get caught up in the illusion about decision-making that it’s necessary to first know if the outcome will be “right” in order to act. While it is important to weigh suspected outcomes, the reality is that results may be so complicated that it might not be possible to know right away – if ever – whether things are better or worse because of a choice. Sometimes, the consequences of decisions are immediate: going to jail after deciding to break the law or discovering you’ve avoided a potential accident or breakdown on the road by deciding to have your car’s rattle checked out. Other times, you don’t know who you would have met or how you would have grown on your own had you not been pouring your time and energy into maintaining a relationship that is ultimately incompatible or what experiences you might not have had if you hadn’t taken a chance that a relationship with someone might be just what you both need.

Uncomfortable emotions are a natural part of life. Sad things happen. Discouraging things happen. Things that have the potential to inspire anger or fear or doubt happen. If you practice experiencing and managing these uncomfortable emotions, your skill-building efforts will have taught you that you can handle them when you have to move through them as they accompany a difficult decision. Fear of short-term emotions won’t be an additional reason why you avoid making a choice that could lead to many positive emotions and circumstances in the long term.

Include some optionals on your to-do list

I used to both love and dread having company over. I enjoyed hosting people, sharing my cooking and home, but it also was a major source of stress for me. By the time the party started, sometimes I would either be frazzled because I had frantically struggled to complete my to-do list of preparations or disappointed because I hadn’t crossed everything off of the list.

The problem was my to-do list. At times, it was overly ambitious for the amount of time I had available to prepare. Other times, things came up that put me behind. Mostly, the problem was that I somehow got the impression that everything on my to-do list was mandatory, and I couldn’t feel good about having people over unless I completed it.

I got some insight when I attended a party at a friend’s house, and she quietly confided that she was hoping no one noticed that she hadn’t had time to do certain things to get ready. I assured her that it didn’t matter, of course, and that we were just happy to get together with her.

Sometimes you need to say a truth to someone else in order to realize it for yourself.

I still make to-do lists, but I now prioritize their contents. I make an honest assessment of what truly needs to be done before a gathering, which is surprisingly little when it all comes down to it, and then I include some stronger wishes and some more nice-to-do-if-I-have-time items. With a prioritized list, I can still keep track of what I might do but am able to enjoy gatherings and my company because I haven’t failed to meet some preconceived criteria for success. The point is to connect. Most of the rest is just vacuuming behind the couch.

– by Patricia S.

Go ahead, be creative

Doing something creative can be scary if you get caught up in questions about the outcome:

What if people hate it?

What if people think I’m weird or inadequate or silly or stupid because of it?

What if I’m NOT adequate? If I can’t fulfill my vision?

What if I do all this work and no one pays me for my creation?

Questions about the outcome and fears of the future can smother your creative spirit, preventing you from enjoying the process or even ultimately completing the project you’ve worried so much about. People can’t make fun of you for creating something if you never create it, right? You’ll never know you can’t achieve your vision if you never try to make it reality, right?

If you never reach out, you’ll never touch anyone. You’ll never inspire anyone. You’ll never learn what you can accomplish. You’ll never share the creative light that shines only in you, that is uniquely yours. You reduce your own life as well as the lives of those you might have enriched.

If you give up on being creative, you’ll miss out on what creating brings to you as an individual: the satisfaction, the joy, the thrill, the sense that time stands still, whatever it is that calls to you through the medium of words, visuals, sounds, tastes, textures. Don’t discount the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual currency that comes with creation because you worry you won’t get a monetary reward.

But what about those scary questions? Stop asking them while you’re being creative. Enjoy the creative process. Revel in it. Reap the benefits that come along with the act of creating. Make something that you like, that pleases you. Then you can decide whether you want to share what you’ve done. If you do, and others aren’t drawn to it, your creation will still have the value of the pleasure and added value it provided to you as an individual.

Every creative person in the history of humanity made mistakes, “failed,” and disappointed or displeased someone, even creatives who ended up with great acclaim. Be creative for yourself, and recognize the reward in that. Where things go from there is not entirely in your hands.

What do you fear would happen if you were creative? What would you do if you didn’t listen to those fears?

Living snowflake: You are powerfully unique, connected

Science shows how each of us are both unique and connected in similarity to other individuals and the universe. This awareness can have profound implications for how you choose to live your life.

“You are the snowflake in human form,” says Deepak Chopra in day six of a guided meditation program now in progress. His introduction draws the comparison between people and snowflakes, both of which are made up of the same basic materials but both of which are unique.

"You are the snowflake in human form." -Deepak Chopra

“You are the snowflake in human form.” -Deepak Chopra

Snowflakes, despite their abundance, are believed to be unique once the crystals they’re made up of reach the complexity that we commonly call “snowflake.” See the California Institute of Technologies explanation of why this is, and follow links on the site for some beautiful pictures of snowflakes and ideas for how you can have educational fun with snow and ice.

Compare the few elements that make up a snowflake to the breakdown of the 60 “ingredients” in the human body, described by their estimated value on the commercial market. The potential for variation in how these elements combine, from a scientific standpoint, mean that no two people are exactly alike on a physical level. The breakdown also shows we’re also all alike and connected to each other and the universe. The same carbon that’s in you is in your best friend and your worst enemy. The water that is part of your body is the water that freezes into snowflakes.

Feeling isolated? You are made up of the same basic ingredients as every human who has ever lived. You are connected on an elemental level to the snow and the sun, the food you eat and the pencil you write with. Feelings of isolation come from the perception of solitude, from forgetting similarities and connections.

Wondering if you have anything to contribute? Remember that your specific combination of “ingredients,” from electrons to experiences, has never existed prior to you and will never again repeat. Your brain is in charge of this collection of matter and energy. What will you do with it?

Singularly, snowflakes shine with beauty. Brought together, unique snowflakes can become an igloo or an avalanche. What choices will you, the living snowflake, make for your existence?

Don’t get stuck in an identity rut

You may have this thing you do that you associate with your identity. You’re the one who takes the photographs. The computer guru. The great cook. The super skier. If someone has a question about cars or investments or how to solve a relationship problem, they come to you for that Thing.

Don’t let that Thing define who you are, however, or you risk becoming boxed in by it. You’re always taking pictures, not appearing in any of them. You’re always cooking but never enjoying the feeling of being served. You become seen as the source of information or assistance rather than a whole person with feelings and thoughts beyond your central defining Thing.

By reaching beyond your current skills or passions, you can discover strengths you did not know you had, ways to contribute to the world or your own life that you might never have experienced had you let your existing strong identity trait confine you. Or, maybe you’ll find something that you enjoy but that you’re not necessarily good at doing. It is OK to be the computer guru who paints abstract watercolors that are never displayed beyond a loved one’s living room or the stock market aficionado who enjoys making mostly tasty cakes that are somewhat decorative.

Stretch yourself. Grow. Learn. Discover who you might be.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out “Put on Your Crown,” by Queen Latifah.

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Keep your eye on your life’s road

When you’re planning a trip, it is more efficient to focus on the roads you want to travel, not the ones you want to avoid. Sure, you may make decisions to skip certain routes that are too long, too dangerous, not interesting enough, or ones that are simply impractical. If you’re driving from Los Angeles to Denver, you generally don’t want to go by way of Orlando. You can waste a lot of time if you worry about routes that include Orlando once you’ve decided to not go there.

You have many options for how to move through life, and you can waste a lot of time worrying about where you don’t want to be or what you don’t want to do. That’s energy and effort that could be used to get you to where you do want to go.

Don’t want to get into a relationship with someone like your parent/you ex/a person who hurt you? Fantastic to have that knowledge. Focus on the positive traits that you seek. “Not a liar” becomes “truthful and open,” and then get specific on how you’ll be able to recognize that. What does “not an alcoholic” mean in terms of drinking or abstaining?

Don’t want to end up in a dead-end job? What does the opposite mean to you, then? Do you need a job with the chance to keep earning more and more money? With more promotions? With greater opportunities to express yourself intellectually or creatively? What are the positive traits of the job you’re seeking?

Thinking about starting a new endeavor, but you’re worried it won’t be a success? Define what success looks like. Instead of focusing on “not being a failure,” figure out what you can accomplish that defines “not a failure.” And don’t convince yourself that doing things perfectly is an adequate definition.

If you want to lose weight and are not going to eat highly refined foods, what will you eat? No ice cream for dessert? What will you eat?

If you don’t know where you’re going, then how do you know when you get there? You could waste a lot of time driving around side streets or zooming down the freeway in the opposite direction. Success via avoiding Orlando is not a good road map to Denver. The same is true of where you want to go in life.

Getting specific will help you to figure out the route that will help you get there. You may chose and discard routes along the way, have to consult your GPS again to get back on track, but you’ll improve your ability to do that if you don’t spend so much time worried about ending up in Florida when where you really want to be is in Colorado.

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