Life isn’t accidental. It’s a string of choices, followed by a string of consequences, which then present more choices. Daily we have the opportunity to maintain or change course. People often say things like in life, you have one shot. I just don’t buy it. New paths are everywhere, and we are tasked with discerning between opportunities and distractions. Between a good thing and a bad thing (maybe not empirically bad, but bad for us).
But what about when we have to choose between a good thing and a REALLY good thing?
What happens when we have to choose between:
Well, duh. We pick Option 2. The Seemingly-Better over the Status-Quo. It’s a no-brainer. The logical thing to do. Mentally, at least.
See, that’s where life gets interesting. Most of our decisions are made emotionally, not logically. We make a decision (emotionally), and then try to explain why we made that decision using logic. We almost always come up with a seemingly plausible reason, even if it isn’t the honest one.
What then do we do when making a decision logically that is contrary to our emotions? When we decide to go after the better thing even though, emotionally, we still love and want the lesser thing? The struggle is not in the justification but in the implementation. The mental gymnastics needed to cross the finish line and actually seize the better opportunity becomes exhausting, resulting in us dragging our feelings — kicking and screaming — to greener pastures. Ugly Tantrum, Party of 1.
I recently had to make a very challenging choice, followed up with some challenging action. In considering taking the leap, I drew advice from the well of accepted truisms.
I found much of this conventional knowledge marginally-helpful at affirming my choice, but not very helpful at actually motivating me to do the thing. To actually let go of the old and grab onto the new.
Right before I was about to act, I did none of the above things. You know what I did instead? I reached out to those closest to me, conveying something along the lines of ‘I’m terrified, please give me a pep-talk.’ Word of advice: when you need people to show up for you big time, brutal honesty in communicating what you are feeling and what you need is GOLDEN.
One of my Chief Encouragement Officers (on an unofficial title for those in my inner circle 😉) responded with a world series-level message. I’ve included it below in its full entirety.
This message gave me the boost I needed to actually take action and opened my eyes to what really motivates us to take that first, scary step.
1. We Need to Be Reminded of Who We Are
When we’re about to take a leap, our fear gives us tunnel vision and we lose sight of the most important asset to our success: ourselves. This person reminded me that I’m smart, I’m strong, I know how to build bridges, and I have the conversational chops to handle tough conversations.
2. We Need to Be Reminded That We Have Agency
When under a perceived threat, the body responds in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze. Trepidation at starting something new can be paralyzing and enable the freeze reaction. As if a snake has bitten us and the poison is working its immobilizing magic through our body. We need to be reminded that we have agency. That no matter how the other person reacts,I choose how I respond. If the other person is triggered, I choose to see past it to their true feelings and respond appropriately. I can be purposefully active, not reactive.
3. We Need to Be Reminded That Our Fear Is No Match For Us
Fear is just natural when taking the leap. But in the battle between us vs. fear, we need to hear that fear doesn’t stand a chance. We are way too qualified. We are the #1 draft pick. Notice, my friend didn’t tell me not to fear. Instead, it was more like I get that you are afraid, but you don’t need to be. You’ve done this shit over and over again. You are more than qualified. We often feel like David battling Goliath when it comes to our fears. We need people to remind us that in fact, we are Goliath.
4. We Need to Be Reminded That We Have A Safety Net
It’s always bugged me when people say things like ‘everything is going to be okay.’ Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it doesn’t all ‘work out.’ Sometimes life comes crashing down and I tank with it. It’s not realistic to assume that everything will be okay, that risk has guaranteed success. That’s a Pollyanna approach. What we really need are people who say, as my friend said, “You got this. And in the moments that you don’t, we got you.” If it’s a mess, you have a place to come home to. The risk isn’t so much of a risk, because you’ll always have what you need regardless — us. That, right there, will give you wings.
So what is required when taking a leap to the better opportunity? Courage is great. Deep breaths are great. Strategy is great. But what we really need is a support network that holds space for us. We need people to remind us who we are when we’ve forgotten & who will be there for us regardless of the outcome.
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