How to make decisions.

Posted by | October 13, 2010 | Dharma, On Career Change | 5 Comments

The truth about the very beginning.

Pam generously posted an interview with me. I talk about how I got my start — and making that change was hard.

I don’t think we’ve ever actually talked about it, but I haven’t always been doing this. The work I do now used to be a secret. I used to have a very different job than this (I cannot tell you how different). And it got me thinking…

Making (even good!) changes happen is hard.

In fact, staying open to change and letting your life change as it needs to is freaking scary, too. When I was working for a big law firm, and certain that I wanted to try this very different career where I help people be more of themselves in the world (what is more different from law then that?!), I lot of me didn’t want to make the change.

Change feels really scary to me, and my job is to support you through the changes you want to make in your own life. If it scares me, which it does, then you should feel much better if it scares you, too.

On top of change being scary, it’s inevitable. There’s a quote, that you may have heard before, that says, “If there is one thing you can count on in life, it’s change.”

(Don’t worry, there is a way to know which changes to make — I’ll get there in a second.)

So, summary thus far:

Change = scary. Change (also) = inevitable.

Now that we know that all of the changes can scare the bejeezus out of us, and that change is always happening, whether we want it to or not, I feel worse now. Yuck.

Well, thankfully, the whole change-thing starts feeling better when we look at it this way: while making change can be scary, and inevitable, knowing this is empowering.

The fear? It’s not a sign.

Just because we are scared does not, in and of itself, mean that we shouldn’t do something. But this invites another question: if change is always scary, how do you know whether or not to actually make any changes?

Well, fortunately for me and you, there is a key to knowing whether to make that always-scary change in your life — or not.

How to know whether it’s scary-good, or scary-bad.

There’s this song I’ve been listening to a lot lately by the Avett Brothers. It’s called The Weight of Lies. And, it’s about, um, the weight of lies (sorta a downer), but it has a line that’s been running through my head a lot for the past month:

“So when you run, make sure you run to something, and not away from.”

You know what? It’s true.

Another way to put that is this: instead of making changes out of fear (running away), make changes because of what or who you love (running to). This is how you know you are making the right decision for you.

(And I’m defining “the right decision” as the one you won’t regret.)

This means looking at your choices, and asking yourself:

“What would thrill and delight me?” rather than “What will keep my fear—or the events, people, and things I fear—at bay?”

A short story (to show you what I mean).

Let me take me, for example.

I used to work for a big law firm. It paid my bills, and then some.

  • Did it thrill me to practice law there? No.
  • Did it delight me to work long hours on something not thrilling? No.

But, did it keep my fears at bay? Hell, yes!

Working at a law firm kept a lot of fears at bay. I had as many fears as there are billable hours in a year. To name a few:

  • I was scared of taking the risk of leaving because maybe I could never return… maybe I would fail… maybe EVERYONE would think I was a loser for leaving.
  • I was scared of doing something that actually mattered to me, because that was putting my true self out there, for the world to criticize.
  • I was scared of telling my parents and mentors that I was making a 180 degree turn in my career.

And, did keeping my fears at bay feel very good? Nope. It felt crappy.

To be honest (and I haven’t always felt this way), I’m thankful for the years I spent working so hard at my old firm. I learned life lessons and it taught me how to work very, very hard. It has opened up unexpected opportunities for me. I made a few life-long friends there.

But, I feel fortunate that I made a change towards something that both thrills and delights me — this.

I know how hard it is to do anything just because it thrills and delights you — because, like I was saying before, it scared me to death to make that change. It hasn’t been easy, or always worked out that well. It’s been much harder than I could possibly imagine. But, I have truly been thrilled, and delighted. That feels amazing.

And, I don’t regret leaving to do this — not for one second.

Put your particular life situation through this litmus test, to see which outcome you get when you act out of fear, and which outcome you get when you move towards love and thrill.

See how that feels.

(And, if you want to read more about this, take a peek at this article that Martha Beck wrote on how to make decisions you won’t regret — she’s spouting the same thing, but better, and in more detail, and has better jokes).

About Laurie Gay

clean living guru :: stylist to the intelligentsia :: adventurer in navalgazing

5 Comments

  • Heidi says:

    Beautiful post hon, and incredibly well timed! I’m in the process of some crazy big change myself, and the scary has been playing havoc with my insides. The questions you pose are ones I’ve been trying to keep in mind as I move forward.

    One thing I thought I’d share; my current changes were initially motivated by running from something, so when I first had my crazy idea, I dismissed it. The thing is, the idea wouldn’t go away, and as I considered it more carefully, I realized that I could use it to herald the beginning of something new and amazing… I could celebrate the action as a running towards the life I want, rather than a running from the things I fear.

    So sometimes the ideas generated by fear are not necessarily bad ones, we just need to make sure that following through on those ideas is motivated by love… and no cheating, and justifying it as love, if deep in your heart you know it’s really fear ;)

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Laurie,

    I discovered you on the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog. I just wanted to say hi, I think what you’re doing is fabulous. I too, am a lawyer, but never intended to practice law, started a coaching business, and strangely landed in a daytime law gig just to ride out a tough spot in the economy. Now living sort of a double life and it’s working well for me now, since the day gig isn’t stressful. However, the gig is indefinite but not permanent and I sooooo look forward to working for myself again full time. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Anyway, I’ll see you on Twitter!

    (Lisa Rasa Devi)

    • Laurie Gay says:

      Lisa! I love your blog, and it’s so cool to me that you’re a lawyer and coach too. Apparently that’s one fabulous combination. :) Excited to keep up with you via Twitter (couldn’t find your handle) and blog. Thanks for reaching out!

  • Hi Laurie!

    I love your blog, and your post couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I’m dealing with lots of scary changes right now. I just quit my big firm job a couple months ago without a plan in place, besides doing some soul searching (you can just imagine the uncertainties and fears I’m dealing with!), but I’m optimistic that things will work out for the best. Keep up the great work!! :)

    • Laurie Gay says:

      I’m excited to see it all unfold — and it’s scary to leave a big firm no matter when you do it (in my opinion), so that’s very understandable. Congrats. :)

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