Cathryn's Articles for Stepmom Issues and Relationships

Choices: Are yours based on fear or courage?
Look at your choices: Are they based on fear or courage?

By Cathryn Bond Doyle.

When we have a decision to make, it’s important to remember a basic truth about the power of choice and that is this…the more choices we have to consider, the stronger we feel when we make our final choice…maybe. Why do some choices feel invigorating and others feel deflating? The next time you are about to take action on a decision, pause for a moment to ask yourself: “Is this a fear choice or a growth choice?”

Sometimes, simply pausing to ask this question will gives us the confidence to proceed or a reason to reconsider our options. The answer to this question isn’t always immediately clear. And sometimes it actually is clear but isn’t really very comfortable to admit to ourselves. When we realize that we are leaning towards a fear choice to avoid dealing with something or someone’s reaction, it’s not our best moment. It’s not bad or wrong. It’s human to feel fear and it takes courage to admit that we’re afraid and even more courage to do something about it. Why should we care whether we make growth choices or fear choices?

There’s one primary and impactful reason. When we make a growth choice, we move ourselves closer to our life goals and dreams. When we make a fear choice, we not only delay attaining our dreams but more than likely, we’ll inevitably face and deal with the situation again AND in addition, we’ll have to handle the consequences created by the earlier fear choice. This is a very strong reason to muster up our courage and choose the growth choice over a fear choice whenever we have to make decisions. The purpose of the article is to expand on this decision-making criterion to show how making growth choices can save us lots of energy, can reduce pain and suffering in the long and short-run, improves our self-esteem and, last but not least, gives us a better chance to create the life we desire sooner rather than later.

What’s the key difference between the two choices? To make a growth choice we need to be responsible for our actions, take a stand for our own well-being AND have the courage to face the reactions and judgments of others. When we make a fear choice, we’re usually aware that we’d rather make a different choice but, for any number of reasons, we’re not willing to handle the consequences or make the effort required with the growth choice. Again, it’s not necessarily bad or wrong, just very costly. With that said, how do we recognize the difference between a fear choice and a growth choice? Next time you’re about to make a choice, check in with yourself and do a “gut check.” Here’s a description of the two kinds of choices.

A Fear Choice:

1. Usually doesn’t support your mental and emotional health.

2. Often helps you avoid, postpone or get a reprieve from dealing with something painful or upsetting.

3. Is supposed to get you the approval or love of someone ELSE, even though it’s not what YOU really want.

4. Keeps you from having to “deal” with the anticipated negative reaction of the person(s) impacted by your decision.

5. Appeases someone who is pressuring you and/or potentially threatening to “punish you” unless you do as they say.

6. Deep down, it feels terrible and may generate a sense of hopelessness or resentment.

7. Doesn’t usually solve the real problem. Often suspends things but looks like action; seducing you with the logic that “things may get better then I won’t have to deal with this.”

8. May look like it takes less energy in the short-term, but the overall experience usually ends up taking much more effort and energy in the long run.

A Growth Choice:

1. Usually involves a decision that will create or change something and/or effect others.

2. Requires you to have the courage to do the right thing for yourself even if others disagree or disapprove of your choice.

3. Requires you to take responsibility to deal with the hurt or pain that your decisions may cause others.

4. Tests the strength of relationships and potentially creates the possibility of negative reactions and judgments of others.

5. Moves you closer to achieving your hopes, dreams, health and happiness.

6. Is a key to your freedom and healing from a limiting or hurtful situation.

7. May require more energy up front but usually brings greater results with much less overall effort.

An example to demonstrate both choices:

It’s important to realize that the same choice can be a fear choice for one person and a growth choice for another. It isn’t the choice that determines the impact on someone but the feelings motivating the choice that determines whether your choice is going to move you forward in your life or avoid/suspend your situation. It’s your thoughts and feelings that determine whether something is a fear or growth choice. Here’s an everyday example to illustrate this point and demonstrate a few fear and growth choices:

Situation: Two people accepted an invitation to a Company Holiday Open House Party.

One person is shy and wants to get better at social situations. With this goal in mind he agrees to attend the party. Although this person wished he had the courage to go, at the last minute, he “chickened” out, choose not to go to the party, stayed home and felt guilty all night long. This person choose not call to cancel and planned to make up an excuse at work the next day. In this case, the decision not to go to the party is a fear-based choice.

Can you see the other fear-based choices in this example? (1. Not calling to cancel. 2. Lying about the reason for not being there. ) If this person went to the party in spite of his fear, it would have required courage and would also have achieved his goal and created opportunity to practice some social skills and feel good about himself. Going to the party would have been a growth choice for this person even if he had stayed only a few moments.

On the other hand, the second person is outgoing. She likes all the people attending the party and genuinely looks forward to the party. However due to an accident in their home, this second person spends the fours days leading up to the party, arranging for repairs, dealing with several contractors and insurance companies and operating on very little sleep. About two hours before the party, she finally finishes everything and realizes how very exhausted and emotionally frazzled she’s feeling. She realizes that she really doesn’t really have the energy to go to the party. She just wants to crash with a bath and a good book. She becomes aware that her decision may make some people angry with her. Let’s face it, she did say she would be there three weeks ago when she was invited. She realizes that if she goes, they won’t be angry but she will feel resentful about not having the courage to stand up for her right to change her mind and take care of herself, given the unforeseen circumstances.

She makes the decision not to go to the party. She realizes that she needs to take responsibility for her choice so she calls the two people who organized the event and explained the situation. She wanted to make sure they knew she cared about their feelings. She did not make up an excuse (she thought about it but it would not have been true so she rejected that choice).

In her message she told them the truth, apologized for disappointing them and asked for their understanding, promising to call them the following business day to speak with them personally. She gave herself an evening of rest and felt grateful for her courage and nurtured by a good night’s rest. She was still a bit nervous about the reactions of the others but she knew she did the right thing for her own well-being.

Hopefully, it's clear that although the second person didn’t go to the party either, her choice to stay home was a growth choice. What other growth choices did she make in support of her decision to stay home?
1. Calling the hosts, taking responsibility for her choice & impact.
2. Telling them the truth.
3. Making the effort to follow-up in person.

Going to the party would have been a fear choice for her. If she’d gone to the party, it would have been to avoid any negative reactions from others. She needed to have the courage to say “no” when the situation changed. She needed to choose her self-care over her fears. Make sense?

This whole concept isn’t about right or wrong, good or bad. It’s about what role you want to have in how your life turns out. How important is growth, healing and “doing the right thing” to you? How willing are you to admit mistakes, forgive yourself and make some new choices? How important is it to you to take charge of your life situation? How important is personal happiness and love and safety and freedom of choice?

There’s no law requiring growth choices. Understanding this concept will help you become more conscious of your own choices and motivations and help you respect and appreciate the choices of others. Be honest with yourself. You are the best judge of your feelings, needs and desires. The next time you have to make a decision, you now have even more wisdom upon which to base your choices. When in doubt, choose courage and make a growth choice to bring you closer to more happiness and success.

© 2003 Cathryn Bond Doyle. All Rights Reserved.
Stepmoms on a Mission®
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