I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth for growing up with two loving, healthy, hard-working, overall exceptional parents. Having two present and loving parents is no doubt a blessing in life and, unfortunately, out of a child’s control. One of the most impactful things to the humans that we are and become, and yet one of the things we have no control over, is who our parents are, what they go through, and how they handle things. Knowing how fortunate I was, still am, and always will be for having experienced my parents, it would become and remain my duty in life to never take them for granted and do everything in my power to make sure that they had the absolute best lives in the ways I was able to contribute.
My parents had a really special way of parenting that I did not see as prominently in other families growing up, which molded mine and my siblings decisions hour by hour whether our parents were around or not. My parents are the kindest, most honest, loving, hard-working, and generous people (to all) whom I have ever met. They are such good role models themselves that they were mine and my siblings standard for character success. They drew friends and laughter everywhere we went, and this part is very important – they were always so proud of us. They hugged us and kissed us and loved us, and whether they made it to our performances or not, they made sure we knew how proud they were with every stride we made. That being said, they kept a balance of being straight-shooters too, so whether they were proud or we were due for a life lesson, nothing went unsaid.
The Outcome was to Make Them Proud
My siblings and I discovered early on that it was this one thing our parents never said that taught us how to make every [good] decision that came our way: We developed a natural fear to never disappoint our parents. My siblings and I agreed that should we ever disappoint Mom and Dad, this would be the sign for ultimate failure (Mom and Dad would say this is dramatic, but it’s true).
The Key to Decision Making
I often say to people who struggle with decision-making that there needs to be two-sided friction to make a thorough, well-thought out, correct-for-you decision: There needs to be (1) a push and (2) a pull.
Normally, having both a push and a pull to help guide our decisions and direction in life do not come from the same single subject. Typically, one of the two will derive from fear, avoidance, or resentment, while the other from hope, dreams, or the positives. The simplest real life example of experiencing a push and a pull at the same time is leaving a bad job for a better one or exiting an old relationship for a new one. The bad pushes you out, the new pulls you in.
My siblings and I discovered that with every decision we made, we would be pushed by the fear of disappointing our parents (a no-no) and pulled by the achievements they showed us were possible (a loving marriage, a beautiful home, fun toys, winning games, running a marathon, a job, you name it).
Decision making is easy when you have a great leader to follow – careful who your leaders are.
What If You Don’t Know What You Want
There are a few tricks you can use to corner your emotions and expose your truest self. Knowing what you really want and what you are ready for is number one, and we are human, so we don’t always want what is best for us. Some people want one job over another and some people really want to smoke a lunch-break cigarette. Again, knowing what your true self is honestly hoping for is number one – not necessarily the poster-child version of you. So, how can you reveal your truth and plan the actionable steps for the most positive outcome?
This trick works the best if someone is doing it TO you at a time you are not as prepared for it: In college, a friend came to my door room unannounced in tears, shut my door, jumped on my bed, looked at me and said, “I don’t know if I should break up with him or not.” They had been together years already and we were about to graduate, so this was a very hard decision and she did not know what she wanted.
Right away, I grabbed a quarter from my bag, showed it to her, the crying slowed with confusion in her eyes and I said, “Heads – you break up with him. Tails – you stay with him.” She froze in fear that the rest of her life depended on this coin toss, which was exactly what I needed her to feel. She was confused, lost, and didn’t know what she wanted. I threw the quarter way up in the air so it would land close enough but in a spot that she couldn’t see the outcome, then I covered it up. In that moment, she stared at me with a very defining look, and I asked her, “While the quarter was up in their air, which side were you hoping it would land on?” The tears all came back, her face crunched together and she said, “Tails.” I told her “The quarter doesn’t matter, that’s your answer because that’s what you really want – you can find a way to make it work.” Back to crying but this time with tears of relief, she hugged me, and now six years later they are engaged to be married.
Now, by no means is any of that because of me, no matter who she went to, she likely would have found her true self just by talking it out, but this snapshot moment was a great way to pull a friend out of the fog and expose what was pulling her. She was confused because her push and pull were the same subject (him)… therefore she still loved him. When there is a large unknown or uncertainty, decision making remains difficult.
Knowing what we want is just as important as knowing what we do not want: do we really want to leave, do we really want that cigarette, do we really want to watch another episode or spend that money, and then determining which outcome is more important at the time. My parents pride in me, personally, was always the most important thing, I endlessly make decisions based on their perception of me as top notch role models themselves. By defining what we love and hope for can help us set our goals or begin to map the road toward wanting better for ourselves. In defining what we do not want (not to ever disappoint Mom and Dad), we can make more logical and common sense decisions, avoid problems all together and ever having to explain ourselves to the people we love and look up to the most.
Knowing your truth will always set you free.
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