#91 Making Tough Decisions

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Let’s face it, the hard part about making a decision is living with the consequences of the decision, and you really don’t know what those consequences might be…unless you have a reliable crystal ball. 

But on the flip side of that is that fact that making a decision empowers you. It puts you in control of the direction your life is taking. 

But there are some really big blocks that can stop you from making those decision. 

In this episode I’ll talk about how powerful making tough decisions is, what can get in the way, and I’ll give you a simple 3 step process to help you on the way of figuring out why you have some decisions just hanging out there in your life and it seems so hard to make them. 

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Kimberly Key

Read Full Transcript Below: 

Years ago, when I went through Mindfulness based stress reduction training, one of the program instructors shared a story that I still remember and have given a lot of thought to and I want to share it with you to start this episode:

An old Chinese story of unknown origin. The story tells of a farmer who used an old horse in his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later, the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills, and the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. He replied, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone again sympathized with the farmer over his bad luck. But the farmer’s reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and drafted every able-bodied youth they found. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him stay.


Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?


After hearing that story and thinking about circumstances in my life that I judged as good or bad and how my perception of them may have changed over time it became clear that even though I could argue that anyone of the events that happened in the farmers life or anyone of them that happened in my life were goo or not good the truth is, they were only circumstances. Really completely neutral until I factor in how I thought about them or even how I think of them to this day.


Next month will be 9 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 48 years old, a single parent with four kids, two still at home, my youngest was 12. I was 7 months out of a bad marriage and doing great in every aspect of life. Healthy, strong, good job good kids great family and friends on and on...so when people heard about my diagnosis do you think they thought it was bad… of course they did, of course I did, I thought it was awful and with each bump in the road that came up as I went through treatment I thought it was more awful.


But now, 9 years later I can look back at the whole experience and see so much good, so much growth and really a completely different life than I thought I would be living at this time but in a way that is even better than I imagined


So, would I do it again if given the choice...knowing where having and surviving cancer led my life...I don’t know, that would not be an easy decision to make and that’s what this show is about.


When you have a cancer diagnosis you have to make some very difficult decisions and when you're done, you have to get back to life which often requires very difficult decisions to be made…. right. Cancer doesn’t corner the market on tough choices. But you may have gone through your life avoiding tough decisions or making unconscious decisions...often referred to as going with the flow...then looking back and resenting those decisions or blaming someone else because you let the decision be made and now you’re not happy with the resulting circumstances. 


Then you’re faced with a lot of decision making with respect to your treatment and let’s face it, it’s mostly all decisions you don’t want to make because when we make a decision, we’re saying I choose this.


And when it comes to surgery and toxic treatments who wants to choose any of those...none of us. Just like in life it may be tough to decide on creating change in relationships, changing  careers, starting a business or deciding to finally say the things that are on your mind which is a big change for you and the people around you...these are tough decisions because we’re forecasting our judgment on the outcome...but we don’t actually know if the outcome is good or bad...like the farmer...good bad who knows??

Every decision is a choice to follow a certain path and every time you choose to go with the flow and not make a conscious decision about something, you’re still choosing the unwanted circumstance by omission.


Let me give you some examples-

After a diagnosis you're faced with deciding which doctors to go to, what part of their recommendations you’ll follow. Surgeries, chemo radiation hormone therapy those are all choices….and here’s one of the foundational rules when it comes to making decisions...everything is optional...I’m sure that even in this situation you’ve heard of women who choose not to go with traditional treatments. 


They opted out of chemo and surgeries in favor of some lifestyle modifications or alternative therapies they believed would have a better outcome or do less overall harm to their body...whatever the reason, they made a conscious decision to take a nontraditional path...and there's nothing wrong with that.


This show isn’t about judging decisions or outcomes...it’s about owning the decisions you make or don’t make because what I coach women on is living an intentional fulfilling life. 


Being mindful and consciously aware of your choices from what to eat to the words you speak. 


Here’s why that’s important


Because when you consciously make decisions for your life that move you toward being the most authentic version of you meaning this is me no masks no filtering my actions through what others think I should do or who others think I should be. You’re intentionally being you and living the life you want. That’s so incredibly liberating.


I want to read an excerpt from a workbook on decisions written by Broke Castillo the founder of the life coach school.


In this book, she’s talking about the difficulty her clients have in making decisions to do what they want to do vs what they think they should do.


She says:

My clients don't want to let people down, they don’t want to go back on commitments or to change their minds if others will be disappointed. So, the alternative is they live a lie. They stay in jobs they don’t want and relationships that aren’t authentic in an attempt to control the other person's experience of them. 


All the while they are suffering silently, they are sparing the other person at their own expense.”


I wanted to share that with you because I know it's a common reality, it’s a reality that I struggle with and have overcome in many areas of my life but it comes up again and again as we navigate a life of connections, relationships and obligations. 


I think when we go through cancer and come out on the other side that this neglect over the course of our lives to make conscious decisions to lead an intentional life gets magnified and as we’re processing all of the emotions around what we’ve been through, what doesn’t feel good anymore starts to become more intense and when that happens you can choose to do nothing...the decision not to act is always available to you  but in making that choice you’re also choosing to hold on to the feelings of frustration, anxiety and sometimes just as if you’re drowning.


- I'm going to give you 2 scenarios that I often speak with other survivors about and I want to talk about the role that you are making a conscious decision and owning it plays here. And I’ll talk about some of the things that hold us back from making decisions because I want you to be aware of them and look at where these blocks exist in your own life and the results, they create for you. 


Then, I’m going to give you a simple exercise to help you work through decisions you need or want to make and what might be stopping you from doing that.


1- I didn’t choose this. 

I’ll hear this often from women who are dealing with anger and anxiety surrounding their treatment for breast cancer. They often feel victimized by the fact that they” had” to go through treatment and they “have” to take hormone therapy for years and deal with uncomfortable side effects of that. 


Now the truth is, you didn’t choose to have cancer, but you did choose what treatments you would allow your body to be subjected to. Even if you say I just did what the doctor told me, I didn't have a choice. 


Your decision in that scenario was to do what the doctor told you to do.

This is important because each of us always had the choice not to treat. As I said earlier, some women do choose that route. But I think it’s tough for us to say I chose to have my breast removed. 


Danggit that does not feel as good as saying I had to have my breast removed right. Saying you made a decision that may have caused disfiguration that you’re not happy with brings up a lot of resistance right.


Good...stay there...look at that resistance and see what happens if you break through it. 


I propose that if you can shift your mentality to one of yes, I made the decision to have my breast removed because I believe that gave me the best chance of living a longer life...boom you just took back your power.


You see that? You made an intentional decision based on what you wanted in your life. Now that decision may have been motivated by fear and fueled by urgency...get this cancer out of me… but at the end of the day you chose the path of your treatment. And that is powerful.


 I was consulting with a woman the other day who was going in circles in her mind about surgical options and adjuvant treatments and she felt she couldn’t make a decision because she didn’t like any of the options.


And sometimes we have to accept that none of the options are what we really want… that doesn’t mean we don’t have a choice...it just means the choice we would like isn’t available.


But when you can see and accept that you were empowered to make the decisions that got you here. Now you can accept the consequences without so much resistance and begin looking for solutions.


None of us can control the unexpected things that come up in life, but we always have a choice to live with intention and decisiveness.


2- I feel like I don’t even want the same things from life anymore and I don’t know what to do.  


In an article in psychology today called Uncovering Hidden Causes of Indecision, the author Kimberly Key says that from the time we’re children we are conditioned to make decisions based on what other people tell us is the right thing to do or the right way to act or the socially acceptable or politically correct choice. 


This conditioning goes on for so long that we begin to lose touch with our own desires which initially drive our decisions and we start deciding by what we should do.


I want to share a quote with you from that article, she says “If a child was told “no” to their answers and directed in all of their answers, over time the cognitive dissonance between their desires and those of the hand that feeds them will lessen and cut them off from their desire. They may rebel and have trouble with authority and do all kinds of things that go against what others want in an attempt to be free, yet the scar of not trusting their instincts may be so severe that they can never connect to what they want.”


Hmmmm true and powerful. So if this is true for you as it is for so many people, and you find yourself feeling like your life is not yours yet you don’t even know what you want your life to look like because you aren’t practiced or conditioned to tune into your own desires and your own intuition...there is a simple way to begin strengthening your authentic decision making power...make more decisions.


That seems counterintuitive but start small here. Make small decisions based on what you really want, like what movie you want to watch, what food you want to eat, what restaurant you want to go to. 


How many times have you eaten somewhere you didn’t like because you thought that’s what someone else wanted? Rather than presenting a couple ideas that sound good to you and asking if any of those work for your friend.


I have an 8 year old granddaughter who is the love of my life and she, like her mother, is a very sweet and a very indecisive person. She doesn’t like to say what she wants because she thinks it might hurt someone’s feelings.


So, when she’s with me I have her make decisions...I mean I present her with options of course but I’m trying to teach her that what she wants isn’t offensive. 


She is allowed to want what she wants and if it’s not compatible with what I want when we’re doing something together, we can find something we both agree on or she can give me an option that I’m open to trying but either way, I will not be angry or hurt.

I say to her, sweet girl, if you don’t say what you want in this life you will have to live by what everyone else tells you to do. 


Do you want to live like that, or do you want to choose the things that sound good to you? And even at 8 years old she says I want to choose but I don’t want to hurt your feelings...so we practice making small decisions.


Now when she’s with me and I ask what you want to do she might start to say, “whatever you want” and then catch herself and make a definitive statement I love it.


We have some ground rules which are not to say...I don’t know and whatever you want.


Instead of I don’t know or whatever you want..she can say, I'm open to your ideas or she can say I don't have my heart set on something but I don't want to eat, watch, go to… that way she’s still practicing getting in touch with what she’s thinking and stating it in a way that is empowering that’s open to possibilities for her to consider rather than handing the decision off to me or someone else.


It’s a small step but every small step empowers you to take the next bigger step. And it starts to recondition the way you think about what you want vs what you think you should do.


Steve Chandler, author of many books including Reinventing Yourself: How to Become the Person You've Always Wanted to Be

says, “The more you do, the more you can do.” 


Every conscious confident decision you make will help you make another one.


Now I’ve already talked about a couple of the stumbling blocks when it comes to making decisions, especially tough ones, so I want to summarize them here.

1-fear of being wrong

2-fear of someone else’s reactions

3-fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

1 The fear of being wrong takes us back to the story I started this show with. Good, bad who knows.... when you made the decision to have a mastectomy was that good or bad compared to making the decision of having a lumpectomy or vice versa...who knows...none knows because you only have the results of the decision you made. 

And if you made that decision based on conscious awareness and Solid information then commit to it 100% don’t look back and question it. Just keep moving forward.


2 the fear of someone else’s reactions. 

I was talking with a woman the other day who is working on losing some body fat. She’s tried many if not every plan out there and now he's trying intermittent fasting and it’s working remarkably well for her. But she doesn’t want to tell her husband because she’s afraid his reaction will be something like here you go again… how long will this last. So, I asked her...what if he does react like that?


One his reaction is his own story and you can let him have that story or you can let him know I'm a work in progress and you should be proud of how tenacious I am in searching for the right way to achieve a healthy weight that fits our lifestyle and don't leave me feeling deprived.


The decisions you make for you have to feel right for you and that’s it. But you can certainly help someone else see why you’ve made your decision so they can understand your story rather than running off with one of their own.


When I meet women, who tell me they make decisions all day long and when they get home, they don’t want to decide on anything. On the one hand that can definitely be decision fatigue and for that reason they have to move decisions about their personal life to a time in the day or a day of the week when their brain is fresh and capable of making decisions. 


But sometimes I can see that it’s also a way of hiding from dealing with the consequences of decision making. It can be easy to make decisions in a work environment where you have a predetermined scope of authority and you function within a hierarchy where certain people have to accept your decisions and still act professionally regardless of how they feel about it. 


But once you get home and there's an emotional component and unpredictable reactions to your decisions...you could end up being that person Brooke Castillo is referring to in the earlier quote where you find yourself silently suffering.


And #3 fear of hurting someone’s feelings. We women are so good at dancing around that but here’s the truth, if you need to address areas in your life, if you need change or more transparency or a shift in labor in your home and you approach that from a place of truth and self-awareness you can’t hurt anyone else. You're simply stating your needs, that’s a neutral thing. The story someone else tells themselves about why you need to change or do something new is how they upset themselves. 


So when you decide to own the direction you’re going in, be clear about your reasoning and why you’ve made the decision you have that makes things so much easier because it doesn’t leave any blank spaces for people to fill in with their own stuff.


SO now the fun stuff...how to do this decision work. 


I have a little assignment for you it’s 3 simple steps

1- write one to 3 decisions that you want to make or that you have made and but you’re still second guessing


2- Write all the possible options for making that decision. Let’s agree that although doing nothing is an option you're still deciding to continue living with the same circumstances if you choose that route.


3-Write all of the thoughts around each option about what are your concerns, fears, apprehensions. Are you judging potential outcomes as good or bad right or wrong… and is that keeping you from making the decision?

If so, take that language out. Right, wrong, good bad who knows...what you do know is the information, intuition and thoughts you have now.


When you own all the thoughts and all the pieces, and you realize that you are the block then you can also be the solution. You have that power to decide and to direct your life.


I would love to hear your thoughts and question on the decisions you need to make to invent the life you want so please dm me on Facebook you can find me as Laura Lummer The Breast Cancer Recovery Coach on Instagram @TheBreastCancerRecoveryCoach or join my free Facebook group The Breast Cancer Recovery Group and we can talk this stuff out with the support and care of like-minded survivors working to build their best lives after breast cancer.
A special announcement before I go...I recently asked my revivify, empower and The Breast Cancer Recovery Group members what their biggest dietary challenge is and coming in first place was cutting back sugary foods.


So, I decided to put together a challenge to help us all focus on a mindful approach to sugary foods and find a way to make decisions to support your health without feeling deprived. 


You’re going to love this challenge. You’ll get a workbook, videos, recipes, a private fb group where we’ll talk about the daily challenges and success and it’s going to begin on Monday June 20th. Even better...it’s completely free if you do it live with me for 5 days June 20-25th.


You can register for it now at https://www.thebreastcancerrecoverycoach.com/sugar



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