You may know that my dog, Jasper, has had a broken paw for the last 13 weeks. Splint, bandage, mandatory rest – no stairs, no more than three minute walks. Basically, a dog’s worst nightmare. After 13 weeks, though, he was hopping along on three feet, bandaged foot in the air, tail wagging with full enthusiasm. He had accepted his new state of affairs. (No, this is not a blog post about accepting your circumstances and allowing yourself to laugh and enjoy life anyway; although –that was a great take-away for me).
The bandage came off, and the rehab began. The vet’s warning: too much bounding about, and he’ll re-injure his paw, potentially causing permanent damage. Too little, and the joint may seize up and never properly heal. His immediate impulse: bound for the hills and run as fast as possible. My immediate impulse: shorten the leash and control his every pace. As I felt myself tighten my grip, I laughed, thinking about how often this happens in life. We get ourselves into black/white thinking; convincing ourselves that the extremes are our only option: bound for those proverbial hills (“leap and the net will appear!”) or tighten that leash and allow fear to hold us back from making any real forward movement.
I’m unhappy in my job but if I quit, I won’t be able to pay my bills. (black/white = stay in this job or face potential financial ruin)…
This relationship isn’t right for me but, if I leave, I could be alone forever (black/white = stay with this person or face a life alone)…
I don’t agree with what this person is saying or how they’re treating me, but if I say anything it will cause a huge fight and so I’ll just stay quiet (black/white = stay quiet or cause a dramatic conflict)…
Making decisions from a place of black/white thinking serves us. In fact, I’d say it’s the way most of us make our decisions most of the time. When you make decisions from this place…yes, you’ll pay the mortgage this month; yes, you’ll have a date this Friday; yes, you’ll avoid a fight today. But, over time, you’ll likely wind up resenting your job, your mortgage or worse – your home itself; or feeling lonelier in your relationship than you ever did when you were single; or finding yourself repeatedly in situations where people speak to, or treat you, in ways you don’t like.
So, the immediate gratification of black/white thinking and avoiding the discomfort of the bigger truth may very well be the one thing holding you back from your long-term fulfillment. So, how can you resist taking action and making decisions from this black/white place?
First, accept that you’ll feel uncomfortable. If you’re contemplating change, feeling uncomfortable is part of the process. Let yourself feel uncomfortable, and continue to consider your options and possible next steps despite feeling uncomfortable (I often say to my clients: if you’re feeling uncomfortable, it probably means you’re up to something good!).
Second, own your truth, and let that inform your action. Be honest with yourself – about what isn’t working, what you’re scared of, or concerned about. List everything you can think of! I want to quit my job but I’m scared that I won’t make enough money anywhere else to cover my bills. The truth is, I really like my lifestyle and don’t want to give it up. And my family really benefits from my income – what will happen to them if I change jobs?? Great! Own this. How does this inform your career change? Perhaps you set a minimum salary level for your next role; perhaps you review your lifestyle and really question your expenses; perhaps you have a heart to heart conversation with your spouse. There are so many possibilities to explore here. Just don’t let your fear (in this case, financial worry and family impact) prevent you from exploring your truth (need for career change).
Third, accept that it may not (likely won’t) be a solution or plan you come to overnight. Owning and facing the truth of your situation, and planning and taking action from that place, can take months or years. Your eventual plan may be a multi-year plan.
And so it was my dog’s recovery from a broken paw that reminded me: there can be a price to be paid for being too reckless (thoughtlessly bounding for those hills); but we often forget that there’s also a price to be paid for being too cautious and keeping that leash too tight (letting fear run the show). If you can feel into the discomfort, own your truth, and develop your plan from that place of truth – you’ll start moving towards fulfillment. As always, I’d love to hear what changes you’re facing right now. Email me, leave a comment, or share on the Facebook page and, if you think this message could be helpful to someone you know, please forward it along!