When I begin therapy with a new client I let them know what my style of doing therapy might look like to them. I explain that we are going along together in a car they are driving and I'm in the passenger seat with the roadmap. I let them know that there is a fork in the road ahead and they can make a right turn, which has consequences (good and bad), and they can make a left turn, that also has consequences (good and bad). OR they can drive straight through the barricade, go over the cliff, and crash and burn...but I'm jumping out of the car before that happens. I saw this photo and thought of how sometimes it's not a cliff but a lake that we drive into--yet the results can look very similar.
Every day we can choose to drive over a cliff and burn or dunk into a lake. It's amazing how often we make the decision knowing it's the wrong thing to do. We get overwhelmed by the possible consequences of turning right or left and so stay paralyzed behind the wheel and just drive straight into danger. We can do this in little things like starting fights that we are so committed to winning and don't know why. We can make the decision to take the drink that will push us into a relapse erasing all the days, weeks, or years of sobriety. How many urgent items have sat in your in-box unanswered and expired while you contemplated what to do? How many life changes have not happened because taking the first step feels so monstrous. Do you regret not taking that job, going to college, or buying that item when you had the money and now you can't? Do you think back on old relationships that were ruined because you couldn't commit? There is a saying that making no choice is still a choice. All three directions have consequences, positive and negative. When we avoid making a decision because we're afraid of the negative consequences we miss out on the positive ones as well. When we don't take our dream job because we're afraid of failing, we also don't get to succeed. When we don't go to college because we're afraid of the people, work, or length of time commitment, we also don't receive the diploma and the feeling of accomplishment. When we make no decision we may not receive the negative but we'll certainly regret missing out on the positive.
Like I've said, every decision has consequences. The next time you are not sure what the right answer is, grab a piece of paper and on one side write down your choice to do it (pro) and list all the positive consequences that would lead to success. On the other side write to not do it (con) and list all the possible negative consequences rooted in fear, discomfort, and possible failure.
For example, let's say you are trying to decide to go to college:
Reasons to do it: Diploma, pride, job, success, make more money, new friends, new learning experience, etc.
Reasons to not do it: 4 year commitment, student loans, homework, possible failure, don't know what to take, etc.
Then give weight to each of the consequences. How bad would you feel about each consequence? Some people have a high tolerance to challenges and will press through the negatives as trivial and have no trouble going to college. Others have a low tolerance to any inconvenience and will avoid everything that makes them uncomfortable. The first will be successful most of the time because they will do whatever it takes while others will sit home and do nothing that requires some form of risk. Unfortunately, this choice only leads them to driving in the lake or over the cliff rather than change direction.
Be willing to take a risk, even a small one. You have to practice being successful in the little things so you can build tolerance to fear in order to gain success in the big things. The good news is most of the time when you make a right or left decision, you can always make another decision to turn around. If you try the job and love it...success. If you try it and don't like it, it's not failure, you just choose another job. If you try college and you graduate...success. If you try it and don't like it, it's not failure to change your mind and find a trade that fits you better. That's the good thing about life, if you live it with purpose making choices based on what you want instead of what you don't want you'll be more successful simply because you are avoiding the lakes and cliffs in life.