Fear, excitement, determination, uncertainty mingle. Looking round, observing, eyes focused, heads bowed. Reaching deep inside, finding the courage but fearing what’s ahead…that jumping off point.
I’ve been surrounded by people recently coming to that jumping off point, at home and work. People who’ve reached a crossroads and have to commit one way or the other, to move forwards down one path or to reaffirm and commit to a route already chosen.
I’ve been watching their deliberations and trying to help when they’ve asked by lending an ear being a shoulder to lean on. I’ve watched them struggle to commit to one direction or another, thinking through the options, being led by head and heart. Decisions are such hard, tricky creatures, should I do X or Y?, what will happen if..?
I’m struck by how much we are swayed by our feelings and just how excruciating those choices can feel. Yet we often choose to invest in ‘logical’ decision making processes which focus on facts and data without stopping to listen to our feelings, intuitions, emotions. We write lists of pros and cons, weigh up the risks, talk it out with our nearest or trusted confidantes but we’re trying to predict unknowables.
There’s lots of interesting research on how we make life choices and decisions, if you’re interested try these articles for starters:
And positive psychology has a lot to teach us about how our personal actions are central to our sense of self and happiness.
I think we’re inclined to view these moments of choice as scary, fearful places to be. So much so that sometimes we end up paralysed by the fear of making the wrong choice and remain rooted to the spot, uncomfortable but unsure where to go, which direction to turn. We fear owning decisions that need to be made.
Obviously not all of life’s twists are of our own choosing but even when our calm sea is rippled by external factors, contexts or circumstances we can still own how we react to those changes.
We can jump on the wave, surf it, see where it takes us, or choose to swim for a different shore but if we don’t make a choice we can find ourselves left bobbing at the mercy of the tides, wondering what if, feeling resentful, bitter. I wonder if we reframed this jumping off point as a place of excitement, full of potential and exciting mysteries how different that choice might feel? Is the unknowable really so scary, when we were children the unknowable was exciting, something not to be feared but run towards. If you look up the definition of the term you find this:
Jumping off point › a point from which to start a journey or activity › an idea , example , or piece of information that is used to begin a process or activity…
So when we’re stood in that fearful place, unsure where to go maybe we should remind ourselves that moving off from that jumping off point, making a call, screwing up our courage, will be just one decision in a life full of choices. A journey, a life, is all about choosing your direction of travel, just for now, for this moment. It doesn’t mean you are locked to it forever, whether you’re taking a new route or recommitting to a path you’ve chosen there will always be twists and turns you can’t anticipate. But if we don’t make those choices we can be left battered and bruised, feeling helpless, done to…
I’ve noticed how much happier, more at peace and relaxed people are once they’ve taken an active step to make a decision, to stay or go, to commit or detach, to jump off or jump on. Taking ownership of what you can control lifts a load off people’s shoulders. I think I know which place I’d rather be in.