I often find myself grappling with how to make the “right” choice, both in my personal life and my professional life. How do I make choices that are at least relatively free of agendas based on old patterns of thinking and understanding?
I realize how much my desire to make the right choices has to do with how I can best protect myself from the perceived loss of control over outcomes, over feeling vulnerable, from what I have come to understand about what feels safe and what does not feel safe. Vulnerability feels threatening, as though I’m opening myself up to harm. So many of the choices I’ve made in life are in service of attempting to manage those, often imagined or perceived, threats.
I try to make choices when I’m feeling more regulated, when my head feels clearer. But I can feel the tightness rising in my chest, the fog descending around my head, even as I begin thinking about making a choice related to something that seems like a “wrong” choice could have all sorts of negative ramifications. I try to sort out what is imagined, what is assumed based on those patterns of thinking that may have served me well at one point in my young life, but are no longer useful. I try to notice the feelings, the tugs to protect myself, and while noticing that, working to discern as objectively as I can, what is “true”.
I’ve sometimes found it useful to move out the intellectual realm by imaging that I’ve made a particular choice, and then noticing what that feels like in my body, and where I feel it. At times this has been helpful, though I still have to be very intentional about sorting out feelings related to old triggers, and those that feel more aligned with what serves me well today.
Like so many pieces of our journeys here on earth, choices are not static or fixed. There are so many moving parts that affect the outcomes of choices we make, and a choice that moves us in one direction today, may move us in a very different direction tomorrow. Even what might appear to be a poor choice, could end up serving us, and possibly those around us, well.
More and more I am shifting my perspective away from the extremes of good or bad, right or wrong, this or that. This type of polarized thinking is a natural outgrowth of the stress we experience from living in an uncertain world. It is an attempt to create a measure of certainty that provides a sense of comfort, but it also keeps us on guard in an attempt to protect that certainty from falling apart. Life is about choices, and although we can make choices that don’t serve us well, in the end, in many respects, they are all just that; choices, with each having different outcomes, different opportunities and different challenges. Though for some outcomes, this perspective requires a much larger world view than we may be accustomed to.
I am sitting on the crest of the Sandia Mountains on the outskirts of Albuquerque. There are pinyon, juniper and fir trees surrounding me. The only sounds I hear are the breeze and a couple of birds scratching around in the duff looking for insects. The world makes sense up here, and in this relative silence, the decision of making one choice over another feels less complicated.