I recently was struggling with some personal decisions in my life of whether to continue on or to let go that was causing me anxiety and stress that I knew wouldn’t go away until a decision was made. Making a choice one way would completely change life as I have known it the last several years and making the choice the other way would keep me on my current path, but I knew that I wasn’t happy and ultimately was not where I wanted to be in my life.
My dad has this saying he has told me since I was a kid and any time I have struggled with knowing when it’s time to make a decision: “When the pain to stay, is greater than the pain to leave”….that’s when you will know it’s time.
When you sit back and reflect on this for a second, we all naturally get to this point. When you literally can either no longer ignore that inner voice that tells you to make a change or for example when women are in abusive relationships and you literally can’t handle the pain of staying in it anymore.
Sometimes though it isn’t that easy. Sometimes the job isn’t bad…it’s actually a very well paying job with tons of benefits and an easy schedule, but it doesn’t fulfill you and you know it isn’t what you truly feel called to do.
Sometimes the relationship isn’t bad, you just know in your heart that it’s served it’s purpose and it’s time to move on because you both have grown and changed as human beings.
Sometimes your weight isn’t that bad and you aren’t on your death bed and it’s simply just you know you want to be healthier, stronger, and take better care of your body.
Personally, I feel like the examples above sometimes require more strength to leave then when the situation is terrible only because when our circumstances are so incredibly miserable it is so easy for us to clearly see that we are unhappy and in something we don’t want.
However, when your circumstances aren’t bad and it’s literally an internal shift you are dealing with you have to make the choice to leave something good in order to have something better without any guarantee that there even is something greater other than the calling in your own heart which takes incredible personal strength and trusting your intuition.
When I was 19, I was engaged and got married. In 2009, at 21 years old, I felt so lost and confused in my marriage, in my life, on who I was, that I filed for divorce and took a leap off the edge into the unknown. No idea what people would think of me for being so young and already divorced. No idea if I would ever be able to love again. No friends and no husband. No idea what I wanted to do with my life. Quit my full-time job working at a bank making good money with good benefits and moved away to Virginia without any direction. All I knew was I could no longer stay married and deny myself, but I also had no clue what the next step was after the decision was made. All I knew was that I had to listen to that voice…that feeling that it was time to move on and open myself up to the possibility that life had more for me than what I had limited myself to.
I lived in Virginia for 3 months without any friends, in a house with two girls I had never met, my parents and siblings in Florida, couldn’t get a job, living off of savings, heartbroken and lost questioning if I was an idiot and should go running back to my ex-husband and the comfort of being in a familiar place because it felt way better than crying every night feeling alone.
One night, I reached a breaking point and called my dad and told him I couldn’t handle it. I missed my ex-husband. I missed my family and friends. I missed having some idea of what I was doing and my dad listened and then told me before I made any decisions, when we got off the phone, he wanted me to write out my personal goals and my career goals and to email them to him because he was going to hold me accountable.
I was so annoyed. “My goals? Dad I’m heartbroken, lonely and scared. I don’t want to write out my goals.”
“Ashley, write out your goals and send them to me and you and I are going to talk about them every week to hold you accountable.”
After a lot of crying and a lot of “this is so stupid” thoughts, I sat down in this bedroom in Virginia by myself and took out two pieces of paper and at the top of one I wrote “Personal” and the top of another I wrote “Career”. Up to this point, I hadn’t thought about what I actually wanted all I knew was what I didn’t want.
My personal goals started out with things like:
- Save $10,000 (at this point I was living off savings so literally had no income and was running out of money)
- Fall In Love Again (while at this time processing a divorce)
- Travel to Europe
- Exercise 3-5x a week and take care of my health
My career goals were even more challenging because I just quit a job without knowing what I wanted to do and the future wasn’t really looking super promising. I just got quiet and asked myself “what would be fun? If there were no rules what would I want to do?” And that sheet started to look something like this:
- Get certified in fitness and do something with helping people get in shape and feel better about themselves (I just came from a bank and was finishing a business degree. Exact opposite of the path I was on)
- Own my own business one day (what? All I had up to this point was a bunch of hourly jobs)
- Make 6 figures
This was pretty much the extent of what I knew I wanted. However, it was a starting point and it gave me a vision. It gave me direction. It gave me hope to know that the situation and what I left was for a purpose and I now had some sort of movement forward towards what I actually wanted instead of going back to what I had known.
I then emailed this to my dad and he printed it out, laminated it and had me put it up somewhere and look at it every day any time I felt lost, confused or heartbroken as a reminder of why I made that tough decision and where I was headed. “Stay positive and keep your eyes focused on these goals” he tells me.
At the time of writing this, these goals seemed sooooo beyond my reach. Especially the “fall in love again” and “own my own business” when I my living reality was the polar opposite of that.
Because I had no job, no friends and really no life in Virginia my daily routine consisted of looking at these goals and going to the gym every single day lifting weights. Lifting weights was the only thing in my life that made me feel strong enough to make it through this time. I couldn’t rely on anyone else to get me through this because I didn’t know anyone else. With every workout, every time I increased my reps or the weight just a little bit, I could feel my confidence go up ever so slightly.
I had started the process.
Just starting is part of making the difficult decision.
We get so wrapped up in refusing to make decisions until we have things all figured out and have absolute guarantee that our choices will result in what we want instead of more pain and heartbreak. The problem with this is we take out the magic of life and we take out the part of trusting our intuition.
Your intuition acts as your internal gps and compass. Destination=Love, Abundance, a business, awesome friends, passion, meeting your soul mate etc…Your intuition response with “awesome, en route”.
This is why it was so vitally important (as frustrating as it was) that in the conversation with my dad he told me to write out my goals…because it gave my internal gps some sort of destination instead of just floating in this lonely and heartbreaking space.
- Scared to leave your 9-5 to start your dream business? Just start the process. Write out what your dream business looks like. What do you do in this business every day? What people do you see? What is your service or product? What feelings does this business give you? Eventually, when you become so clear on this business that you want and dream of it will become unbearable to stay in your job any longer and the decision becomes clear.
- Scared to leave your hometown to travel the world? Just start the process. Where would you travel? Who would you meet? What would you pack? For how long? Start your clear vision and eventually the strength and courage will show up to help bring that to life.
- Scared to leave your dead end relationship or your current relationship for the relationship of your dreams? Just start the process. What does your dream relationship look like? How do you feel in this relationship? What do you talk about? What do you spend time doing? How do you connect?
We are ever changing and evolving individuals. It is natural for our souls and minds to get to multiple points in life where we are craving something different. I never understood the question of “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” because I honestly can’t decide what I want to eat for a full week let alone choose something that fills so much of my life for the rest of my life. I think the same is true with our friends, our relationships, and our careers.
The only thing you can do is listen to your intuition and what it is telling you now and use that is your starting point in the process and towards the direction of what you feel pulled to.
Our society conditions us to follow a certain pattern that after college or after high school we choose our career, get married, have kids, and then do the same thing day in and day out for the rest of our lives until our kids then repeat this exact same pattern and we get to witness and experience them doing the same things we did.
Realistically though, how can we ask ourselves to want and be the same person for the rest of our lives that we are when we make these decisions in our 20s? Or even 30s, 40s, 50s?
Allow yourself to re-invent yourself…Give yourself the permission to be and have something different then what you have always known. There are so many amazing parts of you and so many amazing things life wants you to experience, but sometimes experiencing and becoming those things requires us to muster up the courage and strength to change and be a little uncomfortable and unfamiliar for a while. Not forever, but a little while as we go through the process.
However, when your eyes and mind are focused so much on your “destination”, going through this tough decision or unfamiliarity isn’t quite so unbearable because we know the outcome is ultimately becoming and having what we want.
Here are my main “go-tos” when I am faced with tough decisions and need to find the strength to get through them:
- Lift weights every week as often as possible. Like I mentioned above, with every workout you will feel a little strong, a little more empowered and a little more capable of having the courage to “start the process and get through it”.
- Write out as clear as possible your goals. They might start out incredibly vague and get more specific as you go through the journey, but just write out something so that you have direction on why you made the tough decision and where you are now headed. Put these goals on your mirror, in your car, and anywhere else you spend a lot of time.
- Surround yourself with positive people who will support and allow you to go through this transition reminding you that you are strong enough, you deserve what you want, and just keeping you accountable for staying strong enough to let go and move towards your new goals. If you don’t have anyone in mind, then read inspiring stories to keep you motivated or hire a coach to help you through this.
- Give yourself at least 20 minutes every day to be quiet and allow yourself to just breathe. Sometimes when we are going through challenging situations, if we can just stop, be still and literally focus on breathing in and breathing out, everything slows down and becomes much more manageable. You can do this with meditation, with relaxing music, taking a walk, just laying down, closing your eyes and just breathing.
- Create a mantra for yourself. A mantra is simply a saying or phrase that makes you feel empowered. Very similar to affirmations, but a mantra is more applicable to your specific situation. Such as, “I am letting go of what no longer serves me knowing it opens me up to the life I desire”. You can make it anything that resonates or fits with your current situation, but make sure that it is something that rings true and authentic for you.
One of the reasons I am so passionate about the ABS Program for women is because I incorporated all of these things into this program. Daily affirmations and strength training for your confidence, strength training workouts to build your physical strength, food to fuel and respect your body, and teaching meditation as a form of therapy.
Building your strength to make tough decisions is like anything else in life, the more you do it…the easier it becomes. You now have specific tools to help you through any challenging situation you might be experiencing. Every time you develop the courage to move towards the life you want knowing the path will bring you to your “destination” it also inspires others around you to do the same.
Trust Yourself. Be Yourself. Create a Life that is True and Authentic to You.
Known someone who needs some help building the strength to make a tough decision?
Share this article with them.