Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

1345 Relax and Succeed - Should I stay or should I go

How much should we do? When is a relationship too bad or too unrewarding to stay in? The consequences of adults making these decisions are often enormous, and if we add kids or a business into that equation the high stakes go even higher.

Sometimes they come alone and sometimes they come as couples, but over time I’ve been asked to help with this question a lot. In fact I had just sat down to write this and someone contacted me about this very subject before I was even done this second paragraph –thereby changing it into what you’re now reading.

Whether as a couple or a single, this is one of the most difficult questions we face because there are simply too many variables.

Are we being unreasonable? Is this just a phase? Will the person change? Will we really be better off without them? Is it too late to re-start? Will anyone else want us after the breakup? If someone does, could they be worse than our current partner? Could more of the problem be about us rather than them? Or would we be better off alone? And how can we sort out that tangle of ideas?

These are all very reasonable questions, but the reason we often see-saw back and forth on our answers is because as our mood fluctuates so does our perception of the rest of our life. Yet no one wants to make a major life decision about a life partner based on a temporary mood, hence people’s desire to seek help in thinking through all the variables.

1345 Relax and Succeed - How can we tell

I have yet to meet anyone who came to me already taking into account all of the variables involved. In most cases people leave out huge impacts without ever really noticing they are inevitable.

The good news is that the serious consideration of these ideas generally leads to much happier lives regardless of the outcome. Some couples rekindle their love and very enthusiastically choose to stay together despite gigantic sacrifices, while others happily head their own way with the loving support of each other. Some form relationships with others, some stay happily single, depending on what suits each individual.

These can be legitimately seen as daunting decisions, but their importance does not mean we are prevented from engaging with these ideas in a positive way.

This isn’t about whether the relationship is good or bad or whether it lasts or not, it’s about whether each individual can actually thrive in the circumstances they are in, or if those circumstances need to change. Either way, couples are not in opposition, they are searching for answers that work best for all involved. With that as the objective, the entire process is far less emotionally wrought and far more empowering.

We shouldn’t assume that big, scary, complicated decisions will lead to big, scary and complicated outcomes. Even getting married is big, scary and complicated for most people, but that doesn’t mean the marriages can’t be good. Likewise, ending a relationship can also look big and scary and complex, but that does not mean that both people can’t end up happier in the end.

peace. s

Decision Fatigue

You sense it’s happening to you more and more; a worn-out, bad-decision, I’m exhausted and don’t care attitude that increasingly invades your day and often leaves you collapsed and feeling unproductive at night. This in turn leaves you feeling guilty the next day that didn’t get enough done even though you got a lot done.

1021-relax-and-succeed-good-people-sometimes-make-bad-decisionsI remember experiencing decision-exhaustion from being both a writer and as a film and television executive. All day long you make decisions and they are fundamentally what you’re paid for, so to get too many of them wrong means to wrong yourself right out of your mortgage payment. That helped make each choice feel bigger and therefore more taxing, and because there were a lot of them all day, by the time I got home I was worn out in a way that left me more tired than any physical job I’d ever had.

If my wife or girlfriend wanted me to pick a restaurant for dinner on a decision-filled day we would argue because she really couldn’t relate to how intense my avoidance of another decision was. I told her I was burned out, which to say that deciding is an action and it takes energy and I had put too much energy through the decisions circuits already and they were now worn down to the point of no longer being precise channels but more like general directions.

A common example of this is that in many tests a poorer person will actually be better at financial decision-making than a wealthier person because their decisions are often around a budget with no room for error. That means you have to make real calculations and decisions even just to buy a quick lunch if you’re late, whereas a wealthier person is just hungry and they only make the decision of where to stop and what to have. By the end of an average day the poorer person has made so many more critical choices that they get worn out and they start giving big, broad answers that are more likely to be easy rather than helpful.

1021-relax-and-succeed-if-you-want-to-have-more-creative-flowYou likely know this feeling too: you’ve spent all day trying to stay on your diet and eat all the right foods, you got all of your work done and you figured out how to manage the kids, but by the time the day’s done you’re exhausted and end up blowing everything you saved all day by stopping on the way home at some fast food place, or by wasting money buying junk at the grocery store which ruins your diet and it’s all just so defeating. But take heart; it’s not just you being defeated, it’s all of us. (That entire link is definitely worth the read.)

What’s important to note is that the decisions that were wearing me out were primarily taken in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, prior to the smartphone. By then I had accepted that the brain was just like any part of your body and that it would become increasingly less efficient the more it was used. When smartphones came out I saw two unhealthy things: the diversion of my attention away from the present moment and the constant connectivity, which I did not feel would be healthy long term because it would also mean that there would soon be many more ways to reach me.

This is why I still just use a flip phone; I avoid thinking about all of the decisions that the phone has added to your day. Not just which platforms should you join, but all the notifications and privacy set-ups, the decision to answer a call or text or not, then the decision of what to answer, then a chime telling you to do this or a warning telling you not to do that. Calendars, emails, voicemails, instant messengers, check-ins and measurements of every kind. And that leaves out all of the stuff your computer at work has added.

1021-relax-and-succeed-respect-yourself-enough-to-walk-awayAll day long you’re bombarded with choice. Stores even sell it like it’ll make you feel good when science shows it’s the route to feeling bad. Decisions are taxes to your mind. It’s why tons of top-level business executives and entrepreneurs wish they could go be a barista in a coffee shop–what they’re pining for is fewer decisions. The customer just tells you what they want and you make it. No choices. Simple. Ahhh.

Many decisions in the modern world cannot be avoided but many can. Look at your life and ask which parts of your life require the most decision-making and then value your loss of mental peace almost like money. Do you really want to spend all of your energies where they’ve been going? For most people the answer is no, they just never take the time to reassess. Do that today.

Simplification is not you failing, nor are you becoming irrelevant or even less capable. In fact you’ll be increasing the strength of the quality of your choices if you make fewer every day. The science is very clear: busy-ness and choice are the enemies of peace. The only thing left for you to do is to become more conscious of all of your daily choices and then only make the ones that actually improve your life and stop making the ones that don’t.

Here’s a peaceful, stressless day for all of us.

peace. s

PS This piece is a companion to the post, Real Peace Is Not What You Think.

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.

The Right Time

957 Relax and Succeed - Some pursue happinessWhen 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.

957 Relax and Succeed - Only the truth that is your ownRight 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.

957 Relax and Succeed - Don't cling to a mistakeJust 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.

957 Relax and Succeed - Your journey has molded youGo 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.

peace. s

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.