It wasn’t too long ago that, if I had agreed to do something or be part of something, even if new information, insight or circumstances appeared causing a change of heart, I would have felt obligated to persist. I might have resented it, and there might be other negative consequences, but I would feel like I had to do what I said I was going to do. After all, that is my definition of integrity.
Recently, I was approached online, out of the blue, about an opportunity. This one felt different than a lot of the other ones I have received in the past several months. I was intrigued, so I agreed to learn more about it. The opportunity seemed to be a good fit, but it is my crazy time with my advising work, and Logan was getting ready to run at the State Cross Country Meet, so I deferred my decision until I could give it better attention. After a phone meeting following State, I meditated on the opportunity, asked questions and went through a thorough discernment process, including Marie Forleo’s decision-making strategy. I felt really sure that I was making a good choice to accept the opportunity. So, I had a phone meeting to finalize it and firm up the details. Once I went through the steps to formalize my connection while I was on the phone, a lot more material, multiple Facebook groups and additional information were opened to me. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed.
As soon as I got off the phone, I thought, “I made a mistake.’
Throughout the next day, I was too busy with work to give it much thought, but I took a peek at some information and group activity, and that confirmed my sinking feeling that it was not going to be the right fit. Still, I felt stuck. I said I would do it! I didn’t want to back down on my word.
Besides feeling stuck, I felt betrayed. Not by the people involved in the opportunity. The offer was very low key, and there was no deception. I just didn’t understand the full picture until more information—designed to be helpful—was revealed to me after I had agreed to the affiliation. During that conversation, I was overwhelmed—a tendency of my introverted need to process and let things sink in. So, it wasn’t that I felt deceived, but I felt betrayed by my intuition and my thoughtful discernment. I had felt like my decision was guided and clear. Could I not trust my intuition? I had felt so certain. It had felt so right. It was unsettling. How could I ever trust myself to make good decisions?
I didn’t really have time to process my thoughts after I got off the phone. I needed to wash dishes and prepare for the next workday by making my breakfast and packing Logan’s lunch. Kenny and Logan got home from Flying Angels practice shortly after I finished the call, so I put away my worry until I could process it.
As I was doing laundry after work the next day, I thought, “In order to be successful at this, I am going to have to take much more time than I realized from my writing, my coaching and my family.” That didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel like living in integrity. These things were priorities. I decided to sleep on it and make a decision after meditating the next morning.
My morning meditation sealed my decision. I needed to rescind my participation.
Being clear about my priorities and deciding to honor them helped me to feel calm and confident. I did some research to find out what rights I had, and then I sent a gracious and clear message stating my decision. I took the next steps and, after some technical difficulties, had put my separation in motion. Immediately, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I felt free and hopeful. I got on my bike and smiled, despite the 31-mph wind.
As I rode, several things became clear to me. I am sharing them here because I know I am not the only one who struggles with backing out of something we have agreed to do, even if it no longer feels right. Changing our minds can stressful and is often fraught with anxiety and doubt and guilt and shame. I see and hear this in my students, and I know it from personal experience. These are the insights I gleaned from this experience:
- It is okay to change our minds. In fact, if we have agreed to something that we later realize does not align with our priorities, goals, values, passions or strengths, changing our minds may be the only way to stay in integrity. If we are really going to follow through on something that is truly important to us, and we realize something else is going to get in the way, we need to release the thing that is keeping us from what really matters. A quote I have long loved from Johann Wolfgang van Goethe urges us to uphold our priorities: “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
- It is better to back out of an ill-fitting situation than to stay in it and resent it. No one wins when resentment comes into play. In this post from 2019, I talk about the importance of setting boundaries. Boundaries help to make sure that we are serving our most important goals and not letting other things encroach on those priorities. And, as Brene´ Brown reminds us, “The trick to staying out of resentment is maintaining better boundaries—blaming others less and holding myself more accountable for asking for what I need and want.” We have both the right and the responsibility to change our mind and to take action when we realize that something is not right for us. To do anything other than that is to shirk our responsibility for our own lives. It is no one else’s job to keep us true to our priorities or to keep us out of resentment. That responsibility is ours alone.
- Sometimes changing our mind is actually the point. As part of my meditation every morning, I state my openness to creative possibilities for abundance and to opportunities from unexpected sources. As I rode my bike, reveling in the freedom I felt after extricating myself from the anxiety-provoking commitment, I understood that the gift of the whole experience was actually the lessons I learned by recognizing my need to change my mind. I thought the “creative possibility for abundance and opportunity from an unexpected source” was the partnership itself, but what became clear on my bike was that the whole point of the experience was taking responsibility for holding true to my priorities. I felt amazing after I graciously, yet unapologetically rescinded my agreement.In doing so, I realized that I had stood up for myself and for what I know to be right and true for me. This was practice I needed. The betrayal I felt was really misunderstanding. I thought my discernment led me to accept this opportunity because it was right for me. Instead, I was led to it because I needed the experience of assertively owning my priorities and taking steps to honor them. I feel proud of myself for the way I handled it. I have no ill feelings toward the people on the other side of the offer. I hope they have none toward me. But it is not my responsibility to worry about that. I was respectful and gracious and removed myself with integrity. That’s all I can or need to control.
- Changing our minds can fuel our commitment to our priorities and our sense of self-reliance. This is what it is doing for me. I stepped out of my comfort zone and honored my priorities, and that feels good. Taking the “risk” to do that (looking bad, feeling bad, seeming wishy-washy, etc.) was a declaration about what really matters to me. And I did it myself. I got myself into the bind, and I took quick action, once I had the information to realize that the fit was not there, to step out of the situation. I haven’t always stood up for myself like that. It feels good to have done it now, and it helps me to realize how much I want to finish and publish my book and to create a viable writing/coaching/speaking platform that will allow me the freedom and flexibility I desire, while sharing an important message with people who need it.
Ironically, right before deciding that I should accept this opportunity, I had reached clarity around how the JustWind mindset will run consistently through all my work. When we recognize that we have the POWER and FREEDOM to choose our perspective, we liberate ourselves from victimhood, optimize our lives and make the difference we are meant to make. I realized that my coaching practice is really about this, too, and I have a clearer sense of how all the pieces tie together. I thought this new opportunity was part of that. Until I realized it wasn’t. And it would ultimately distract me from the things that are really important to me. After going through this upheaval, my commitment to my consistent message and my own methods feels strong. So, I am grateful for the experience and believe that I will be better, stronger and more committed because of it. I hope my lessons can help you to find the courage to step away from what doesn’t serve you and your highest priorities . . . even if you said you would do it.
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