Monday, June 04, 2007

Commit to be free

Reproduced with permission from Sally Lever, downshifting coach, an extract from the june Fruitful newsletter.

Commit To Be Free.

What are you committed to? How does that make you feel - trapped or free?

If you yearn for a simple life when you’re actually living in the Rat Race, you’re living by someone else’s values and it’s your commitment to that that forms your prison.

Isn’t it amazing that just that little “c” word – commitment – can put the fear of God into some people and endows others with a warm, cosy feeling of comfort and security. How does that happen?

Perhaps it will help us if we first look at the opposite of commitment – ambivalence – the “wait and see” approach. Ambivalence can seem like an easy option in life on the surface of it. What if we’re unhappy in our job or in a relationship? The easiest solution might seem to be to just “wait and see” what happens and hope that someone else will do something that will make our decision easier – make us redundant, offer us another job, be unfaithful to us, fall in love with us. There is a case I think for taking this approach for short periods of time whilst we accept our situation and become aware of how we really feel about it.

Beyond that, whilst we are “waiting and seeing” we are likely to be directing our energies to feed our resentment, anger, frustrations and general discontent rather than using them for more productive pursuits. The biggest problem with ambivalence is that, in lifestyle terms, it represents stagnation. Our life then feels stuck, boring, lifeless and depressing because, like all living things, in order to be alive we need to grow.

No-lose decision making.

So, if being in ambivalence is not a good place to be, what’s the answer?

Making a decision.

Now “decision” is another word that some find challenging. When you assume that by making a decision you are depriving yourself of the other choices you have, then you will not feel free in your commitment. To feel free, you will need to know that you still have choices whatever you decide. Those choices might not be what you assume.

Suppose you are trying to decide whether to stay in your highly stressful but well paid job with good promotion prospects or to leave for a position that is less stressful and with shorter, healthier working hours, but with a lower salary. One popular method of helping yourself make that decision might be to write down the pros and cons of each choice and weigh them up against eachother.

Unfortunately, it can be very easy to remain in ambivalence even after doing this and your lists of pros and cons may well be a source of anguish and anxiety for what could be a very long time.

In her book “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway” Susan Jeffers suggests what I believe is a much more positive and effective method which she calls her “No-Lose Decision Making Model”. In this model, there are no “right” or “wrong” decisions, just different decisions. She suggests that we view each decision we make in our lives is an opportunity for personal growth and so it is not the decisions themselves that matter so much as our attitude to the outcome of our decisions. Having said that, of course it makes sense to research our choices and to listen to our intuition before making decisions. I’m not talking about being reckless in our decision making, but rather being confident enough to know that we are:

well-informed in what we do and
can handle whatever outcomes result.
How does that relate to the job situation I described earlier? If you find yourself in this situation, remember that what you are about to commit to is a process, not an end result. In other words, you can let go of the outcome. Your freedom stems from knowing that you are responsible only for the process, not from making something happen that may ultimately be out of your control. Also, you have the additional option of knowing that you can try out both choices. For example, you could:

1. Decide to stay in your current job and take measures to reduce the stressful aspects of your job.
2. Begin to cut your living costs so that you will feel less anxious about leaving for a less well-paid job if that becomes necessary.
3. If you are not happy with the outcome of that, then you still have the choice to leave and in the knowledge that staying in your current job would not have made you happy. You will also have learnt more about what’s really important to you in your employment and this will serve you when making further decisions.


You can commit to be free when you:

Know what your choices are or are working to uncover them.
Know what you really want or how you want to be or are making moves to find this out.
Know who and what are important to you.
View decision making as an opportunity for growth.
Suggested Reading:

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers

The Simple Living Guide – Janet Luhrs

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