“Just focus on what you want,” others would say—as if it were that easy.
On my journey to live as my authentic self, one of the biggest challenges I have had is to know how to make a decision, especially when I have no idea what outcome I want.
As I become truly conscious of every decision I make, I realize that I have been woefully out of practice. I also realized I was not being present while living.
I knew I needed to focus on the life I had and the one I wanted and that it was going to take many behavioral changes on my part, so I used the word focus as my mantra. I determined that for me the word meant:
F feel better
O own my own decisions
C concentrate on the outcome
U unlearn negative behaviors
S set realistic goals.
For a long time, I had allowed life to happen to me. That was my choice. Inaction and indecision are choices. Falling into the habit of allowing instead of participating was so easy, just as easy as blaming my unhappiness on everyone and everything around me.
I wished I could change my circumstances, but never knew what I wanted those changes to be and never made the decision to figure it out. So I stayed overweight, under-loved, constantly depressed and getting worse. Nothing about my life seemed to fit me anymore. I wanted to walk away from all of it and just start over, my marriage, my job, the state I lived in—everything I had lived for years and years. It was wrong. It was just all wrong. I was overwhelmed and nothing was clear.
But in the last year, I made one fundamental decision. I had to focus on the choices before me.
I realized that I was expecting myself to decide about situations that I was just not informed about. I had to realize my focus was misplaced on the solution, and needed to be on the process! I needed to look at how I made decisions before I made them. I had to look at why I had been content not making decisions so I could finally make them.
And when I was able to address those aspects, each decision became less overwhelming. Even the big choices I faced were less daunting.
A huge decision that I was facing was: did I want to move 1,000 miles away or stay where I am?
The lost me would have gone through this process: I am afraid of making the wrong decision. I am scared I will hurt others by my choice. I do not have a good track record with life-altering situations. I am too emotional to decide one way or the other. This is too big for me to think about. I hate feeling stuck. I am so unhappy. This is where I will be and how I will always feel. I will stay put and be miserable. I have no choice.
But the real me knows how to focus on the process: I do know that addressing the issue makes me feel better. I know that deciding not to make a move right now is a decision that I own. Then I concentrate on the outcome—that I want to feel secure emotionally and financially—so I keep that in mind as I look toward the future.
I am unlearning my old way of coping with the anxiety of making a decision, which was not choosing to do anything and then complaining about the consequences. I am learning that setting a goal of six months to address a situation so significant is realistic and allows me to weigh options and really see where my soul feels led. Through focus, I gained control and I made myself involved in my life.
Do I have an answer for my question of moving or staying put? Nope. But I have made the decision to focus on the process of making the choice within my set goal time.
The epiphany of this mantra, focus, for me was that I was so terrified of making the wrong decision that I skipped the entire process of deciding. I was so worried about the consequences that I was unwilling to take a chance. But when I slowed down and thought about my focus, my attention was not brought to the end result, but to the steps that would allow me peace in the decision making process. And after peacefully and purposely focusing, I am honoring me and listening to what I want.
I am learning confidence in my ability to commit to an outcome because I made myself empowered by the process. But the best part is that I am reminded that my strength does not come from making the right decision, but from being mindful in the process.
Author: Andrea Byford
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: zoë biggs/Flickr