When considering financial decisions, jobs, education, relationships, hobbies, friends, etc. etc., if you have a lot invested, when do you bail on something? When do you surrender, give up, change direction or grab something new? Your mind can whirl for aeons on a question like that and get nowhere because you don’t solve a thinking problem with more thinking.
Do you see how your rational ego searches for a rational solution? You want a pro and con column to add up to a negative number so you can tell yourself a story later about how careful you were before you made the decision. You want to be sure. You want to be confident. You’re a good person and you don’t want to do the wrong thing. Your problem is that confidence does not come from knowing you’re right and the idea of being wrong lives only within your thinking.
Confidence is a natural state. A little kid will swing a bat or kick a ball or any other thing quite poorly and yet still feel confident because that just means that they’re doing what they’re doing without self-talk interference. Insecurity is a thought-induced state. Confident people aren’t saying anything to themselves. They’re just being in the moment. I can assure you, we’re not internally going, “Oh yeah, I know what I’m doing, I’ve got this. I am totally good enough to pull this off easily,” Those are the words of someone insecure trying to bolster themselves with words. Confident people aren’t certain about success, they’re just ready to proceed.
Right and wrong are also value judgments. If a little kid does something and a parent notices the difference between how the kid did it and how a pro would do it, then they’ll teach them the language of wrongness and that’s how they’ll talk to themselves in their heads even after their parents are long gone. They’ll always notice what’s missing.
A parent that notices what the kid did well, or if they just show enthusiasm without specifics, then that child can develop securely, certain that the parent’s support isn’t connected to external achievements but rather to the actual child. You shouldn’t love what your kid does, you should love your kid.
So how’s this help with decisions? Do we really think humans never made a decision prior to language? We needed language to turn right or left on a path? No, you could just have a sense of knowing and then go. We do it all the time but we never give it value because we can’t turn it into words and share it with others. It is an entirely personal, internal experience. So it absolutely is possible to know things without being able to explain how. Explain how you love seafood. Explain your love for your pet. Explain red.
Just live. Trust yourself. When it’s time for you to stay or go, trust me you’ll know. Because all the words do is define a range of time. You’re thinking about leaving your job for a year and then suddenly you leave. It’s not like you finished thinking. It’s not like you came to a conclusion to some calculation and then told them immediately. You still had to feel the time was right. So why do all the thinking if you’re just going to get that feeling and act on that anyway?
Even if we later feel we left early or late, that’s just another person’s judgment in another time. That’s literally the person that benefited from the wisdom of the decision looking back and wondering why the person who didn’t have that wisdom didn’t make that decision. It’s crazy. You weren’t that person yet. The decision is what created that person. So that decision wasn’t right or wrong, it was just appropriate for who you were at the time.
If you want to hold on to something too long or let it go too soon, just overthink it. That’s the only way to screw that up. Because right and wrong, good and bad and should or shouldn’t all live in thought but not in reality. Reality has actions and consequences and that’s it. You’re always fine. The rest is just a story you tell about yourself, to yourself.
Go quieter. Look less for answers and instead wait for spontaneous insights. You get them all the time, but the thinking of science has convinced you that spontaneous insights have no current scientific explanation, so they–you–must not be trusted. Better to trust an abstract scale outside of yourself that is not built for you, but for your entire society. You are you. You will know what’s right for you personally if you just stay quiet inside and wait.
The issue is, we’re not good at being internally quiet and waiting. And so people think. And they get impatient for answers. And so the suffering goes. In the end you’re still not lost. At any time you can reconnect to your wisdom and access that higher knowing, and those connections will come from simply being quiet enough for long enough that you’ll actually be able to hear the voice coming from the confident soul you always were as a very little kid.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.