What would it be like to believe that every choice you make can be reassessed anytime you want/need?
How would it feel to enter a decision-making process with this idea in mind?
So many teens and young adult clients are stressing about the culturally-conditioned need to have a step-by-step plan in place OR ELSE. “I need to know my major before I pick a college;” “My parents want me to go to a school that has a strong ____ program, so I guess I should do it.”; “I have to decide if I want to move away for good or stay at home.”
Other clients share about the ways they feel stuck in commitments they’ve made, whether those be with people (friendships or romantic relationships) or extracurriculars or jobs.
This is too much damn pressure y’all.
Furthermore, this kind of thinking is claustrophobic and static; it doesn’t leave space for your evolution. These phrases illustrate the ways we have been taught to focus on assumed outcomes. In my experience, this way of thinking pulls me out of the present and weighs me down with expectations for exactly how we think things should go. (When I make decisions this way, I start the experience feeling trapped. And then when things don’t go exactly the way I wish, my sense of worth can be shaken to the core.)
Holding Choices in Freedom Does NOT Mean Checking Out
Let me be clear: Holding choices in freedom does not mean taking a passive approach to life. I am not suggesting that you just let it happen to you. Additionally, I am not advocating for flippant or impulsive decision-making. Much the opposite, actually!
Holding your choices in freedom is an active and intentional practice.
When you work through the process of making a decision, particularly one that you might describe as “big,” things can seem to move very quickly or feel very black and white. The client comments above illustrate this extreme-type thinking. It’s totally normal to feel an increase in intensity or emotions when you’re working through this process.
Thus, it can be super helpful to Slow. Things. Down.
Stop. Breath. Feel.
Then, remind yourself that you can (and will) change your mind/path/course/plan along the way. And that’s okay. It’s necessary, in fact. As you and your circumstances and the world around you changes, your choices and decisions will too.
Keep reading for 8 ways to give yourself the gift of freedom as you make choices. Today and every day.
How to Hold Your Choices in Freedom
- Slow down whenever you are in a decision-making process. Breathe and invite yourself to take things one step at a time.
- Offer yourself an affirmation about freedom. These are a few that I’ve come up with: “I have the freedom to make this choice and any other choices that serve me.” “I have the power to change my plans.” “It’s up to me to make decisions that serve me.” “Choices can change over time if I want them to.” “I am always growing and changing, and my choices will too.” I invite you to play with the words that resonate with you and create a phrase of your own if none of these fits.
- Create a system for checking in with yourself regularly about the choices/decisions you are making and your relationship with these choices. This could be a weekly appointment with yourself, a mood tracker in your BUJO, a monthly reflection in your journal, spiritual practices like reflection or prayer, a daily recounting of the day or any other ritual you prefer. The idea here is to make time to check in about your choices. What’s working? Not working? What shifts are you feeling called to make? What questions do you have that you want to clear up before you make a decision? And so on.
- Gently remind yourself that you cannot predict how a choice will actually conclude. Even if you think you know the ultimate outcome or have a clear idea of what you expect the outcome to be, things can and will change course. And that’s okay.
- Trust your worth. The various alternatives you are considering are not “good” or “bad,” and furthermore, you are not “good” or “bad” based on the decisions you ultimately make. Your worth is steady and inherent.
- Ask for help from your support system, as needed. When things get hazy or overwhelming or confusing or exciting or any other big emotion, reach out and ask for help. It can be powerful to be witnessed by the peers and adults in your life whom you trust.
- Remember that it takes time to make and integrate new choices into your life. Everything takes time. Go as slow as you need.
- Return to the affirmations that give you a sense of freedom. At your regular check-ins, or during times of reflection and discernment, you might like to revisit the affirmations that empower you.
You are Constantly Making Choices
In conclusion, I would like to name the fact that you already have so many important decision-making skills. Any choice you make requires a constant re-engagement of that choice over time until you are ready to make a new or different choice. When you choose to go to school, for example, you make this choice over and over, 5 days a week, for many weeks of the year, for many years. Does this feel true?
When you are dating someone, you make a choice to show up for the relationship each day until you (or they) decide that it’s no working out. And then you both have to make different choices. True?
Finally, as you continue making choices day in and day out, I invite you to give yourself the gift of freedom– to continue making the decisions you’re making; to make new/different decisions; to stick with your plan; to edit the plan; to go back to the drawing board. You’ve got this!