Do you have a dream calling you but you can’t choose it now because 1) you might fail, 2) the economy is shaky, 3) you have the kids to think about, 4) you’re not sure it is your life purpose, etc. etc. etc.?
I just spent a week in Moscow, Russia, teaching coaching skills. Most of the practice sessions focused on coaching someone who just couldn’t do what they really wanted to do because of one of the excuses named above.
I find it interesting that many of the sessions I teach around the world are filled with people who want to be coached on the same problem. Not only do they adeptly find ways to make their yearning wrong, it was always someone or something else’s fault that they can’t move forward.
The Big Question always boils down to, “Who is making your decision? Society, your parents, or the slave-driver, fear-monger, criticizer in your head?” Is your dedication to what you have just an excuse to stay safe?
I’ve heard people say, “I can’t leave my job now because it would hurt the team.” Or, “I can’t move the family to a new city for a great job because it would upset them too much.” They find reasons to avoid even talking to their bosses, their husbands/wives, or friends about what they really want to do, using the excuse of making people upset or destroying their lives even though they are slowly destroying their own.
In the book, The Practice of Presence, Patty de Llosa writes, “Finally, my dedication to ‘keeping the family together’ led to illness, depression, and a lot of suffering before I could separate from my husband and begin life again.”1 She goes on to describe what she learned about the myth of family from psychologist James Hillman, that keeping the family together is not always the best option, and possibly detrimental to the psychic health of children. The excuse keeps the troubled person from talking about problems and dreams. The resentment leads to a break down of the relationship which doesn’t keep the family together anyway.
People change. Dreams change. What is important changes. It is not your fault if the job or relationship is not fulfilling anymore, but not talking about your needs won’t make them go away.
My mother was always angry. It wasn’t until I was in therapy trying to deal with my own relationship difficulties that I realized her anger led to my fear of intimacy. She had given up her dreams as a child to her brother because he needed a career while she could find a man to support her. Then she married and had an instant family to care for. Her simmering resentment was tangible until Alzheimer’s ravaged her. I now wonder if she ever told my father what she needed, or did she just play the good wife.
My experience made me wonder, “Is it better to have an angry mother in a family unit, or a mother who isn’t always there because she is fervently pursuing her dreams?” I would have liked to have my mother role model the latter. There will always be arguments around what is the right thing to do but I believe creating an environment of hope and happiness is better than one of anger and resentment.
I am not advocating that you quit your job or marriage today. I don’t think making life decisions based on what you don’t want anymore is enough. You still need to flesh out a vision of the life you want to create and a plan for getting there. Yet the plan should be one you can negotiate and begin today, even if the first steps are small. You might read a book, have a conversation with someone about the direction you want to take, or sign up for a class on starting a business. Do something so you feel movement in your life. This will help you release some of your resentment and suffocation.
If you do summon the courage to make a significant change in your life, there is a good chance things will be difficult and you will question your choice before the path gets better. Yet most people land on their feet whether they jump or fall. You may even find that one choice was just a step to the next, as you create many chapters in your life.
Whether contemplating a change in job, career, or relationship, here are some questions to help you sort out your indecision:
What is the myth you are telling yourself? What is the excuse for staying you keep saying over and over?
Even if you don’t know what you want instead, what steps would help you feel you are moving forward?
Who will let you talk about your dreams without judgment? Be sure you have someone who will stand for and with you no matter what you decide to do.
What inner strengths can you call on? Recall a time in your life when you accomplished something you were proud of. What inner characteristics did you call on to make this happen? Were you courageous, determined, creative, curious, trusting (had faith), adventurous, hopeful, or competitive? What inner strengths and gifts can you call on to quit hiding behind your “dedication” and move?
Whatever you decide to do with the next chapter of your life, don’t assume the people in your life won’t support your dreams. You might be surprised to find they want you to find a path to happiness even if it is disruptive to your life now. Maybe there is a compromise you didn’t see.
What decision will you regret NOT making a year from now? Take one step toward it today.
1 Patty de Llosa. The Practice of Presence: Five Paths for Daily Life. Morning Light Press, page 108.
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