It’s Okay to Change Your Mind . . . And Sometimes Doing So Is the Only Way to Stay in Integrity

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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Taking My Lane: Being Seen and Establishing Boundaries

There is an intersection about a mile from my home where, when coming from the south, I am particularly aware of the need to remain visible and present myself confidently. As I approach it, I watch all sides and move to the center of my lane. By moving away from the white line towards the middle of my lane, I position myself in the best place to be seen by traffic, particularly those who might turn left in front of me.

Kansas bicycle laws state that cyclists should ride as close to the right side of the roadway as safe and practicable, and I definitely do, but there are times when it is important to be seen and to set expectations for motorists’ behavior. Like so many lessons I have learned on the bike (and will share in my forthcoming book), this one has high applicability to life off the bike, as well.

In addition to being seen at an intersection, there are other situations that call for taking my lane. A couple weeks ago, I was headed south on a quiet, but narrow, two-lane road, when I saw two cyclists on low recumbents heading north. Behind them, a car was approaching on a gentle hill. I moved to the center of my lane, in order both to be seen and to discourage the car from passing between us, squeezing all of us toward the edges of the road. The cyclists and I waved at each other as we passed. As soon as we did, I moved back to the right edge of my lane, smiled and waved at the motorist. In my mirror, I watched the vehicle pass the recumbent bikes safely, and we all went about our day. The driver was delayed for no more than 10 seconds. As I continued pedaling south, I reflected on the brief encounter.

I realized that I felt powerful—in a good way. I had assessed the situation, identified a potential danger for myself and others, found the courage to take a position and acted confidently (and with trust in the driver). The small act of taking my lane made things safer for me and allowed me to advocate for the safety of two oncoming cyclists. Those recumbents, just inches off the ground, are probably more maneuverable than I think (I’ve never tried one.), but I felt like I was in the better position to make a strong move and protect us all.

One of my daily mantras during meditation is, “I am rooted in my power. I stand in it and own it.” As I have gotten older, especially in the last couple years, I have become better at living this mantra. The first step for any of us in doing this is recognizing our power.

I am not perfect in my practice of standing in my power and owning it, but I have gotten so much better at recognizing that I have some power and that I have a right to assert it in situations where I need to set boundaries for myself or others who don’t have, or haven’t found, their voices.

In recent years, I have realized that I lived much of my life fairly passively, deferring to others and feeling like I didn’t have a right to speak up and be heard or to stand up and be seen. I could do it for a cause or a principle—like becoming vegetarian at age 12 and becoming vegan in 2008. I recognized that animals didn’t have a voice or choice, so I stopped eating them in 1982. Then, I stopped eating or using their products in 2008, after I found the courage to learn more about the egg and dairy industries. For many years as a vegetarian, while I didn’t apologize for my principles, I would say, “I recognize that I am the weird one.” As I type that, it actually sounds a lot like an apology. Now, I may still be the weird one, but I own it, and it is not an apology.

I’ve advocated comfortably for others in different contexts, too—for victims of sexual assault, for people living with HIV and AIDS, for my son, for my students—but it has only been in recent years that I have really felt okay about advocating for myself.

Cycling has helped me to realize that there are absolutely times when we need to take our lane to make ourselves more visible or to be heard.

What has taken longer is cultivating the courage to do it, on the bike or off.

When I pull into the center of my lane to make sure I am seen by motorists or to promote proper passing by a car, I am setting a boundary of sorts. I am teaching the motorists how to behave around me. Of course, there is no guarantee that they will respond the way I intend. Most will, but a few may get enraged by what they perceive as my audacity (or sometimes by my very existence). Most, even if irritated, will drive the way they should, to avoid hitting or otherwise endangering me.

Taking a strong position in any setting to be seen or heard and to help other people understand how they should treat us requires courage and comes with risks. But, if we meekly remain against the white line on the bike or in the rest of life when we really need to take a bolder stance, our expectations may be misinterpreted. As Brene Brown has warned, this is likely to lead to resentment. We expect others to treat us a certain way, and they don’t. We haven’t asserted ourselves to instruct them how to treat us, but we resent them for not meeting our unstated expectations.

“What you permit, you promote. What you allow, you encourage. What you condone, you own.” –Unknown

We have both the right and the responsibility to set boundaries, but this doesn’t excuse blatant bad behavior—by drivers, by the humans in our daily lives or by society and institutions. As I was recently writing a book chapter about taking my lane, I thought of two 21st-century social movements: #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. In both of these movements, members of communities—people who have experienced sexual victimization and African American people—are positioning themselves to be seen and heard and are instructing society in how to treat them. This is a version of taking their lane.

Finding the courage and recognizing our right to take our lane can be a gradual process. I think we often have to live our way into it. For me it has come with the recognition that life is moving ever more quickly, and time is short. With that realization, I have less and less patience and, quite literally, less and less time to shrink into the white line and risk not being noticed. On the bike, it is my life and safety. Off the bike, it is my quality of life and my ability to make the contribution I want to make in the world.

Because time is short.

So, I will keep digging deep to find the courage to take my lane, and I encourage you to take your lane. Position yourself to be seen and heard. Share your message with the world. Speak your truth.

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Comment below to share your experiences with taking your lane. How have you found the courage to do this? Did you live your way into it, like I have, or have you always known how to do it? How has it served you?

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We Have Both the Right and the Responsibility to Set Boundaries

“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.” –Brene´ Brown

Life has reinforced the veracity of Brene´ Brown’s words. Today I wrote an article for The Advising Network (TAN) at Wichita State University. Boundaries were part of what I addressed, and I think there is value in examining the boundaries here. I have learned that they are crucial to effective functioning in any area of life, from work to family obligations. Brown really is right. Failure to set and maintain boundaries is the fastest way to end up resenting someone or a situation. And, it’s on us when we allow that to happen.

Setting boundaries is an acknowledgement of our responsibility for our lives. Realizing this is empowering. What I have learned is that setting clear boundaries and believing in them enough to stick to them is a gift not only to ourselves, but to others. Clearly stating a boundary establishes parameters for our own behavior and for others’ behavior—what we are willing to do and what we are willing to accept. It sets expectations and relieves pressure.

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These are my boundary-setting tips:

  • Clarify your values for yourself. Know what is most important to you and decide what aligns with those values. For me, this means knowing that my most important ethical values are compassion, excellence, integrity and fitness. It also means knowing that there are certain things in my life, like cycling, that are critical aspects of my mental and emotional, as well as my physical, health. And, it means knowing that watching my son run cross country and track and being fully present for my important relationships are non-negotiables for me.
  • Align your life, including work, with those values. Examine the fit and figure out what needs to change. When I first started my full-time advising position, I felt like it was necessary to answer every email before I went home. This quickly became unsustainable. I made a decision to follow Liz Gilbert’s advice. She said, “You do what you can do, as competently as possible, within a reasonable time frame, and then you let it go.” I made the decision that, with rare exceptions, I would not check my work email at home, and I don’t have it on my phone. That may seem unthinkable to some, but it is an important boundary for my self-care.
  • When necessary, respectfully and clearly state your values and the boundaries they create. Both for myself and for my students, I tell every one of them, “It sometimes may take me a few days to get back with you because my schedule can be really crazy at times. But I will ALWAYS get back with you. It just takes a little patience sometimes.” Almost everyone understands and appreciates knowing that. It makes me feel better, even though I wish I were always able to respond quickly.
  • Honor your boundaries by taking action to realign with them when necessary. This can be hard, but, ultimately, it will be better for everyone. For instance, I am very clear now what my priorities are, and I know where there is some wiggle room and where there is not. I have to be willing to honor my values and priorities and change what doesn’t align with them or to change my situation if I find myself slipping into resentment because I don’t want to live that way.  It is my responsibility to take care of myself.

When we recognize our right and responsibility to set, state and enforce our boundaries, it adds elements of power and peacefulness to our lives. It is a potent decision and declaration that we are not victims of our circumstances or of other people. This doesn’t mean that we will never find ourselves in situations we would prefer to avoid. The holiday season, with all of its gatherings and social obligations, is challenging for me as an introvert. I recognize the value in celebrating together, and I do take part in many of the get-togethers, sometimes joyfully, sometimes with less delight than I wish I could muster. However, I am responsible for decreasing the drama around them in my own mind and for not accepting additional social obligations, if they are only going to increase my stress, without adding meaning. I do no one any favors when I show up in resentment to a situation I could have avoided.

One valuable tool for setting boundaries is Amy Tiemann’s system of questions for determining if something should be added to her calendar or to-do list:

                1. Is it fun?

                2. Is it meaningful?

                3. Is it absolutely necessary?

Of course, social obligations are only one area where boundaries come in to play, but I think those are particularly timely in the holiday season.

I’m considering offering a future workshop or online course around boundaries. If that is something that would interest you, click here to sign up for email updates. As a bonus, I’ll send you an electronic copy of my plant-based recipe booklet.

I wish you a healthy, compassionate holiday season, with clear boundaries that serve you.