I could have also titled this post, When you know what you want to do but are told that you have to choose one path and you have to make a decision no one else can make for you and you really wish someone would come over and tell you what to do and make you cookies.
But that felt like an obnoxious choice. So, we’ll go with this one.
For the last few months, I’ve been wrestling with a big and difficult decision in my career. I was told that I had two paths in front of me and I had to choose one: I could remain in my role as Studio Manager, or I could be a performer. Choosing the former provided a fair sense of security, but it wouldn’t allow me to teach the number of classes I desired or pursue my bigger vision of teaching teachers. Choosing the later would offer me the possibility of those things aligned with my vision, but it didn’t guarantee it. In fact, it didn’t guarantee anything. It was a huge risk aligned only with a vision.
The facts were that it didn’t matter that I did both roles well. It didn’t matter that I knew I could do both roles well, in the way I wanted to do them. It didn’t matter that I had the hard facts and personal and professional accolades behind me to support my argument. It also didn’t matter that other people could do both roles and I couldn’t. I had to make a choice, a very difficult choice between what I knew and what would be a big unknown.
I wrestled with the logic and the emotion behind this decision. And for weeks, I convinced myself that if I could understand it, if I had all the facts, I could control it.
Our Western minds are trained to go down a path of explaining and we think if we can understand something, we have control over the outcome of that thing. We’re conditioned to believe the only reason we should do things is if we know exactly why, where we are headed, and for what purpose. So, when we don’t have clear answers and precise guarantees, taking a big step feels like a risk at best, and a regretful mistake at worst.
Wrestling with logic and emotion rendered me stuck in a state of ‘I don’t know’ and the more I tried to wrap my arms around understanding my decision, the further conflicted I became.
That’s because big decisions, the life changing kinds of decisions, are not thought through. They have to be felt through.
Research shows that at a certain point in the decision, emotions are crucial for choosing. Even when we believe we are being “logical” with our decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion. A few years ago, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made a groundbreaking discovery that showed that people who had damage to their limbic system, the part of the brain that governs emotions, all shared something in common: they couldn’t make decisions. They could describe what they should be doing in logical terms, but they struggled to make simple decisions, such as what to eat. Many decisions possess both pros and cons – should I have ice cream or kale? – and with no rational way to decide, these individuals were unable to arrive at a decision.
Unlike these individuals, what keeps us stuck from making a decision is not because we can’t feel. It’s because we feel too much and we don’t want to feel our way through.
I didn’t want to feel my way through the fear of the unknown. I didn’t want to feel the anger or resentment of the mounting situation. It was heavy, unsettling and paralyzing. But, I got to the point that I couldn’t take much more, and that is when my pain broke me open.
The pain of any situation holds the power to keep us stuck, but it also holds the power to propel us forward. Fear, if left unchecked, can leave us drowning in a pool of self-doubt and settling for a status quo that leaves us dissatisfied and unfulfilled – if not outright miserable. It’s the reason we stay in jobs we loathe or in relationships that leave us lonely. Or, on the flip side, it’s the reason we never apply for the job, take a chance on our dreams, or fight for being with the love of our life. But fear, when leaned into, can become the single spark that lights our flame – it’s that pain that will push us until our vision pulls us forward.
I’ve made the decision to leave my role as Studio Manager for LifeTime Fitness Fort Washington and my last day in this role will be this Saturday, February 3rd. I’m stepping out of this role so that I can align with my purpose and pursue a greater vision of teaching teachers – and don’t worry, I’m still teaching all my current classes at Fort Washington.
In some ways, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it was a decision that wasn’t based on hard facts, solid guarantees or pure logic. It wasn’t a decision of this-for-that where I’m trading my role as a Studio Manager for that of a Master Trainer. Rather, this decision is a leap of faith decision, a trusting myself decision, an aligning with my truth decision, a purpose-driven decision.
Looking back, I’ve made most of my decisions – be it leaving a relationship or a job – because of something else. In the few times I haven’t based my decision on logic, in the times I have simply made a decision based on how I feel, I have found myself in places and with possibilities I couldn’t have dared to imagine. And so, I’m following my heart here too. I’m leaving for me. I’m leaving because I am no longer willing to fight what I’m up against and my energy and talents are better spent fighting for how I want to feel and what I want to bring to the world.
The future in many ways is still uncertain, but I’ve also come to realize that I don’t need to understand something or have all the answers to control it. Life will always be, to a certain extent, outside of my control. What I can do is trust the path I’m on, the amazing support I have beside me (the members who come to class, my team, my mentors, my life coach, my friends and family and my girlfriend), and the values I live by daily. What I can do is keep to my path and remember that my path forward is one I get to create and when I’m aligned with my vision and truth, I will find a way toward my greater purpose of teaching teachers.
Sometimes the hardest decisions are our best decisions and that’s because of the path it takes to get there. Much like the pressure that is needed to turn coal into a diamond, it is navigating our difficult feelings that allows us to align with our vision and make the decisions that resonate at a soul level. The road to these decisions is not easy and the voice of fear will be loud – leaving the comfort zone of what you know, no matter how certain or uncomfortable where you are is, will always be one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. But, the moment you decide that the pain of where you are and what you’re up against is no longer your fight to take, you become the most powerful version of yourself that you can be.
What the most difficult best decision you’ve ever made?