Or, how to make big life decisions without hopping in the nearest life raft.
How many of us are staring down the barrel of one (or more) of the biggest decisions of our lives? Which of you are contemplating dramatic changes that will alter the course of your future? Are you uncomfortable with the unknown? Fearful that, in making this big leap, you will inevitably sacrifice something that makes you comfortable, keeps you secure, or helps you sleep at night?
Well, I’m sorry to tell you – that’s the thing about change. In an earlier post, I talked about trauma and how to cope. What I didn’t say is that you can just ignore the problem and expect your life to ever turn around. A butterfly doesn’t sit in its cocoon and think, gosh, it sure is comfy here – maybe I’ll stay for a while. Who needs wings anyway? The beauty of life is that there is constant change which, if embraced, will lead to a more fulfilled soul.
So, you’ve had some trauma. You’re dealing with some heavy shit. I get it. You earned the right to explore that pain and sit with it for as long as necessary. Your rock bottom is different than mine. BUT, at some point my friend, you absolutely must get to the So what, now what phase!
So what if you are getting divorced. So what if you’re grieving. So what if you are far from your family and friends and everything you hold so dear. What are you going to do about it? Now what?
What is next for you?
It’s time to start opening yourself up to some mistakes. It’s time to start looking at your trauma and the fear of the unknown as something that will give you character and strength to be “next level” you. What you find after trauma is that it prepares you to face difficult situations and decisions in the future with more grace and strength than you had before. You have the tools now. So what are you going to do with them?
Here’s what you shouldn’t do. Don’t take the nearest life raft. Don’t take the next man/woman that shows an interest in you. Don’t take the easiest job. Don’t move back in with mom. Don’t drown your grief in booze or drugs. Or if you decide to do any of that – don’t do it for long. Because those life rafts – they run out of air and next thing you know, you’re stuck all over again and looking for a way out.
This is not a judgment or an opportunity for me to preach. I make “easy” decisions for myself every day but it’s the hard ones that really get me where I need to be. I fail. Often. But it is in those missteps that I find my footing. I am not suggesting that you should quit a job that makes you unhappy when you need that income to survive. I am not suggesting that you walk out on a marriage before taking the opportunity to go through counseling. And I am not suggesting that you stop crying for a loved one who is no longer with us.
Rather, I’m suggesting that you acknowledge that there are (or will be) better days. But you have to make the space for them. In the midst of your unhappiness with your career, marriage, or the heartbreak of grief – just try to take a little time each day to focus on the now what. What does the next phase of your life look like? What can you do different or better to make your heart just a little bit more whole.
We are what we put out in the universe. If you can’t help yourself in this moment, help someone else. It will come back around – I promise. Because the truth is, everyone is struggling with something. There is not a person on the planet whose life is perfect. Everyone is looking to change something. Acknowledge that. Embrace the fact that you have MANY comrades in arms (hmmm…mom, is that Good English?). You are not alone.
Can you help someone? Can someone help you? What do you want to learn about yourself and once you learn it – what can you do with it? How will you turn your pain into opportunity? I know you can. And in the meantime, I’m happy to be your (temporary) life raft until you build your own ship.
Enough metaphors and analogies yet?
Anyway, get to your now what – whatever the cost. And avoid life rafts – they leak!
Here are a few suggestions:
- Make time for yourself. Turn off distractions, get up earlier, stay up later – whatever it takes to carve out some time for your brain and heart to just..think.
- Define your goals. What is a distraction for you? What are you tolerating? What do you want to do to overcome those distractions? Be clear and don’t worry about the life-changers here. It’s ok to start small.
- BUT…give yourself a timelines for the big ones. How long do you want to give yourself before you absolutely MUST make that change? Put it on a calendar or a post it – remind yourself.
- What does your instinct tell you?
- Make a list of pros/cons and lay out the facts.
- Think about the impact on others. How will your decisions hurt the ones you love? What can you do to minimize that? At what point do you have to put yourself first? Can you find a balance there? If the impact is negative, are you willing to proceed anyway? I want to be clear about this – your decisions have an impact on others and sometimes that can hurt people you don’t want to hurt. But – there are many occasions where you MUST do that in order to fulfill your purpose. Just think about it – that’s all I’m saying.
- What about your values? Does your decision fall in line with what you want out of life? Does it jive with the person you want to be? If you make a decision based on what others think, it could be disastrous. Be true to yourself.
- When you’re ready, make a choice and then act. Act in small ways or act in well thoughtout “big” ways. Just move forward.