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Staying True to Our Best Selves in the Face of Never-Ending Choices

The importance of finding a centered, value-driven process for making choices.

Key points

  • In order to be true to our selves, we need to learn how to make the best choices possible.
  • Learning how to stay close to our own life purpose will support this.
  • Every “what’s next?” question asks us to be our best self and trust our best ways of knowing.
 Olya Kobruseva/Pexels
Source: Olya Kobruseva/Pexels

What's next?

That question is always with us, in subtle or demanding ways. Even that first stretch in the morning gives way to the pull towards figuring out the day, the week, the lifetime. We often use our rituals as a way to soothe ourselves and keep the question at bay, and that’s a good idea, sometimes. Even then, after the quiet cup of tea and the peaceful movement towards whatever the day holds, while the body and mind are still at rest, that question, in one form or another, soon arises. Whether it is the news that startles us into the BIG questions about what’s next, in the world, in our lives, in the choices we are faced with, or it is the simple quest for breakfast, we are so very often at a choice point. And that choice point can bring out the best in us, or it can disrupt our very capacity to stay centered.

When the choice is clear, we can sometimes move into it with clarity and, perhaps, even with non-attachment. (Does it really matter whether I have the muffin or the bagel?) Or we can consider the question (whatever it is) with all our faculties: thoughts, feelings, intuition, and from there make good enough choices. But the bigger, less concrete, and more relevant choices can pull us away from the clarity of knowing our values, knowing how to choose, gathering our resources for best-case options, and we are then unable to face the “what’s next?” with equanimity. We can move ourselves right into paralysis or its polarity, panic (and its softer side, impulsivity). Neither works very well.

We know we can’t answer most of the big, bigger, and biggest “what’s next?” questions. Will the world return to normal? Is it safe to visit my family? Will it rain at my wedding? Why is there so much gun violence? Will I get that job? Can I find true love? Is there life after death? Take a moment to note your big unanswerable questions. It will help to know what we can’t know. From there we can allow the not knowing as part of our wholeness and move it out of the background anxiety and agitation.

What can we know? And what can we do with what we know? This is where we can answer “what’s next?”

So what guides us when we are addressing the “what’s next?” question? Some of us follow our hunches, or intuition, if you will. Some make choices led by impulse and desire. Feelings, maybe? If it feels good, do it. Thinking, of course, is a big influence for many and often a very good source of guidance. It too has its limits though. We can overthink. We can, and often do, think within limiting patterns that we aren’t even aware of. This causes huge problems in cultures, as well as families and in our own singular life. If we think it is so, or should be so, then we may stick to that thought like glue. What do we do then, when someone thinks differently, or behaves in ways that we think are wrong? Holding any way of thinking we know, too tightly keeps us narrow, moving ahead with blinders on. It may be comforting to be absolutely sure that X is better than Y, but likely it will lead us to a smaller life, with less compassion, less likelihood of new opportunities and, often, it will lead us into conflict. For everyone who knows that X is better, there is someone else who knows that Y is better. Oops. There’s the conflict.

But let’s expand the dilemma. If we dig a little deeper or go a little higher, we’ll find a set of core values that tell us a lot about who we are. And those values will point us towards how we find meaning in life. Both of these hold us steady in relationship to an ever-unfolding sense of life purpose. And that sense of life purpose will be the guiding principle in answering the “what’s next?” questions. Those values will be our road signs. That which gives us meaning, will settle us onto a path, though it may be circuitous, because, life, is, after all, a long and winding road.

So, as we hear the call of any “what’s next?” question, let’s consider some important, and hopefully easy, ways to work with it.

How to handle the "what's next?" question

First determine if it is a big important question or a minor one. If it is minor, attend to it gently and with the knowledge that it is not terribly important.

  • Weigh the pros and cons, quickly.

  • Trust your instincts.
  • Keep it in proportion.
  • Give choice, as much as you are able, to your most mature Self.
  • If you misstep, be forgiving and remember this wasn’t a big deal.
  • Appreciate yourself for giving, even this small choice, your best effort.
  • When it’s done, let it go.

If it is an important choice, decision, or fork in the road, give it some time and energy.

  • How does this choice point offer me another step in my life’s purpose?
  • How can my values prioritize what is more important and less important?
  • Looking ahead, what choice will feel truest to my Best Self?
  • Do my body, feelings, desires, intuition, imaginings give me any information?
  • Am I stuck in any limiting beliefs that narrow my choices?
  • Are there parts of me (subpersonalities with their own agendas) that want to pull me one way or another, without the benefit of my wiser Self?
  • Do I have inner and outer resources that can help me choose?
  • How can I break this important choice down into smaller steps, testing the waters, to see if I am on the right track?
  • What do I know about my own life’s unfolding that will help to guide me?
  • Knowing what is deeply true for me, how do I let that that support my choice?

These questions won’t give us certainty, but as the founder of psychosynthesis, a spiritual psychology said, more than 100 years ago, “There is no certainty; there is only adventure!” To make the adventure of this lifetime richer, deeper, truer to the spirit of our goodness, every “What’s next?” question simply asks us to be that best self, trusting our best ways of knowing, and having, on a good day, faith in the unfolding of our lives.

More from Dorothy Firman Ed.D. LMHC, BCC
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