Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
The other day I was talking to a friend of mine over a cup of coffee. We had met while we were out shopping, not really met, more like bumped into each other. We both had a few minutes to spare, and there happened to be a coffee shop nearby, and so we decided to have a cup of joe and a chat.
We started talking about mistakes, and big mistakes that we’ve made in our lives. I don’t know how we got on that subject; I think she was concerned with her current relationship, that it may not be the right one for her. She is getting close to 30, and some girls feel some pressure, both internal and external to find somebody serious by then. I think she is wondering if she chose him because he was “Mr. Right Now,” instead of “Mr. Right.” I didn’t really want to get into some prolonged discussion about her boyfriend, but since she was veiling her conversation about him through general life mistakes, I was game.
Sometimes you can solve problems by addressing them structurally rather than specifically. If you get too involved in the particulars of a problem, you can lose the forest for the trees. That’s how therapeutic metaphors work. You hear some story that has the same structure to your problem, and by vicariously going through the metaphor, you can figure out a solution to your problem, oftentimes unconsciously.
That’s how Milton Erickson was able to heal people. He was a therapist that invented a strange kind of conversational hypnosis. People would come in and give him their problem, like bed-wetting or fear of elevators. He would them tell them a story that was completely different in content, but similar in structure, that had a happy ending. The people would leave, and discover a couple weeks later that their problem had been solved.
For example, if somebody was afraid of elevators, the traditional approach would be to talk about elevators, how they became scared of elevators, or to try and convince them of how safe they were using statistics. But a metaphorical approach would ignore elevators altogether, and focus on somebody who was afraid of doing something, and then by changing his focus on the positive outcome, rather than the thing he feared, he was able to overcome his fear. And after he overcame his fear of whatever it was, he realized how insignificant his fear really was.
Which is kind of what I suspect my friend was getting at. She wanted to discuss the possibility that she was making a mistake with her current boyfriend, without actually talking about her relationship. Talking about mistakes in general, I got the impression she was trying to find out if there was a general way to tell going into a potentially troublesome situation if you stick it out, and hope everything works out, or eject as soon as possible.
Sometimes you don’t need to make that decision, as certain actions are short lived. If you are playing on a particular golf course for the first time, and you choose a pitching wedge instead of an eight iron, you might come up short. You could consider this to be a mistake, but it is one you can learn from and do better next time. If you ever play this course again, and have the same lie, you’ll know to use your eight iron.
Those that study learning and brain development suspect this is how all learning takes places anyways. We make all kinds of small mistakes, and automatically correct them as we go along. A baby’s way to learn how to speak is to move their tongues around and make a bunch of random sounds until they figure out which ones get the right responses. Same with walking and learning all other motor skills.
However, some choices have much more impact than choosing a club. Like choosing a job or a marriage partner can have horrible results if you don’t choose wisely. And since most of us donâ€™t get married a bunch of times or go through ten or twenty jobs in our lives, it can be tough to “learn” how to get married or choose the right career the same we “learn” how to walk or talk or approach the green.
The question is, and this is what I think my friend was getting at, is how do you know if your intuition is telling you that you’re making a bad decision, and how do you know when you are just nervous? If it were easy, nobody would ever get divorced or find themselves in a job they hate. But many people get divorced, or are stuck in terrible jobs or terrible relationships.
So the topic of the conversation was mistakes we’d made, and how we knew they were mistakes, and how we rectified the situation. One thing I learned, or one concept I was exposed to, was to future pace. If you are in a situation, and you think it may be a mistake, project yourself out into the future a few years, and see how it comes out. Imagine the best possible scenario, and the worst possible scenario, and the likelihood of both coming to pass. This is where intuition can be very powerful. Sometimes it’s impossible to make an accurate prediction of the future, but your intuition can usually do a pretty good job.
Project yourself out in the future and do a “gut check.” Is it an overwhelmingly good feeling a bad, feeling, or a “blech” feeling? If you’re make a decent decision and are just nervous, you’ll usually get a good feeling if you’re honest with yourself. But if you immediately think to feel repulsed at a possible future, the chances are you’re making a huge error in judgment.
This can be difficult, as many times we are afraid to look into the future, and only pay attention to the immediate pleasures of the present. My friend didn’t particularly like the idea of facing 30 and being single, so that was keeping her from facing the future at 35 or 40 having lived with this guy for that many years. But when she did take a peek into the future, her gut told her that it didnâ€™t look good. So she was faced with making a tough decision.
Break up with her boyfriend, and accept an unpleasant present, or get engaged to him, as she suspected this was where her relationship was leading, and face an even worse future.
As emotionally uncomfortable as it is, many times the lesser of two evils is the obvious choice. But sometimes something pretty cool happens. By making a strong choice in the present, however uncomfortable, the future suddenly looks a lot brighter, giving you more resources and peace of mind in the present than you thought you had.
To expand your resources in the present and make the best possible choices for the future, click on the link below: