The participants of my women’s retreats stay in touch with each other for many months afterwards – giving encouragement, sharing successes, and requesting advice. The June retreat was no exception. The women still write to each other in a Yahoo Group. This week, MK wrote in a request for help. With her permission, I’m posting part of her note:

I’ve decided that trying to take a graduate course right now on top of all the
other new stuff that I’ve introduced into my life over the last few
months is not a good idea. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m
simply letting go of this for now and that I’m not a big cry baby
quitter who gives up when something is hard. So any thoughts on the
difference between letting go and quitting would be most appreciated.

Many of us have been in this exact place. You know you could do something if you stuck it out and worked harder. But you have a deep hunch that it’s not a good thing, or that you’re tired, or that it’s no longer serving your highest good. Success models and success books can make it seem like you must slug through things no matter what the cost. Go go go! Sell sell sell! Work work work!

What About Intuition?

What’s missing from this model is a few chapters on how to know if it’s time to shift gears, time to let go, time to say no, or time to take a break. Or how to let go and not label yourself a “quitter,” or a “failure,” or someone who just couldn’t “hack it.”

These chapters are missing because this level of knowing, this kind of decision is not something that’s written about easily. It doesn’t come from the head, and it can’t be “figured out.” It’s not a 7-step process. Often these kinds of decisions come out of something not “feeling right.” The voice inside you that says, “Something’s not good for me here.” Your intuition.

But that’s a deep voice. It’s a quiet voice. It’s a voice that most of us have tuned out for fear of going against the grain. We’ve neglected this intuitive part of us. We want reasons, and we want to be able to justify our choices to anyone who asks. Intuition isn’t a good enough reason.

So, we squelch it. Our ego gets big and puffy, and brings out what I call “The Inner Labelmaker.” The ego uses the harshest labels, the ones that trigger us the most. It’s scared, and it doesn’t want us to screw up. MK’s labels were “cry baby” and “quitter.” When I was young, I was pretty wild and I got in trouble a lot, so my labelmaker uses words the adults used, like, “irresponsible” or “unfocused.” Even now, after successfully performing, writing songs, and releasing CDs for 12 years, I still believe some of those labels on bad days! The Inner Labelmaker cares not at all for logic or proof. The Inner Labelmaker goes for shame, guilt, or whatever hooks you.

My theory is this: That we’re more afraid of what we tell ourselves about ourselves (and of the Inner Labelmaker) than we are of the outcome of our decisions.

Shift Happens

Here’s the truth: We change. (Thank God!) And as we get more tuned in to our intuition and our consciousness, our values grow and shift. Our needs become clearer. And sometimes we have let go of a goal or a relationship or a business plan and realize that it’s no longer in alignment with our current values. Sometimes it can be something we thought we wanted to do as recently as a few weeks ago, and it just wasn’t the right thing. (In the case of MK’s class.)

For the last seven years, my tour schedule has been packed full with 12 – 18 shows a month. This year, except for a six-week tour with a ballet company, I’m only doing a handful of shows. I’m doing this so I can take time to think and write and ask myself how to approach this career without burning out. This was an insanely hard decision to make. It required lots of changes in my life and in my office. The Inner Labelmaker cranked out labels daily. But so far, I’ve made more money this year than any other year before, and I’m happier. Really deeply happier. It was the right decision, and I needed to do it, even if it felt like I’d lose exposure or audiences.

Choosing to Stick it Out

One of the retreat women wrote MK a message back saying that even when grad school was so awful for her she stuck it out because she had “a vision of what I wanted to do in the long run.” She gave a compassionate perspective on her experience. Usually when people choose to stick things out, it’s because they want to. They’re choosing to do that because of a deeper meaning and fulfillment that they get out of following a higher calling. All of us deal with items in our schedules that are grueling but that take us in a great direction, so it’s worth it.

No Right or Wrong

The truth is that MK could stay in the graduate course and probably slug it out. Or she could quit the course and take it later, or not at all. Only she gets to determine whether or not it’s the best decision. There is no right or wrong. There’s only us deciding if it’s right or wrong. You might say, “Well if bad things happen, then that means it was a wrong decision.” No it doesn’t! It just means there’s a new challenge at your door. Welcome to life!

Sometimes, just making the decision brings about such enormous relief that I wonder if the problem isn’t the decision, but being undecided!

Intent and Motivation

Always know your intent and your motivation. Try to determine if you are being motivated by fear. Fear of anything is not a strong reason to choose something. Or to avoid choosing something. (Which is still a choice.) Fear of the labelmaker’s words. Fear of losing fans. Fear of amounting to nothing.

These are not reasons. These are lack. When you stick it out because of fear, you are setting intent for lack. You’re saying, “If I don’t stay here, then there will be nothing else there.” And that’s hooey. There’s always something else there.

What to Do if you Don’t Know What to Do

Usually when someone tells me she’s in a place of indecision, I can tell what she deeply wants to do. I don’t see it as indecision. I see it as fear. Too many voices saying too many things. So, do this:

1. Shut up and get still

Quit calling everyone and their sister trying to get their opinions on your life and the decision you’re making. When you do that, you’re engaging in drama as a way to distract you. Turn off the cell phone. Sit in the dark. Light a candle and be quiet.

2. Ask yourself, “What is for my highest good in this situation?”

Typically, the very first answer you get is the one you deeply want to do. “Go home.” “Break up with her.” “Quit this job immediately.” “Do not return this phone call.” I find that my wise voice is very loud when I give it a chance. It knows. And we all have that voice. The only problem is that our second-guessing voice is always so quick to jump in. “But doesn’t this mean I’m lazy?” “Shouldn’t I give her one more chance?” “I can stick it out! I know I can!” Those aren’t healthy deep voices. Go back and listen to the certain voice. Often, when you hear it, you will breathe deeply. It’s bigger than the others.

3. Act on it.

The only way to begin to trust your wise voice is to act on it. This might be scary, but it’s absolutely true. Take action. Get support from a loving friend if you need to, but act on it. Then observe.

I’m happy to report that MK quit the grad course. And she wrote in to the group to tell everyone how happy she was. Typically, this is the instant response we get. We feel happy. We feel relieved. The labelmaker’s got nothing on the lightness of feeling better. The labelmaker can nail us with all of the things our parents or teachers may have said to us, but our hearts and our bodies don’t lie. They will “talk” to us clearly.

Beware the Half-way Decision (or “I’m taking more time to let my fears to unfold.”)

I know someone who has been breaking up with her boyfriend for about three years. She has so many fears of being alone, and of having failed again that she is still half-way clinging to him, even though she’s half-way been with someone else for two years. It’s hard to watch this because I know it could hurt her health.

Our spirits don’t like to live half-way. They know we’re behaving fearfully. Fear takes a huge toll on a body. And fear doesn’t always mean quaking-in-your-boots fear. Fear can slowly become a lifestyle if you let it. Half-way decisions rarely work, and the universe will often make the decision for you at some point. You’ll lose the job you were half-way holding onto. Your old apartment in the city you’re subletting (just in case you want to go back) gets completely destroyed by the tenant who walks out on the rent.

The universe loves certainty. Test it and see.

—–

When you begin on a conscious path and when you begin to explore your authentic desires, sometimes things fall away. Sometimes it’s effortless, and sometimes you have to make it happen. That’s all. Those old labels just come up to see if you’re really serious about going to the next level or if you want to continue playing scared.

And then after you’ve made the decision to follow your intuition, choose to stick that out in spite of the second-guessing voices that try to come out.

24 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • LisaJay

    Sometimes I find that I can’t use my intuition in advance of a decision. I have to take action, and then listen to what my gut tells me. I’ve often had the experience of learning which way to go by starting to go a different way and having my gut tell me, “Nope. Not this.”

    I say gut, and it really is a full-body response. It feels like I’m not thinking the situation through or even feeling my way through, but rather listening to what my body tells me. When I make decisions I later regret, it’s typical that I’ve had a negative body response but ignored it. Part of my journey has been learning to trust what my body is telling me. It seems to know at a deeper level what’s best for me.

    –LisaJay

  • Michelle Neujahr

    Excellent! I have learned over the years to give myself permission to change my mind and to take 24 hours before making any major decision.

  • christine

    Excellent thoughts, Alvin… thanks!

  • Alvin

    I can resonate with this post. Early this year I finally found a way to fulfill a long-time dream: I’ve been a martial artist for more than a decade but I’ve never been able to find someone to teach me the Chinese swordplay which I love, until I met my teacher a few months back.

    But as the months went by, my schedule wore on me, besides my newly acquired sword class, I was still doing my old Japanese martial arts lessons, my website, my work and my social, family and personal life on top of all that. I was staying up late and feeling tired, overstretched and burnt out.

    The little voice in my head told me something had to give, but I resisted: the sword was my childhood dream! But in the end, I had to choose between the good…and the best. And I knew I had to choose the live I wanted more: more time for the higher piorities in my life.

  • christine

    Hi Laura, Yep…that’s the big one. Trusting that what YOU choose is best for you and not second guessing based on the world’s opinions! Thanks for your thoughts…

    Susie, You’re welcome. And best of luck with the decision. I hope this helps in that process!

  • Susie

    Hey Christine,
    I’ll admit that I’m pretty guilty of involving my friends and family in big personal decisions. I’m struggling with a decision right now that I’ve been talking to my best friend about. She simply said, “Well, Suz, whatever you decide, I support you.” She didn’t point me in one direction or another, but she did put the “ball” back in my court and gave me the strangth to follow my heart. As always, thanks for another great, thought-provoking post.

  • Laura

    “Quit calling everyone and their sister trying to get their opinions on your life and the decision youre making. When you do that, youre engaging in drama as a way to distract you.”
    You hit the nail on the head! I try to give this advice to people all the time. Who cares what other people think you should do, or what their weird interpretion of what your ex is thinking is. You know what’s best for you.

  • christine

    Hi Billy, I’ve been a regular now for a few months! I’ll try to keep it up…. Thanks for writing!

    Barb, Thanks, as always, for the insights and thoughts…

  • barb

    Hey MK, was going to write you but after reading the blog, I would like to agree with Christine on the thought that the fear of deciding is the biggest obstacle. Every time I hem and haw about a choice, I finally tell myself to make a decision (not what I really say to myself) and that I will feel much better. And sure enough, I do. I have to mull things over but when I find myself mulling the mulling, I know that I am afraid to make a move. I am going to try to make (oops forgive me group), I am going to make my “little voice for work” into my little voice for life. Every time I listen to my little voice at work, I make the right decision. Trust is a big issue so I am going to accept that my little voice knows as much about me as my professional little voice knows about PT. Chrisitne, as always thanks for the posts. barb b

  • Billy The Blogging Poet

    Howdy Christine,
    Just stopping by to thank you for your contribution to the Tarheel Tavern and hoping you’ll soon be known as one of the regulars.
    Thanks -Billy Jones

  • christine

    Hi Caren, You’re absolutely right about the friends thing. However, there’s a point a lot of us tend to get to where we’re stuck and we keep asking opinions and going over and over the same things. It’s drama, versus what you’re describing, which is a deep listening connection. I’m happy you were able to make that big decision to stick it out. I really don’t mean to peek into your life!

  • Caren

    But calling everyone and *my* sister is part of my process. I have a friend who describes connecting with others as completing a circuit — that until then, it’s thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, but when we’re able to connect with another, it’s allows space for those thoughts to settle and align. Frequently, it’s in telling another what’s going on with me that I hear myself give the answer I’m seeking. Now, I happen to have *amazing* friends, who know me deeply, and are able to reflect my truth without muddying it with their stuff… and are honest when they think that might happen. I do know people who would turn my stuff into theirs, have loud strong opinions, then gossip about me… but those are not the people I go to with my stuff. Ultimately, it does come down to me, sitting quietly, but before then, I seek input from people who love me, and who I know have my highest good in mind.

    And, once again, you peeked at my life, then blogged about it! Just wrestling with a decision whether to continue an important class, or put it off for a year. And the reasons for *not* continuing seem so *real*… but I’ve come to see that they’re all illusions, disguising my fear of claiming my right to be who I am, who I’m meant to be on the earth. And it will be work to continue, so it seems easier to quit right now. BUT I’m persevering. I think M. Scott Peck makes (made) the point that self-love must be present to be a motivating factor for change — and I guess I have *just enough* to continue to grow. And I’m borrowing some of my friends’ love for me, too. Thanks for a compelling entry, Christine!

  • christine

    Hi Danielle. Thank you for such a kind note….

    Kathy, I hear you loud and clear. I’ve often thought of the Four Agreements and the “Be Impeccable with your Word” agreement. And I think…”hmm. I don’t know if many of us struggle with “not being impeccable” as much as we struggle with “not saying no”!!! As far as David coming to the retreats… so far, the girls haven’t wanted guys. If I ofter a co-ed retreat, I’ll be sure to announce it!

  • Kathy

    Transitions are so hard! The over achiever in all of us tries to dominate. I used to constantly trying to fit in too many things so as not to drop anything (fear of saying no) and inevitably I ended up apologizing for not getting to something or someone, or not focusing enough on the things I am doing, and exhausting myself in the process. My tendancy is still to do it all but I am getting so much better with age at feeling ok about saying no. Now that we’ve moved up to the country house, I have a place to sit and think without distraction – looking out at the mountains to the sound of crickets and frogs. There’s nothing better than letting the wise voice be heard. By the way, David desperately wants to go on one of your retreats too. Any chance of a co-ed one sometime?

  • Danielle

    This is a beautiful piece of shared widsom, lovingly given and infinitely treasured! Thank you!

  • christine

    Anne, As usual, thanks for the insightful response. I’m glad you made it through. (It’s great that you had employers that let you take some time off from work. That sure helps!) I’m glad this resonated!

  • anne

    Wow – this so resonates with me!
    I just finished grad. school and I must have asked myself hundreds of times if it was worth the effort of finishing. For me, I decided to put everything else aside for a while (including my job) and concentrate on finishing – and it worked out for me. But almost every day while working on it, I had to ask myself – is this ‘too hard’, or just ‘hard’? It’s a real toughie. And if it is ‘too hard’, what do I need to ditch? Is the grad. school or is it something else that’s really making it too hard? The answer may be different at different times. (For me, I decided that it really was too hard for a while and I had understanding employers that allowed me to take a few weeks off). But I agree, that in your intuitive space, you DO know really.
    I had wanted to be a climate scientist ever since I watched storms from my window as a kid, and now more than ever, it’s important work, and I love it…..and that was really the answer to all the self-doubt that crept in at different times for different reasons. Can I make it work? Yes, because I really, really want to. I love it. But understanding what you really, really want at any given time definitely takes quiet space and a conversation with yourself only. Friends and family can’t help you decide….but the good friends are always there to support you in your decision.

    Thanks again for a great post Christine – and thanks MK for putting your decision to ‘let go’ out there. You go girl.

  • christine

    Thanks MK… me too! It was fun to think about…

  • mary katherine

    I’m so excited that my struggle has inspired you to write something that’s going to help tons of people. That’s way cool in my book. Yay intuition!

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