A conversation with my 17 y.o. college bound daughter was full of aha moments for me. Over coffee and gluten free muffins we talked and reminisced about our insanely busy year. It was a moment of pure heaven and from her I always learn so much.
Just a few weeks ago, was decision day. It had come down to the wire for her to choose where she wanted to spend the next four years of her life and what school would give her the best foundation for success. She had two great schools to choose from but she could not find peace with either decision. Each held so much promise but committing to either churned up so much fear. She feared making the wrong decision, having regrets, she feared for her future. It was overwhelming and paralyzing. She was becoming frustrated with herself for not being able to make a decision between what appeared to be two win - win options. Why was this so hard?
To her credit, despite pressure from all fronts, she resolved that she was not going to make a decision until she felt comfortable, peaceful - on that point she was clear. This was not going to be a decision made by default, it was going to be powerful.
Two hours into listening to my daughter’s decision making process, where I promised myself I would say nothing, I suggested that she take fear out of the equation. I simply asked her if she was not afraid of making the wrong decision or suffering any of her perceived negative consequences what college would she choose. She responded, “Oh, that’s easy - I’d choose A” and that was it. I watched all her anxiety disappear. She was done, she had decided. She was confident, excited and had no doubts - she was free.
We are not new to fear. It is regular topic of conversation in our house and in my work but nowhere had it presented itself with such clarity as it did with the college process. Every step of the way was fraught with fear and self doubt and I am not just talking about my daughter here. Parenting this process is walking a fine line between fear and faith. Making sure that suggestions, guidance and decisions are not made out of fear is always my number one priority, but when it comes to my kids, fear can masquerade as a very seductive ally.
The next morning after her decision, my daughter woke up refreshed and what she shared with me blew me away. She realized that even if she had chosen school A, made the same decision, but from that fearful place - she would never have been at peace with her decision. She would have carried her self-doubt to her new school and been predisposed to constantly judging it rather than enjoying it. She would be looking everywhere for validation of her decision and what in the end she would be validating would be her doubt - this is the route of self-sabotage. Instead she is going off to college with a sense of peace, wonder, excitement and confidence; fear is out of the equation.
Every day is decision day. Avoid the seduction of fear.
• Fear eliminates the most powerful creative tool we have as human beings - the power of choice. Fear eliminates the ‘right’ choice - it literally doesn’t exist. Begin to notice places in your life where you feel indecisive or feel that you have “no choice” and start the practice of taking fear out of the equation.
Update: I wrote this article five years ago. My daughter has since graduated college. She had challenges and bumps along the road, as all students do but never for a moment did she contemplate that perhaps she had made the wrong choice. As I like to say, it is not the choice you make that matters but the energy with which you make that choice. Choosing from fear always begets fear - in the form of doubt, regret, shame and self-judgement.