Posts Tagged ‘confused’

Decisions, Decisions!

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

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Should I take this job or that one? This one offers security but is boring and has little room for advancement; that one offers a chance to grow but carries economic risks.
Should I get this car or that one? This car gets better gas mileage; that one is more fun to drive but has fewer seats.
Should I buy a home or rent? Housing prices may still drop so maybe it’s better to keep renting; but if I buy now, will the tax break offset the higher price?
Should I try to get pregnant now or wait? My relationship with my husband is wobbly so maybe we should wait; but my clock is ticking, and what if I can’t conceive later?

Decisions, decisions! We face choices—big and small—constantly. Even the decision between two good things, such as a vacation in the sun or one on the ski slopes, can cause us anxiety. How do we decide how to decide?

Most of us poll our family or friends. After all, they know us and will probably have some good pros and cons to offer us. But have you ever listened to their valuable advice, nodding your head in agreement, then walked away feeling just as confused or undecided as before? Why is it that some decisions are so hard to make?

Indecisiveness is sometimes a clue that we’re not considering the right criteria. For example, if you’re choosing a car, instead of starting with the sticker price or the fuel economy, you might want to ask yourself what it is you want to experience. Are you looking for fun? Is status important? Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint? Do you want to drive on all the school field trips? Do you want the safest car, short of a military tank, because you have a teenager about to get her driver’s license? By asking what you want to experience, you give the message to yourself that you are worthy.
When you remind yourself that you are worthy of choosing according to your own intrinsic criteria, clarity is sometimes instantaneous. You may say to yourself, “Of course, this is what I wanted all along. Why did I make it so hard for myself?” Maybe all you had to do was clear out the other “voices in your head”—the ones that said “I shouldn’t want this.” “This is too nice for me.” “Others will judge me for wanting this.” “I don’t deserve this.”

However, even using your own criteria for deciding, you may still feel confused. Why? Because your mind and spirit may be arguing so effectively that you can’t tell who’s who. If you want to know what your spirit wants, here’s a quick exercise: Close your eyes and imagine a traffic light. Then think about one of your alternative choices. Quickly, what color do you see: green or red? Now think about the other choice. Quickly again, what color do you see? Green is your spirit’s choice. (Yes, it’s possible that your spirit will see green with more than one alternative because it may be fine with more than one choice.)

What if your spirit didn’t see green with any of your choices? Then maybe it’s time to look into more options. We can get caught up in either/or thinking: I can pick this car or that one, this job or that one. Maybe there are more alternatives that you haven’t even considered that would result in a green light. Don’t limit yourself prematurely, especially with self-talk like, “I would never…” I worked with a single woman in her mid-thirties who said, “I would never have children without a mate.” She also told me, “I would never marry a man who already has children.” Well, by the time she was forty and still single, she was questioning her strong stances. By forty-two, she had adopted two children and couldn’t imagine her life any other way. At forty-three, she met a man through her single-parent support group and guess what? She’s now married raising four children. When I last saw her, she laughed as she told me, “Jane, at 35 I thought I had to play it smart. I know now that all I had to do was listen to what I really wanted and things would work out.”

Things do tend to work out when we promise ourselves that we won’t regret our decisions as long as we honor our criteria, come from worthiness, and listen to our spirit.


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Empowering vs. Enabling

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

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Dear Jane,
What is the difference between empowering and enabling someone?

I’ve struggled with this in my own life. I want to be compassionate, but how can I know whether I am helping or when I am supporting someone in believing they’re helpless? How do I combine a belief that we are 100% responsible for our thoughts and behaviors at the same time that I increase my awareness of our interdependence?

A few years ago a family came to live with us. They had been evicted from their apartment and because our eight-year-old daughters were friends, when the knock on the door came, we opened up, not just our door, but our hearts. They stayed with us for three months rent free…until at 6:30 one morning, the police banged on our door, arresting the mom for parole violation and theft. Two weeks later a credit card bill arrived totaling $3000+ on a card we had never used and that we thought was still in our desk drawer.

Some details I left out of that story: I knew something was amiss when I was shown the mom’s “ankle bracelet,” her house arrest monitor. On the first day of their stay, she admitted that she had embezzled $32,000 from her employer. She and her husband also admitted that they had defrauded their roommate, making her think that they had used her rent to pay the landlord when they had actually kept it.

So what did I do with this information? I counseled them; I fed them; I drove their daughter to school and events; I cooked for them. Clearly, I was enabling, not empowering, them. Why couldn’t I see that?

I have a habit of assuming the best in people. In other words, I’m gullible. But sometimes seeing something in someone that they don’t see in themselves can bring out the best in them. Hasn’t someone seeing something in you ever made you believe in yourself more?
I also cared very much about their little girl and couldn’t imagine throwing her out into the streets for the sins of her parents.

So, yes, I was an enabler. Yes, I was foolish and disillusioned for a while. I admit fully that I not only didn’t empower her parents; in fact, I made it possible for them to commit further crimes. I could have done more by insisting on their helping more around the house or getting a job or getting drug counseling. But I’m pretty sure that insisting would have made them feel too exposed, and they would have left looking for their next suckers. If I didn’t care about their little girl, this would have been just fine.

Empowering vs. enabling is often distinguished by how people receive our help. When people want to be empowered, not enabled, they don’t ask for pity; they ask for clarity. They don’t give excuses; they overcome obstacles. They show a willingness to change their thoughts and strategies. They take responsibility for their actions. They don’t try to get away with things; they want to get out of their ruts in order to thrive.

Because life is complicated, I still don’t always know ahead of time how my help will be received or if I’m being foolish, throwing away money or energy. I can always hope that good intentions will sow their seeds, even if I can’t know where they’ve been planted or when they will germinate. Maybe, just maybe, this little girl, basking in some unconditional love and living in a safe and secure environment for even a short time will help her not re-create her parents’ life. That little girl is now 15. She still calls us. That feels great. I’ll live with being a fool.

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Jane is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.

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