She had a great job at an advertising agency in New York City, and was quickly moving up the ranks there. She lived in a duplex apartment in the West Village with her two roommates from college. She had a close circle of friends, a cute boyfriend, and her entire family lived nearby, in suburban Connecticut.
Despite having what seemed like “it all,” she wanted a change. She’d grown up in Connecticut and had never lived in any other part of the country. She longed for a change of scenery and a new adventure. Specifically, she longed for Northern California with its mild weather, gorgeous mountain vistas, and a year-round outdoor lifestyle.
Pamela came to me struggling with what to do.
“There are good things about living here, and also good things about living there. I feel so torn.”
I asked her to elaborate. She went back and forth about the pros and cons, talking in circles for a while.
Finally, she threw up her hands. “I just can’t decide!” she cried.
The ties that bind us
Pamela was in the throes of an “I just can’t decide” moment. How often have you heard a friend bemoan the fact that she “just can’t decide” what to do about a particular situation? Maybe she just can’t decide whether to change jobs, or have a baby, or like Pamela, move across the country.
I’ve found that “I just can’t decide” is often what we tell ourselves when the truth is, “I know what I want but I don’t know if it’s ok to want it.”
This phenomenon actually keeps us safe – safe from making a move that’s outside our comfort zones.
It’s lovely inside your comfort zone. It’s safe, and warm, and you can’t make any wrong decisions. Everyone approves of you there. Everyone likes you. You don’t have to take risks and you don’t have to be vulnerable.
Your comfort zone is like the comfiest couch you’ve ever sat on. It feels so warm, safe, and plush. But you can sink into it so deeply that you never want to get up. How many of us have stay trapped in a job or relationship that wasn’t working, sometimes for years, simply because it’s comfortable and safe there? Because the alternative, getting out and changing our lives, seems too scary to even contemplate?
We tell ourselves stories about what may happen if we make a move outside our comfort zone. Everyone will talk about me, or They’ll all think I’m crazy or irresponsible or lazy or crazy or whatever other stories you’re telling yourself.
The problem with your comfort zone is, like your couch, it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s safe, because it’s static. You can’t grow in your comfort zone. You can’t become your truest and most authentic self in your comfort zone, because you’re not evolving or moving forward. When you live inside your comfort zone, you’re keeping yourself safe inside society’s rules and boundaries – rules that were created a long time ago and passed down to us over generations.
But breaking out of our comfort zones offers vast rewards, the most important of which is freedom. If you have the courage to live authentically, you’ll have access to a whole new world of experiences, with the potential for joy and fulfillment that doesn’t exist inside society’s boundaries and rules.
If only someone would come along and say, You’re allowed to do this thing that you really want to do. You’re allowed to get out of the relationship/quit the job/sell the house/start taking pole dancing classes.
Sadly, no one is handing out permission slips to us that will allow us to live our truest and most authentic lives. It’s up to us to give ourselves permission.
Realizing it’s challenging to give ourselves permission, I have written you a permission slip. Feel free to write it down and use it whenever you have that “I just can’t decide feeling.”
You have permission to be who you are, to live authentically and wholly in your truth, whatever that looks like.
If that means taking pole dance classes in order to rediscover your sensuality, do it. You have permission. If that means moving across the country because it’s what you want to do and it feels exactly right for you, do it. If that means reevaluating your relationship, go ahead. If that means changing careers, or giving up your career, or starting a new business, do it. Wanting to do it is enough reason.
There are a few caveats to this of course – this advice applies as long as no harm is being done to others, physically or emotionally. Aside from that, there is only one you, and you’re the only one with your unique combination of strengths and talents, and experiences. You have precious little time here on earth. There is not one minute to waste living a life that doesn’t thrill you.
So the next time you’re faced with a dilemma and “just can’t decide,” think about what you really want. Think about what’s best for you and the people around you. Notice your intuition and what it’s telling you. And if all those factors check out, and you still want to do this thing and STILL can’t decide, remind yourself, you have permission.