1) Feel the Decision
I can’t emphasize this enough: try to understand how you feel about a decision or situation. Not what you think you should feel. Or what you think others will feel. How do you feel? In your gut? In your heart? When you think of the situation, how do you feel physically? If you need a more concrete exercise write down all the adjectives you associate with your situation.
2) Learn to Categorize those Feelings
Once you’ve started to figure out how you feel, then break it down even further. For example, one of the emotions I’m having is “fear.” But I don’t want that fear to control me or dictate the direction I’m taking. I want to understand where that fear is coming from. Here’s some of it: Fear of not finding another part-time job. Fear of my family being disappointed in me. Fear of not being able to pay my bills. Fear of not finding time to write.
This allows me to see that, while I’m feeling afraid of making this change, it’s all the “what ifs” that are creating this emotion. Not the act of making the decision.
3) Look Outward
Look to friends, family, and coworkers who have made similar courageous decisions. Find stories that remind you that you can, and will, land on your feet. It’s not always easy (and we can always find those horror stories that reinforce our biggest fears) but it’s important to do this. Anytime I doubt I’m capable of doing X, Y, or Z, I look out into the world. There are thousands of people writing poetry. Thousands of people writing novels. If they can do it, why not you?
4) Find Support
A lot of anxiety comes from the unknowns. So any time we anxious people try to make a change (no matter how small) it can exasperate our anxiety. So, naturally, big changes can make anxiety intolerable. I’ve been working really hard to make all these big changes independently, which I know I can do, but I also haven’t been reaching out to friends for support. I’ve been leaning too heavily on my boyfriend. I’m sure he’s puzzled by my emotions. So I am going to make myself reach out to friends. Even though I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, or self-centered, I know it’s important. To feel heard. To feel understood. Don’t think you have to be courageous all on your own.
5) Trust the fall
It’s like those bogus trust games you play in team-building exercises. Someone folds their arms, falls backwards, and hopes the assholes behind them actually catches them. And usually they do. But even if they don’t? You just get a lot of bruises and rights to give those two people crap for the rest of the team-building nightmare. But you survive. Taking a big step is scary since you can’t always see the next step. For someone like myself, who is spiritual but wasn’t raised in a specific religion, finding faith in uncertain times can be a big challenge. I often just want to shout “screw everything!” I have to practice and remind myself of faith every day. Showing myself grace and patience. Learning to trust things will work out even if I can’t clearly see how.
If you are facing a difficult decision in your life, I wish you luck. And I hope you listen more closely to your heart than your head. And then maybe listen to some Head and the Heart (see what I did there??)