Choice is the most difficult step for me. I always want to choose everything which means I end up choosing nothing. The thing that upsets me about making a choice is that by saying ‘Yes’ to one thing, we have to say ‘No’ to other things. I tried to do it all for a long long time and just ended up wearing myself out.
This is how I ended up in the principal’s office at the start of every semester during high school. I wanted to be on the dance team, the yearbook staff, the creative arts magazine staff, the speech team, the Latin Club and I wanted to audition for every show. This meant I had to get the principal’s permission to take an extra class during my lunch hour. Which meant I had to to get a teacher’s permission to eat lunch in their classroom and I had to promise to keep my grades in passing range. I started class at zero hour – the class before classes started – and ended each day after rehearsal around 9:30 PM or later depending on the show. I traveled to all the football and basketball games and the speech tournaments on the weekends. I didn’t know if I was coming or going, but all of it was important to me. Frankly, I don’t remember a lot of it.
In spite of my best efforts, I haven’t been able to sustain this level of engagement with all the things that interest me throughout my lifetime. I wanted to double major in theater and psych as an undergrad and get a minor in creative writing – fail. It’s called burn out.
The moral of the story is I had to learn the hard way that choice is necessary. And I hate making choices so much that by default I chose nothing for a long long time. Actually, that’s not true, I chose wine, pringles, and french onion dip and devoted myself to spending as much time on the sofa as possible. There was no gray area between full-tilt madness and full-tilt sloth.
Here’s the bad news – as if we weren’t having enough fun already – once a choice is made, we have to continue making that choice each day and, in some cases, moment by moment. Choice is an exercise of repetition.
So how do we choose?
There are a million articles and websites devoted to trusting our instincts and intuition. I suppose there are so many sites out there devoted to this because it’s hard for us to do. Instead of listening to the still small voice within, the voice connected to the truth of our desire, we drift towards habitual roles and cultural programming. We tend to stay in the realm of comfort zones. Hey, they’re called ‘comfort’ zones for a reason.
Often – at least I’ve found this to be true for me – the choices that are connected to our deepest desires live on the outside of edge of comfort. Calling myself a writer, declaring that I want to write, writing – this is terrifying. Maybe it’s terrifying because it’s what I truly want – and missing the mark would be painful.
So let’s tackle “the mark”. There is no There – there. There is no destination. There’s no mark to hit. No one is ever going to put a crown on my head and declare me a writer. The only thing that makes me a writer is writing every day. I have to make that choice every day. And, to make that choice, I have to battle the scary demons that live in the forest that exists outside my comfort zone. The truth is, I don’t win that battle every day because it’s a choice that requires effort.
If we desire something (I’m not talking about flourless dark chocolate cake or sex) –
If we desire something and that thing scares us, I think that’s a clue that it’s time for us to make a choice and take the next step into the unknown.
Choose What You Are Willing To Do
We’ll talk about this a bit more in the post on Action, but it’s important for us to make a choice that we are willing to show up for every day. We have to choose what we want to BE because it’s what we want to DO. To do means to take action even when the action we need to take is frustratingly and infuriatingly difficult. Even people who say annoying things like, “I love my job. I can’t believe I get paid to play every day.”, have difficult days when they don’t want to do what they need to do. But, they do it anyway. What secret sauce are they drinking!?! I want some.
Push, Pull, and Drift
Push, Pull and Drift are energies. We can push ourselves through our days. This requires effort and grit. We are pushing against something or through something. Drift is the realm of not making a choice. We drift from one thing to another without an anchor. Pull energy draws us forward. There is something compelling that pulls us toward it. That thing is purpose and our compelling vision of that purpose. If we have a big enough purpose and a clear vision of ourselves living that purpose, we will be drawn forward with less effort. Keywords here are: big (as in bigger than ourselves), compelling, and clear.
I first heard of the Push, Pull, and Drift concept from Mark Forster, author of Do It Tomorrow and How to Live Your Dreams. He thinks deeply about motivation, organization, and how to do the doing of things.
Choice is Necessary
Ugh! It is. It really is. The only reason I’ve made any progress with this blog is because I’ve chosen to give up learning about – seamless repeating patterns, digital painting, training as a yoga teacher, data visualization, and becoming a 5-star chef. (That last one was a joke.) I haven’t been able to make the choice easily every day. I have to re-affirm my choice by thinking about who may be out there who needs to read this as much as I need to write it. And, every time I choose to write, I’m choosing not to do something else – even if that thing I’m choosing not to do is sitting on the sofa and staring out the front window. I can’t write and stare out the window at the same time. This is called musing and it’s different from writing. (I get the two confused sometimes.)
And, as I hinted above, beyond all the physiological drama, addiction to or self-abuse with…wine, french onion dip, chocolate cake, Netflix, excessive gaming, insert your drug of choice…may be a sign that we’re avoiding the choice we know we want to make.
Experiment: Trial & Error
Trial and error is my favorite game. It’s like cosplay with life. How do we know we want to do something we’ve never done before? My favorite way to do this is with a 30-day Challenge. Pick something and do that thing every day for 30 days. Keep track and journal about how you feel, what you are learning, and why you are doing this crazy thing in the first place. Notice – how’s your energy, how does your body feel, how are you sleeping? Make notes. Learn as much as you can about how other people do the thing you’re doing, then do it your way.
- Keep it small. I will write for 15 minutes every day.
- Make it about action, not results. I will write for 15 minutes every day.
- Make it one thing, not twenty. I will write for 15 minutes every day.
If you have 20 things you want to try, that means you have a backlog of 30-Day Challenges to play with. Keep a list and pick one to start with. Eeeeep! It’s an exercise in choice. I know it’s hard. Believe me, I know. It’s also possible. We’re going to be okay. The backlog itself is information, right? We may have been putting our desires on the back burner for a long time.
- Have your tools ready. I put my notebook and a pen by the sofa before I go to bed at night. I have my phone with me so I can set my timer.
That’s all there is to it. At the end of that 30 days, you’ll have more information about the choice you want to make.
Here’s my caveat. Don’t do this thing I do: I often move from one 30-day Challenge to the next every other day. Drifting – or in my case bouncing – from one experiment to the next without giving the first proper time, effort, or evaluation. This isn’t helpful. It can be fun. But, it’s not helpful. If we want to move towards a compelling purpose, bouncing around won’t get us there. So I’m going to encourage you to give it a solid 30 days.
Declaring your challenge and inviting others to play along can be fun and motivating. But, please, if you’re not ready to share, don’t feel like you have to. It’s not required. Secret experiments are still valid. This can be for your eyes only while you give it a go. If you do want to share, feel free to share in the comments or with your tribe of choice.
If you don’t get through the 30 Days, this is not a newfound opportunity to beat the shit out of yourself. This is information only. Take it to your journal. Explore. Then, by God, start again armed with new information and insight. We’re not going to poop on ourselves here. Let’s all agree to that, okay? We’re after information so we can make choices based on our true desires.
Here are some resources to explore:
- The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobinstine. I know this post is all about choice and this book appears to be about not making choices – it’s ALL about making choices so people who can’t make choices can still make choices without giving up on themselves. It will make sense if you read it.
- Mike Vardy’s The Productivityist. He has some posts on theming your weeks and days which is a helpful concept especially when you’re adding a new and purposeful choice to the roles you’re already playing in life.
- Mark Forster’s How to Make Your Dreams Come True. I think this is still a free download from his website. Not only does this book discuss the concepts of Push, Pull, and Drift, but it’s also a great exploration of journaling. His journaling process is an excellent way to move through a 30-Day Challenge so you come out with good information on the other end.
I changed the order of the steps or map-points from last week’s post because I realized experiment goes hand-in-hand with choice – or precedes choice.The truth is the journey towards purpose is not a neat little step-by-step-paint-by-numbers thing, but I’m doing my best to keep it organized in a way that makes sense. We’ll keep going with this series next week with Declaration & Commitment. (Ugh! Another c-word.) Happy Trial & Error!