I was recently having a serious life discussion with a good friend of mine who is spending a great deal of time trying to figure out her next steps. She desperately wants to move forward, but is so worried she may make a mistake. She’s been asking many people in her life what she should do and has admitted she’s just becoming more confused and filled with doubt that any choice would be the right one. She feels lost.
We are all guilty of this. We find ourselves facing a life decision and suddenly feel crippled under the pressure of which door to choose. As if choosing the wrong one would almost certainly result in (societal or physical) death.
When did we start putting so much pressure on every decision, from the right career choice, the right partner, lifestyle, etc.? We are so concerned that the choice is “correct“, as if it will guarantee stability, happiness, success or a fairytale ending. But the reality is that there is no correct, right or perfect choice. There is nothing that will not be met with struggles, doubt, regret, failure or even pain at some point.
This is not to say that some life decisions don’t warrant careful thought or meditation, and having a mentor or confidant can be critical when you need to bounce your own thoughts and ideas off someone you trust. It’s also important to do some amount of information-gathering so you can feel like you did your due diligence.
But here’s the thing…when it comes to any life decision, you already know the answer. Your intuition is real and it is powerful - if you know how to listen to it. We are so used to talking our issues out that we tend to ask way too many people about what we should do and lose ourselves in the process. This is a slippery slope because you are never going to get the same advice from every person. Realistically, you’re just going to get projections from that person’s own life experiences when what you’re actually looking for is someone to mirror what you already know. You’re looking for validation.
This is why therapy exists. I know some people who say “therapy is bs,” but they’re usually the people who are likely afraid to have their own insecurities or mistakes mirrored back to them. That’s really all (good) therapy is. It’s a reiteration of who you are and where you’re going. It’s confirmation that you’re capable of making any choice you want, and most importantly, no matter the outcome, you’ll literally survive.
A few years ago, I quit my job and announced I was moving to San Diego. I had a going away party, announced my exciting new journey on social media, kissed my family goodbye and took off for the coast. Five months later I moved back. Whoops. I think what was most embarrassing was the amount of people who never realized I had left in the first place.
Aside from the classic adrenaline seeking activities like jumping out of an airplane or taking up fire juggling, I realized there is really no life choice I can make that would result in a life or death situation. Pain, suffering, conflicts, arguments, struggles - whatever - I’m capable of surviving it. This is what we need to remind ourselves daily. You can’t let your fear of the bad stuff paralyze you from moving forward.
It’s easier said than done, I know. We’re human, we crave that mental stimulation that comes from connecting with someone while talking about your own life. It can become intoxicating and addicting like a drug, which explains why we do it over and over again. There’s a reason it’s called mental masturbation, all you’re really doing is avoiding anything that can be challenging, complex, scary or painful.
But there is an even greater (more productive) high: the “F-it moment.” That awesome instance of absolute clarity when you decide to just go for it - everything and everyone be damned. You become an unstoppable force taking control of your life and making. it. happen. That is the kind of high we should all be chasing. The strength you will feel when you start to witness the positive ripple effects will only grow stronger as you realize how powerful you are.
It will also make you a better, more interesting person. Perfection is boring and it also isn’t real. I’ve never met an interesting person who has not had their fair share of struggles or suffering. Their lives are a messy, incoherent mazes of odd twists and turns, but they own it and it’s strangely beautiful and fascinating.