There are also less momentous choices.
When I struggled during my early years in college, I dropped out and moved to Europe. When I returned to the US, I had no specific plan. I thought I would just figure it out as I went along. Had I known how lonely and daunting it would be to put my life back on a career track, I might have chosen a safer path. But as it turns out, I met my husband at the University I chose because it was walking distance from the apartment I could afford. And after graduating and getting married, I went on to law school.
I used to think my approach of making decisions and then learning what they meant was tied to youth. But I still do it. And I may even do it almost intentionally now (my husband is convinced of it). I wrote about “the anatomy of an accidental auction”. I volunteered to chair an event to support two great organizations working in my daughter’s birth country of Ethiopia. My inspiration is pictured with me after an Ethiopian New Year celebration.
Somewhere in the back of my head, a little voice said, “You don’t have time. This will be hard. You don’t know what you are doing. You will fail.” But I jumped in and committed to a venue and date in part so I could not get cold feed. I saw a recent quote attributed to Van Gogh that made this point powerfully, “When you hear a voice in your head that say you can’t paint. Paint and it will be silenced.”As I work to silence my little voice, I thought about choices I made over the years without complete information where the same kinds of doubts echoed in my mind. Deciding to “go all in” is part of the formula for success for me. Once I cross a certain point, I am committed. I think another part is being an enthusiastic optimist. I paint a vivid image in my mind of the desired outcome – in part to drown out the little voice. I touch it, see it, smell it, hear it, and even taste it. If I hit hurdles, I view those as indications I need to dig deeper -- be more creative, work harder, or ask for help. I am not above doing whatever it takes. Plus I am known to have a stubborn streak – admitting the little voice was right means giving into fear.
Although I don’t like to fail or let my kids fail, I learned failure often painfully provide the biggest growth opportunities. I have jumped in multiple times. And I survived and even thrived. I now remind myself of the successes when panic threatens to overwhelm my optimism. This moment is almost inevitable when, somewhere around the half way point, the chance for the success I envisioned seems remote. Holding the faith and plowing ahead often reveals options and support I couldn’t see around the corner. Ignorance may not be bliss . . .but I have found it can be empowering.