How to Break Free and Make the Brave Choice

As Published in Vancity Buzz on February 19th, 2015.

When you feel stuck, it takes all your effort to keep your head above water.

It is no way to live for any length of time.

It may be a job that is sucking the life out of you, a relationship that you know needs to end, or simply feeling trapped in a situation that seems hopeless.

Previously, I talked about the health risks of “hanging in there” and I heard back from many readers that you knew it was time to make a change, but your life circumstances made it feel impossible. I hear you. I have also felt caught between knowing what was best for me, and dreading the consequences of making that change.

For example, how do you decide if your health is more important than financial security? What is the right choice in this situation? I’d like to propose that there is no such thing as the right choice in this situation. There are pros and cons to each choice.

What we should be asking ourselves, instead, is: what is the brave choice?

How do you know what the brave choice is?

Tara Mohr, in her recent article “Instead of Advice,” describes how advice from others can backfire on us. She proposes that, “no other person, no matter how brilliant or successful, knows what you should do… They might know a good solution for you, but not necessarily the one that you are ready for or that fits with your particular makeup.”

We often seek others’ opinions because we want to make the right choice. We are looking for reassurance. However, when we tune everyone else out and let that little voice inside of us whisper, “I want to be healthy; I’m tired of pushing through at all costs.” THAT is the brave choice for you.

The brave choice is whatever brings you closer to the life you want, the person you envision yourself to be, and what you value most. Unfortunately, this means that there is no simple formula for your brave choice at this moment in time.

If you come from a family that values security and you value adventure, then maybe the brave choice is tuning out your family’s objections and moving oversees to take that contract teaching job. If you imagine yourself as a parent and are involved with someone who is disinterested in becoming one, the brave choice may be initiating the dreaded conversation that might not end well. If you are trying to break free from a cycle of manipulation, you could decide that the brave choice is to have some space from that person.

When we are so used figuring out the right choice, it is uncharted territory to focus on making the brave choice. Although everyone’s circumstances are unique, here are some common types of brave choices for when you feel stuck:

1. Being honest with yourself

If you are an innate people pleaser, it can feel extremely uncomfortable to start asking yourself what you want to do. In order to be honest with yourself, you have to stop paying attention to what other people think you should do, and give yourself space to pay attention to your own needs.

It may go something like this: “I know that Mom wants me to do this, my partner wants me to do that, and my best friend thinks I should do something else… but I really want to ___________.”

It is courageous to express what you genuinely want and then go with that, despite what others are saying.

2. Reaching out to others

This is a big struggle for me. Being introverted (which I define as getting my emotional energy from my inner world) and extremely independent makes it daunting for me to reach out to others, particularly if I am going through a rough time. To be honest, I’d usually rather “go it alone” than even reach out to those in my inner circle.

If you are like me, here is why reaching out to others can be brave: you are admitting that you aren’t strong all the time, you are giving other people a chance to care for you, it feels better to let yourself come undone a bit when someone is there to hold your hand.

If you feel that your inner circle is too small, the brave choice for you may be finding a support group or online forum to connect with others.

3. Seeking professional help

Many of us feel that seeking help is admitting some sort of weakness. If you are used to being independent and not wanting to admit you are struggling, getting help is truly brave.

If you have been struggling with vague physical symptoms that are affecting the quality of your life, you may feel ridiculous going to a medical professional because you can still function. In this case, perhaps your brave decision is that you deserve an even better quality of life and it make take some time to get answers.

No matter what type of help that you may need (mental health professionals, coaches, trainers, nutritionists, expert-led support groups, etc.), there is always going to be someone who will try to say that it isn’t necessary. Ignore them. You know what is best for you.

4. Saying no

Last month, we talked about “The Zen of Saying No.” Many of you reached out to me to let me know how terrifying it is to say no to something. I agree.

The bravest no usually comes when we realize that others around us don’t understand. That it seemed like the perfect job, the perfect boyfriend, the perfect opportunity. It just didn’t feel right and you might not even be able to fully explain it to yourself. Those types of no’s are incredibly brave.

Time to decide what YOUR brave choice is

If you are at a crossroads now, trying to decide what to do, you need to stop asking yourself what you should do. I wish that I could hand you the answer on a golden platter, so the choice would feel easier.

However, life doesn’t work like that. In order to find inner peace, no matter what the circumstance, you need to say true to yourself. You know how you are wired, what you value, and what you are capable of in this moment. You need to be silent enough so that your inner voice can speak to you, without the noise of others’ opinions. It is courageous to trust yourself, no matter what others are saying.

In the words of Amelia Earhart, “Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace.”

Determining your brave choice doesn’t mean that you need to immediately spring into action. It just means that you now have the calm assurance of knowing what you need to do. If even just the thought of this choice brings you peace, you know you’re on the right track.