Wouldn't it be nice if we could have a crystal ball or see into the future in some way that predicted 100% success most or all of the time?
It would be nice. I would like that. But, unfortunately...I know I don't need to tell you.
Life, for me, has continued to reveal itself as one lesson after another. Progress or success is measured by best guesswork that sometimes works and sometimes does not. We make plans and then life happens. Just like John Lennon said.
This has been incredibly helpful for me, especially during the past few years of incredible transformation and big life changes. Jobs. Relationships. Grad school. Gender identity. Haircuts!
Before I realized or accepted that the only constant is change, I thought life was something to figure out, once and for all. Or I thought it was something to control. I thought I could make X decision and get the outcome that made perfect sense to ME. I thought that all people agreed on what "perfect sense" meant. I thought that the lens I used to view the world was right and real and universally applicable and appropriate for everyone. If all people just did what was in my head or what came out of my mouth, things would work so much better!
Then I hit 35 and realized how arrogant and naive I was throughout my 20s. And as I creep up toward 40, I see how much more there is to learn.
And we learn by making choices. We make plans and then things happen and then we have choices to make about what happens next. I wonder if a percentage or measurement exists somewhere that shows how often what people anticipate or plan for ACTUALLY happens. I stopped counting a long time ago. My life choices now have become more of a crap shoot because I've seen how no matter what I did to prepare or plan, Murphy's Law prevailed a significant amount of the time. I mean, that's basically what Murphy's Law is all about. Nothing will go perfectly, ever. And if it's going perfectly, you just aren't seeing everything.
Take that in for the second. It basically says we are f*^&ed no matter what.
And you thought you were in control this whole time?! Don't you love life?
I recently made a decision. And then, over time, I realized that decision didn't serve me so I was faced with making another decision. It was harder to make the second one because I spent so much time attached to the first one. We do this. We persevere to prove our tenacity. We blame ourselves for what it isn't working. We try to figure it out. We see what we want to see (and not everything we NEED to see). We get attached to the outcome of something even when all the evidence is showing it just IS NOT WORKING for us.
It can be hard to figure this out because just knowing what does and does not work for us is also a tricky process. Once we figure it out, though, it can make things easier for the next time. We hope. Yes, it's the long way. Yes, it sucks. Yes, yes, yes. But there's no shortcut so get over it. ;)
Here are some tricks I've picked up so far for figuring WHAT WORKS for you and how to make choices once you know.
1) Make a best guess from your gut. If an opportunity presents itself, choose from a best guess in your gut. Remember that things may or may not work out the way you think you want. There are no absolutes so you might as well try! Use past experience as much as you can but it will only help you so much in a new situation. Jump and see!
2) Give it time. Let things pan out and reveal themselves. People are weird and unreliable. Time and space warp reality. Things happen. Our own filters and lenses color our perception. Give your decision some time to see what unfolds before you.
3) Notice warning signs. Something feels weird. Inefficient. Unreliable. Inconsistent. OFF. You do A which should lead to B but it brings you to L, somehow. Mixed messages. Misdirection. Swirl. Circles. Lack of integrity. Something low and deep in you starts to say, "nope." You make a mental note.
4) Second-guess initial reactions. You're having a reaction but hey! you're just one person. You have one view of a complex person or group or situation. Evaluate and get outside perspectives. Ask around. Be an inquiring mind for other folks in the situation or in your life and get their read. Don't be gossipy and don't jump to conclusions. Be curious. Run your gut check past other experienced people but don't forget: they don't know what YOU know.
5) Trust your instincts. Filter out the noise of other peoples' opinions. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Open up the phone line. What does your gut say? Is this good? Is it right? Does it work for you?
6) Take action and back yourself up. You had a feeling. You gave it some time and thought. You ran it past other people. You weighed the options. You looked at it from all angles. Now it's time to take action based on your best guess from your gut. You won't know unless you try. The result you get will reveal more evidence to support your choice. And no matter what happens, back yourself up because you did your best.
I wrote this post after sitting with a weighty decision for several months. It wasn't the first big decision I made---I mean,HELLO!!! Changing my GENDER IDENTITY! You would think after making a big jump like that or going to grad school or leaving jobs or making countless hard calls running my own business for the past 7 years, the decision-making process would be like falling off a log for me.
It's not like that. Because I still worry what people will think. I still worry that I might be wrong. I still worry that I don't know enough and other people know better. I still worry...
And worrying doesn't work because it only perpetuates self-doubt. It doesn't help me act.
We can only act when we trust ourselves enough to try. I hope this post helps bring you closer to doing for yourself.