Do you find that you freeze when you’re on the verge of making a big decision? You have a flash of inspiration that catalyzes a frenzy of planning, followed by a vision of how things will go terribly wrong. And that leads to — the big kaibosh. You file the project away for another year, for when you’re “ready”. You put the dream on hold, because you allow yourself to believe in that one potential outcome.
The Paralyzing Power of Choicelessness
I see this pattern again and again in my clients. For example, Celine is starting a new business doing what she loves. She dreads quitting her dead end job because she’s certain she’ll go broke, she’ll lose her office friends, and she will be criticized by her family and friends for leaving “what wasn’t so bad after all” to start something that may or may not prove successful. The prospect of these three things has her paralyzed and unable to act, even though she has prepared for this transition and is financially ready to make the leap.
Celine’s reaction to this scenario is typical and understandable. We find comfort in the known, unhappy though it may be, and discomfort in the unknown. Even when we do our homework and the leap we anticipate is in alignment with our wisest selves, we get weak-kneed and uncertain when we indulge the inner voices that tell us the dark and dreary version of how the story ends. You know these fear-mongering Inner Critics; they paint pictures like Celine’s in vivid detail. They fill our heads with toxic whisperings of doubt, shame and fear, and we find ourselves unable to move forward.
Let’s Play Some Roulette
Here’s an alternative to succumbing to this paralysis. It involves creating multiple pathways — choices — instead of limiting yourself to one dead end road. And you don’t even have to be a gambler to do it.
- Imagine a roulette wheel. A big, colorful wheel like you’d find in a casino. Right now it’s on Number 12. 12 represents the dark and dreary outcome like the one above, the one you dread. Note its characteristics. Imagine it is real. Then take a deep breath and spin the wheel to another number. Now you’re on Number 3. Consider an alternative scenario to the first. Imagine what ELSE is possible. What might you find? How might you feel? Dig in. Feel it as if it’s true right now.
- Spin again. You land on Number 27. What’s here? How might you handle the situation from here? What new information is available to you? How do you show up? Do you thrive here?
- Take another spin. Now you’re on 6. What’s in this perspective? What do you know? Are there possibilities here you hadn’t considered?
- Continue to spin the wheel, imagining different outcomes from the original. Then take some time reflecting on the choices you have in front of you, all stemming from the same starting point.
Use Your Freedom of Choice. ~Devo
What’s different, when you consider yourself to be at choice, rather than powerless to change an undesired outcome? Do you feel more creative? Freer? More confident? Less “stuck”?
Here’s the good news: you’re always, always at choice. Every moment. Choice in terms of thoughts, attitudes, behaviors and actions. You can choose to act based on fear, or you can choose something else. Something inspired by love and trust and truth.
From tunnel vision to a wide angle lens
Recognizing our willingness to buy into fear and doomsday scenarios is the first step to leading our lives with clarity and choice. And saying no to this habit, by considering several outcomes and remaining flexible and open, is a powerful game changer. When you open up your mind and heart to new potential, you give yourself the opportunity to make healthy choices that lead to success.
What about you? Are there adventures you’d like to take, but you avoid because the ending you imagine has scared you off? Do you limit yourself because you’re sure the way forward is a dead end? Where will you give yourself multiple choices, rather than a one way ticket?