In dealing with any difficult situation, large or small, I’ve found we essentially have three choices. No matter which one we choose, what if we didn’t do what we usually do, label or judge it as right or wrong, better or worse? What if instead, we chose to evaluate our decision based on how we think we might feel after choosing it? It’s basically the idea of taking a moment to check in with ourself before we choose. For example, we might ask ourselves “Is it getting me closer to what I want? Am I willing to be responsible for the outcome of this choice? Is this the most positive choice I could make regarding this situation?” In my opinion, the most important question is “will it leave me feeling a little better than I was feeling before?”
Not always, but many times we can choose to take a moment, an hour, or a day to mentally “try on” each choice. If you wanted to try this, you could ask yourself each question, as you do “listen” to your feelings to evaluate the possible outcomes. If the answers feel like a “no”, you may want to reconsider that choice before you make it. If the answers feel like a “yes”, you might go ahead and give that choice a try. If it doesn’t turn out as you thought, by not judging or criticizing yourself, it will be easier to choose differently next time. The question is ” are you feeling better as a result of the choices you just made?”
Here are the three choices:
1. Do nothing – not always but many times when we choose to avoid dealing with a stressful situation we are usually guaranteeing it’s return in some form. Remember in grade school when you got a math problem wrong on a test? When you got your test back you were asked to rework the problems you got wrong until you got them right. Life is like that. If we do nothing, we will repeatedly end up dealing with the same problems for example, we keep losing and regaining weight or we keep arguing about the same things in a relationship. Things will usually continue this way until we make a different choice.
2. Do something – we can choose to take action. This can be one small step in any direction. It doesn’t need to be scary or huge. Taking any action is usually better than taking no action even if it doesn’t immediately solve the problem. Taking any action can help us figure out our next step, either keep going or change directions. The “best” action to take is one with a positive intention behind it. That means we’re choosing it because something about it appeals to us in a good way or creates pleasant feelings for us.
Here’s an example of what I mean. You’ve just been to the doctor. They tell you they want to follow up on one of your blood tests which will require repeat testing. It’s time for you to make a choice on how you would like to respond to this information. Using choice number one, you can do nothing. You can choose not to go back or not to follow up with their advice. Using choice number two you can choose to take action by either going in for further testing as they recommend, checking things out on the Internet, going somewhere else and getting a second opinion, etc.
3. Change the way we think about it – Let’s say you’re not satisfied with your current job or living situation. You’re thinking about moving or changing jobs but at this moment, you’re not ready to make a change. In order to feel peaceful about this situation and be kind to yourself, you can choose to think about your current situation in a way that’s helpful, supportive and makes you feel better. We don’t want to lie to ourselves here, we just want to tell ourselves any positive truth about the situation. What I mean is, though it may be true that you don’t like your boss, your workload or the brand of coffee that’s available in the break room, there are things you do like, your coworkers, a consistent income, or your office is within walking or biking distance of your home. All of those things may be true at the same time. Which thought has the potential to leave you feeling better NOW? If you’re not ready to make the move, why focus on things that don’t make you feel good, the things you don’t like, when the things you like also exist and are true. What we focus on in any situation is our choice. Yes, it’s true the negative things will pop into our head, but that doesn’t mean we invite them to take up residence there. We can say “hello and goodbye” to them as we gently escort them out and replace them with a thought that leaves us feeling better.
Which one of these choices leaves you feeling better? That will be the right choice for you.
Being able to look back at the feeling your choice has created for you, and being willing to change your choice if it didn’t leave you with a better feeling, is one of the most powerful tools I’ve learned in helping myself to feel better now. The biggest benefit from doing this is that you don’t have to continue experiencing the same things that cause you pain. What could be better?
With love, Jackie