LETTING GO OF WHAT DOESN’T MATTER
There’s an idea that people buy into called “sunk costs”. It’s the belief that you’ve already invested so much time, energy, or money, you should continue to do so. For example, you might hate your career but say to yourself, “I’ve already been in this field for two years.”
Instead of looking at what you have to gain by changing direction, you focus on what you’ve already done. You focus so long and so hard on your investment that it feels like a “failure” to walk away that this point.
Often, people who look at “sunk costs” are worried about what others will think if they step outside the box and try something different. For example, you might think, “I can’t choose a new career path now. My parents will think I wasn’t grateful for all their financial assistance during college.”
IS THAT WHAT THEY REALLY THINK?
The problem with this approach is that you’re projecting your thoughts and beliefs onto someone else. You’ll notice that in the scenario above, your parents didn’t say a single word. It was purely conjecture on your part. You were guessing at best.
When you do find yourself projecting your thoughts into someone else’s head and assuming you know what they think, believe, or feel, it can be helpful to take a step back. Ask yourself one simple question, “So what?”
If you have a close, loving relationship with your parents, then sure, they might be disappointed in your new career path. But chances are, they’ll eventually accept it and move on with their lives, especially if you’re happy with your next choice.
But let’s assume for a moment that you don’t have a close, loving relationship with your parents. In this case, your “so what” might look like this: your parents are furious, tell you that you’re a disappointment and eventually…they get over it.
You have to understand that while the people around you may be unsettled or let down by your decisions, they ultimately don’t have to live with your unhappiness at staying where you are. But you do.
ARE YOU WILLING TO BE UNHAPPY?
This is the deeper question that you want to be asking when you’re pondering what others will think about your decision. Are you willing to live with your discomfort—or even misery—just so people think good things about you?
For example, are you willing to work thirty years in a soul-crushing job you hate just so your parents can be proud that you have a corner office? Are you willing to invest years of your life into a marriage with a verbally abusive spouse just so your church friends don’t turn their back on you? Are you willing to stunt your own growth and development just so those around you aren’t uncomfortable?
Is your heartache a price you’re willing to pay? Are you going to sacrifice what you know would make you happy and become a martyr? And the more important question is, what is your cause? Is it worth it?
These are challenging questions. Questions that will provoke you and possibly, lead you to make some much needed changes in your life.
KNOW YOUR VALUES AND FOCUS ON THEM
If you’re still struggling with what other people think, it’s important to understand that decisions become easy when you know your values and focus on them.
The more you understand what you value, the more likely you are to make decisions that are in line with your values. When your values and decisions are in harmony, you’re truly living your best life.
YOUR VALUES ARE YOURS
This is a tough one. But it’s important that you accept it: your values are yours alone. They should not be determined by your parents, your spouse, or your community, although they can be influenced by these things. Many people’s values are influenced by their churches.
You may have some values in common with your parents, and your community, and hopefully with your spouse, but ultimately if you value different things, that’s OK. In fact, it’s normal.
DETERMINE WHAT YOU VALUE
Don’t let this step trip you up. Consider how you make decisions if you have no feedback loop.
What do you let guide you in these situations? Your love of family? Your ambition and drive for success? Your desire for community? Your hope for fame and accolades?
Any or all of these values are perfectly acceptable. Some values may rank higher than others.
Just because you have different values from those around you doesn’t make you bad or wrong. If anything, it just means you’re a unique individual that embraces what she (or he) wants.
EMBRACE YOUR VALUES
When it comes time to make decisions, look back at what you value. If you value family, you may choose to decline that job offer in another state so that you can stay close to your aging parents.
If you value prestige, you may accept the job offer and simply arrange care for your aging parents. Neither decision is better or worse than other one. Both are good and allow you to meet your responsibilities while staying true to who you are.
KNOW THAT VALUES CHANGE
Part of growing and evolving as a human being means that you may find your values change. When you were young, perhaps you valued family. You stayed at home to raise your children.
But when you’re older and your kids are gone, you value success and ambition, putting in late hours to build your career.
It’s natural to have your values shift. That’s why you need to re-evaluate them every so often. Examine if they’re still serving you and if they’re not, joyfully let them go and seek out new values that you do believe in.
TRUST YOURSELF PROFOUNDLY
You won’t suddenly stop caring about what other people think overnight. It’s a process and you may find it difficult at first. Especially if you’ve spent your life addicted to the approval of your friends and family. But as you step outside of this need for approval, amazing things will begin happening in your life.
You’ll start to find your own inner voice. You’ll discover a confidence you didn’t know you could have. You’ll experience more contentment and bliss as you make choices that are in line with what you value.
Above all, you’ll start to trust yourself profoundly. You’ll know what you need and proudly claim. You’ll believe in yourself again and you’ll realize that everything you need for your journey is already inside of you!
Do you need to catch up?