Every day we make choices, both large and small. Deciding to eat out or order in, choosing to wear blue jeans over black jeans, beginning or ending a relationship, or perhaps whether you and your partner are ready to take a bigger step and move in together are common choices that most of us have or will face at some point in our lives.
The power of being able to choose, which can also be called free will, is one of the most powerful gifts that we as humans possess. Although there are consequences to some choices, we can essentially do whatever it is that we please with our time and free will. But with great power comes great responsibility.
I recently found myself at a point where I had a choice to make that was rather important. My decision has defined my life for the last 10 months and will continue to for the next year and a half at least. At my workplace, a woman walked out and quit her job on her first day after only 2.5 hours, leaving behind 12+ children with no teacher and only me to watch over them and their education until someone else took her place. And like a blue jay, my boss walked in and offered me a promotion, since I was going to be in the classroom with the children every day anyways. It was convenient. I was already going to be there, the children and I already had developed a relationship, and the pay raise would be beneficial since my partner and I had recently decided to move in together. I was told that the required training would be self paced, and this lead me to believe that it would not interfere with my choice to attend massage therapy school and earn my MT and HHP license/certificates.
After sharing the news excitedly with my loved ones, and sleeping on the idea before making my decision, I accepted a promotion at work and am now the lead teacher for a classroom of 20+ children, ages 3-5. This is quite the responsibility if I do say so myself. It's a responsibility that I chose to take on, in my own free will. But again, I made this decision because it was convenient. The journey so far has been nothing like how I thought it would be. The required training is not self paced, and the job itself is much more draining on all levels than I was anticipating. There is an expectation that I should be working outside of my work hours, as most teachers unfortunately have to do, and the pay raise means little when I have to purchase materials for the classroom myself.
Despite having the choice to take on these responsibilities and commitments, and regardless of all of the logically "good" reasons to accept the position, it was made out of perceived convenience rather than good faith in the known and unknown.
Our choices define our reality. Generally speaking, we are able to create the reality we want, and choose whether or not the parameters we were born into will define us. My current reality is a full plate with all the leafy greens and vegetables (ya know, the good stuff) falling off the edges because there is not enough space on the plate or in my belly for them. I had to make a choice about whether or not I wanted to spend time writing this or studying. As much as I have gained from this experience (endless love from children!), I cannot help but mourn the time I feel like has been robbed from me, that I now cannot give to myself or my passions because I have too many commitments to external entities.
When presented with a contract, physically or otherwise, focusing on the pros and just glancing at the cons is not always a safe idea. Accepting something at face value often leads to disappointment. It is in our best interest to exercise our free will in a manner that of course does not hurt others, but also does not hurt or hinder our own health and growth. This is why perceived convenience is not always the easiest route. So how do we navigate through life using our ability to choose in a healthy manner?
Think It Through
Although thinking through the decisions you are presented with may seem obvious, when approached with a choice that is large and will affect your life for a significant amount of time, it should be completed with intention rather than impulsion. "I'm going to sleep on it," means more than thinking about the choices you have (currently or in the past) and then deciding in the morning upon waking. It is more along the lines of establishing the pros and cons and weighing how impactful each pro and con is. My therapist taught me this trick, to give each item on each list a number between 1 and 10 to weigh how heavy each item. The pros and cons themselves should not determine the choice, but how meaningful each pro and con is to you in your life.
In addition to being thoughtful and intentional in terms of using your ability to choose, it would be wise to take into consideration the thoughts and opinions of those that love and care for you. Perhaps your parents, partner, friends, and others can give some insight into whether or not you are walking into the future with your shoes buckled tightly.
Ask Questions - even the silly ones
Asking questions is truly the only way to receive clarity in any situation. Occasionally, I ask questions that raise eyebrows and the response insinuates that perhaps the question I asked, or just me, may be lacking something in the common sense area. I stand true to myself and do not let these ideas from other people determine my worth in this setting, because it would be much worse to assume that something is a certain way when in reality it is not.
Asking questions regardless of how silly, stupid, jaw dropping, or embarrassing they may be is the only certain way to ensure that you know what you are getting yourself into before agreeing to anything (of course if there is transparency on the other end as well).
Stand in your truth and ask the questions burning in your brain so that you may receive the answers you need to take the actions you desire.
Venture Outside the Source
My partner taught me this trick, not in his words but in his actions. When he was job hunting he ran everything companies told him into the internet to confirm whether they were true or not. I wish that I had done the same, but I value the lesson that his unending wiseness taught me.
Resources such as other blogs, glassdoor reviews, and simple Google searches can help you make a decision regarding job hunting, where to start or complete your education, and obviously so much more.
Don't Let Your Emotions Get the Best of You
When the promotion to become lead teacher was presented to me, I was ecstatic. I was absolutely thrilled and felt very proud of myself for establishing myself as a trustworthy employee, and for being perceived as a good fit to care for the children in the classroom. My eagerness to succeed and please overtook my logical and critical thinking abilities for the day, that night, and the next morning when I accepted the position. I should have followed my own advice and really thought everything through, and not neglected my commitment to my education.
I let my emotions get the best of me, and while I don't necessarily regret where I am now, I would change a few things if it were possible for me to go back and do so. But that's how things are sometimes, and dwelling serves no higher purpose, therefore I am taking the experience for what it is and moving forward. It is my hope that reading this will inspire someone after me to take more caution in their next big decision making venture.
Listen to Your Intuition
If there is anything of value in this post, it is this piece: listen to your intuition. The little voice in the back of your head, the feelings in your belly when new information is presented, the sensation in your limbs when something magical (or not) appears, and in some communities your "higher self," is the one true guidance that should always be followed and cannot be shattered by anyone else. Follow your gut. Do what you believe to be right with clear intentions. Keep your intuition in a sacred place and allow it to lead you, regardless of the destination, through all of your choices, both big and small.
As humans, we have the power to make our own choices. Nothing is set in stone; there is no blueprint. We are able to use our free will to determine where we want to be in our lives. Let's navigate throughout life using our ability to choose responsibly and with clear intention, regardless of how large or simple our decisions coming up may be.
Using any of these tips currently? Have any life altering decisions on your plate? Let's chat about it in the comments below!
Maren Hoflund MT HHP, is a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner based in San Diego. This her self created space where she explores topics such as mental and physical health, self care, spirituality, and child development; in addition to her poetry and prose.